Grey Fox Bluegrass 2010: Friday
Words & Photos By J-man
Interviews Filmed By Birchann
I awoke to a cool tent, feeling absolutely refreshed. It was late enough in the day that I should have been covered in sweat and cooked out of my tent. However we were nestled in the shade of the tree line. A cool breeze blew across the rolling hills of the Walsh Farm, and with it came the sound of a lone banjo...
My day began with a walk to the "media room" which doubled as a laundry room for washing the musicians towels and other various event related items. For me, the media room offered the opportunity to charge my camera battery, post live updates, and compose the day's interviews. As I passed through the camps and walked down the camp roads, one thing that stuck out to me was how clean the farm was. The staff was very visible; smiling as they kept the place clean and pleasant.
Wandering towards the stage we passed an older gentleman sitting under a shade tent just out side his tee pee. The gentleman wreaked of knowledge and dedication. I turned to Birchann and said "Holy shit! That's Bill Keith!" I smiled and nodded... He did the same.
The first musical act of the day that we attended was the banjo workshop featuring banjo legend/pioneer Bill Keith as well as a few other younger pickers from various bands. The workshop tent was crowded as the musicians wove banjo basics with talk of style, tone, and heavy humor (typical of banjo pickers). One of the main things that I noticed right away was that Grey Fox had removed the figurative and literal barrier between the musicians and the fans. Anyone was free to ask questions and approach the musicians as the workshops wrapped up. It was indeed a unique experience from the typical "protect the artist" style of a lot of festivals.
Following the Banjo Workshop we were forced under our canopy by the first of many rainy fronts of the weekend. By the end it would become one of the underlining themes; Rain.
As the small storm system came and went we made our way back over to the workshop tent to enjoy the teachings and thoughts of David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury, as well as a few others. Much like the banjo workshop, the mandolin workshop featured a collection of musicians sporting the same featured instrument. The uniqueness of this sort of collection cannot go unrecognized, for the sound collectively was full and complete, again with a side of humor.
Following the workshop folks flooded the stage to have a conversation or a picture with David "Dawg" Grisman and Ronnie McCoury. A woman approached Dawg with her child in hand; "Sign my kid!" she stated, drawing and odd sideways glance my way from Dawg. I reached out to and grabbed his mandolin/case as the autographing went into full swing. It was fairly hectic for about ten minutes as the fans were appeased. Following the madness I set up an interview for a later date with Mr. Grisman, handed back his mandolin, got a picture and moved on to finalize my interview plans with Ronnie.
After solidifying my plans with Ronnie, it was time to head back over to the media tent for a quick charge of the battery and a short interview composition session. As I wrote my questions for Rob and Ronnie McCoury, I envisioned myself interviewing my idol, their father; Del McCoury. I have interviewed a lot of musicians whom I have admired greatly, but how would I handle an interview with Del? Would I be able to handle an interview with Del?
We headed over to the mainstage to interview the McCourys and to catch David Grisman's set. Upon our arrival backstage, I was approached by Ronnie who was smiling and excited. As we walked to a quiet spot to conduct the interview, I spoke of how impressed I was with Delfest and how helpful the staff was. I could tell he was proud. Our spot was chosen, I glanced back over the questions and Birchann began filming.
Upon the conclusion of our interview, I casually mentioned how much it would mean to me to be able to interview his father; Del. As we approached the artist area Ronnie pointed out his brother Rob to me. I approached Rob, said hello and asked if it would be a good time to do the interview, and with that we were on our way back to our quiet interview spot.
I read over the questions that I had for Rob, and assisted Birchann with the camera. In the distance I could see my dream coming to fruition. Walking towards me was Ronnie with Del who was dressed in a light colored suit. He seemed to have a white glow as he walked towards us. Birchann was beside herself, and I did all that I could to fight back the tears and emotions that overtook me. I turned to Rob and said "Do you mind?" He smiled and said "Of course not, he's all ready to go!" then stepping aside.
To this point I can not think of a bigger interview that I have done, nor can I recall being this emotional or nervous about doing such an interview. I smiled, thanked him for his time and expressed how much it meant to me to be given this opportunity. With that, the camera was rolling.
Following the interview I had to pull myself together to conduct the previously scheduled interview with Rob. Rob smiled at me as I could see he realized how big of a deal it was to me. With that; I took a deep breath and began.
After it was all said and done, I needed a few minutes to myself to reflect on and fully appreciate what had just taken place. It took all that I had to not just cry. As I snapped out of it, I realized that it was my duty to capture Grisman's set, so I made my way to the front of the stage to catch the last couple of songs.
David Grisman, never disappoints. He is by far one of the best and most innovative mandolin players of all time. His open approach to string music is truly inspiring. His performance at Grey Fox was on par with what I have come to expect from "Dawg"; consistency and perfection.
The encore came and went leaving the crowd on their feet and wanting more. We headed towards the backstage exit, on the way running into Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. That being said we made a b-line and found a good spot to sit down and have a conversation.
The interview in the bag we sat, listened to Del, and discussed some of our favorite festivals. The conversation led into Tim pulling out his phone to show us some crazy psychedelic footage of Vince Herman in a neon environment; raging. I mentioned that the video needed to be seen and Tim agreed. I glanced at my phone realizing that we had been sitting talking to Tim for almost two hours. It was time to make our way to the front of the stage for some Del McCoury Band photos.
When I think of the Del McCoury Band, three things come to mind; Tradition, Talent and Consistency. I have never heard a more consistent band than the Del McCoury Band, and have never seen such pure musicianship. Per usual, Del took requests from the crowd and smiled the whole way through. As I had anticipated they invited David Grisman to the stage for a song or two. What a pure musical delight.
Del McCoury Band Live at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on July 16, 2010.
A quick trip back to our campsite would yield a bottle of wine and some warmer clothes for our return to the stage for Railroad Earth. I have seen Railroad Earth several times and in my opinion, they seem to be developling at an exponential rate. As well as their playing and chemistry developing; their fan base has grown to an impressive amount. Folks are jumping on the Railroad Earth train.
The set was very rock/jam oriented with a solid base of string music. The band does a really good job of allowing space for one and other to mold the jam to their liking and stylistic vision. When the train leaves the station, it's hard to say when it will be returning, but in the end it will pull in right on time.
Railroad Earth Live at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on July 16, 2010.
The night ended with a comfortable stumble back to our site passing the Dance Tent, where Donna The Buffalo where playing to a packed tent of folks going absolutely crazy for zydeco music. In the camps several groups of pickers were tearing it up, with friends, relatives and new acquaintances alike.
Grey Fox truly set a beautiful environment for everyone to come together and play... and that's exactly what folks did; play until the late hours of the morning.