Delfest 2012: Thursday & Friday

Cumberland, Maryland
May 24th – 27th

Words & Photos by Jon Irvin

-Thursday May 24th-

As we pulled into the grounds of the Allegany County Fairgrounds, I could tell this year's Delfest would be something special. The hustle and bustle was in full force and it was a good thing we decided to leave early, for it being the first day, the grounds were already filled farther than the eye could see. Fortunately for us, the same camping spot that we had last year in the Kids Zone was still void of any tents. My original plan was to get unpacked and set up before the weekend truly kicked off with a nightcap of Devil Makes Three and Railroad Earth. Unfortunately, it took a little longer than expected and I could only catch the last few minutes of Devil Makes Three as we walked to the venue. This was one of the bands I looked forward to catching live and I was a tad disappointed that they would be only playing one set at Delfest.

Railroad Earth Live at DelFest Allegany County Fairgrounds on May 24, 2012.

Once again, Delfest was emceed by Joe Craven who clued us that this years festival would be a five star affair not to be forgotten. Railroad Earth has a better than average following and their fans where in full force filling the grounds more than I expected. The first recognizable cheer from the aforementioned crowd hit as ‘Walk Beside Me’ began which was followed by in my opinion some of the best Railroad Earth I have ever heard with a nice thirty minute block of delight that consisted of “Carry Coal to Newcastle” > “Mighty River” > “Like a Buddha.” Railroad Earth was the perfect ending to Thursday and gave the audience a glimpse of the great grass that the weekend had in store for us.

-Friday May 25th-

Yes, we brought our kids back to Delfest! I cannot speak more highly of the organizers at Delfest, especially stressing that their festival is one for the entire family. I thought the Kid Zone last year was an amazing idea but this year really impressed me. Returning was the Allegany County Arts Council “ARTs BUS” with daily art projects for the kids as well as Ash Street Puppet Works with their lineup of amazing puppets, mostly constructed on site. Delfest truly had a family reunion feel that can only be experienced first hand.

The music for us started early Friday morning with a trip to see 2011's band competition winners, the Mon River Ramblers. I distinctly remember them from last year because of their cover of “Sweet Child of Mine” and they failed to disappoint again with another stellar cover this time Whitesnake's “Here I Go Again”. Hopefully this band becomes a staple at Delfest. Next was one of the coolest things I saw all weekend.

Hailing from Kansas, Split Lip Rayfield brings a total different sound to the bluegrass family. They play a style that can only be coined as thrash-grass as you’re left in awe as they play with such intensity. A Split Lip show is almost a perfect mix of heavy metal and bluegrass especially on “The High-Price of Necromancy.” Now back to the coolest thing I saw all weekend; the homemade gas can bass played by Jeff Eaton. Simply put, he played the shit out of that thing.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing back at the Kid Zone and included a performance by singer songwriter Libby Kirkpatrick. It was cool to see her interact with the children and her set was filled with numerous sing-a-longs. I left the wife and kids and took a quick trip in to check out some of Luther Dickinson and the Wandering. The guitarist from North Mississippi All-Stars brought along a lineup of very talented southern women to play a mix of Mississippi and African infused blues. Hopefully Luther continues to work this project into his rotation of the numerous bands he plays with. I only caught a few songs and I hoped to catch them on Saturday, unfortunately that didn’t happen and proved to be one of my biggest regrets. I met back up with the family for dinner and a quick rest before the evening ended with a sure to be an incredible set from Yonder Mountain String Band.

I’m glad Yonder Mountain scheduled Delfest before Summer Camp this year, because last year the travel seemed to have taken its toll by Sunday night. This year they were well rested and it showed. Jeff Austin and the rest of the boys from Yonder Mountain always know how to throw the jam-grass down. They play with such enjoyment that smiles can be seen everywhere throughout the entire show. Luckily that night's set would be shared entirely with longtime friend of the band, fiddlist Darol Anger. The set had several highlights, but the one that stood out the most was the tri-fecta fiddle played by Darol Anger, Jason Carter (from Del McCoury Band) and Tim Carbone (from Railroad Earth) on “Into The Night” > ”Girlfriend Is Better” > “2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown.” Not only a highlight from the Yonder set, but maybe one of my favorites from the entire weekend.

Yonder Mountain String Band Live at Allegany County Fairgrounds on May 25, 2012.

I took a stroll for some late night snacks and found myself inside the Del Music Hall to catch a few songs from Greensky Bluegrass. Now I knew I couldn’t stay up to catch most of the late night sets but I wanted to tease myself with a little from the boys from Kalamazoo, Michigan. I’m glad I did as their cover of the String Cheese Incidents “Can’t Stop” assured me that their Saturday morning set was one not to be missed.

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