DelFest 2013: Saturday May 25th
Allegany County Fairgrounds
Words, Photos & Video By Jon Irvin
Saturday morning brought both promising weather filled with sunny skies and hours of great bluegrass music. I took an early trip down to see some action at the Bluegrass Band Competition taking place at the Potomac Stage. Here Delfest showcases some young up and coming bands by giving them a chance to grace the grandstand Sunday morning and an automatic invite to next year’s festival. One of the bands that caught my eye was the David Thom Band which had a more original sound especially during bass player Jeff King's lead on “My Old Kentucky Home.” Ultimately the Unseen Strangers took home this year’s title and I’ll be looking forward to seeing them next year.
After lunch I took residence for the afternoon in the main music meadow for the next several hours. Taking the stage first was somewhat of an all-star band led by Punch Brothers founding member, banjoist, Noam Pikelny. Pikelny joined onstage by flatpicker Bryan Sutton, Luke Bulla (fiddle), Barry Bales (bass), and Del McCoury Bands own Ronnie McCoury on mandolin captivated the crowd with their flawless pickin'. The set was filled with predominantly slower paced instrumental tunes which flowed gracefully as a perfect backdrop to a beautiful day as festival goers lounged in the grass. Next up, returning to Delfest for a 3rd straight year was Greensky Bluegrass. The boys from Kalamazoo keep getting better with each passing set. Blending both originals and covers, Greensky is a young group bound to take bluegrass to the next level and should be a staple for years to come. Unfortunately, I had to skip the end of their set but did hear several songs off their upcoming album plus a great rendition of “Can’t stop.”
I scurried over to the Potomac stage to catch an act that had caught my ears in passing, Red Baraat. Red Baraat is another band that really doesn’t fit the bill for a bluegrass festival but this is what makes Delfest truly special. Delfest seems to invite a few bands each year that push the threshold and brings a welcoming different sound to the party. Red Baraat is an eight-piece band that blends big band jazz with a middle-eastern flair. I’m a sucker for brass and they were one of the eye opening bands of the weekend for me. A perfect blend of both drums and horns were on showcase during one of the last songs I had a chance to catch, Bobby McFerrin’s classic “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. I was trapped in their tractor deem and almost lost track of time for Keller Williams and his new project was about to start back at the grandstand.
If there was one disadvantage of Delfest I would have to say it was the placement of their stages. Not having two stages next to each other like other big festivals is both a blessing and a curse. It allows for continuous nonstop action though it takes a lot of running back and forth and some sacrifice with choosing who to see and for how long. This dilemma would rear its ugly head especially on Sunday, but for now I hurried over to see Keller Williams breaking out of his norm with his funky band More Than A Little. Keller is a true shape shifter in the musical world, whether it’s a solo looping set, playing traditional grass with the Keels and the Traveling McCourys, or rocking out Grateful Dead covers with the WMDs he is always a crowd favorite. Hitting the stage all dressed up in a suit and tie with a full band behind him and flanked by two sultry backup singers, Keller was business as usual. Williams always brings the best rendition of classic songs and this afternoon would be no different highlighted by Talking Heads hit “Once In a Lifetime.”
I decided to pass on Del McCourys Saturday evening set so I could head back to camp for some dinner and to change into some warmer clothing. Even though it had been a warmer day, MC Joe Craven reminded us all that once the sun went down the cold would reappear. Fully charged and sporting sweats I preceded back to the grandstand to see the evening’s headliner Old Crow Medicine Show. Old Crow knows how to send bluegrass in overdrive with their storytelling songs of drugs and alcohol. The cold was no match for OCMS after a heart racing foot stomper “Alabama High-Test” the adrenaline kept bodies moving during a slew of hits including “Methamphetamine”, “Humdinger” and ending their set with a band introduction version of “Cocaine Habit” and the ever so popular “Wagon wheel” which was echoed by most of the crowd. If one full set wasn’t enough, OCMS ended an evening of amazing music with Tom Petty’s classic “American Girl” which cemented a smile on the face of every Delfester. Saturday was an amazing day at Delfest and as long as the weather would hold up Sunday should be even better.
Jon's Saturday Photo Gallery