DelFest: Friday 5.24.14 & Saturday 5.25.14
Allegany County Fairgrounds
Words By Parker Otwell Roe (The Lot Scene)
Photos By Will Rawls (The Lot Scene)
Cabinet - Saturday was one big, big day of music and we tried to see as much of it as possible! We started out at the Potomac Stage again, this time for Cabinet from our good vibes the night before. First and foremost, I have to say that more than any other band new to me at DelFest, people asked me if I was already familiar with Cabinet. I must have answered at least 10 folks in the negative before seeing them open for Greensky at Late Night so, needless to say, I was pretty psyched to see them again in the daylight. The fellows certainly didn’t let me down…you want dancing music? You’ve found some fat sawin’, mad pickin’, monster bluegrass dance times, my friends! And, even though I didn't have much prior experience to compare it to, I heard from several DelFesters that this was the largest crowd they had ever seen gather for a set at the Potomac Stage. Not bad, boys! Considering they went on before noon, that made such a large crowd all the more impressive. I would be pretty surprised to find Cabinet invited back for DelFest 8 and not be gracing the Grandstand. I don’t say this lightly: go see this band as soon as you can! If you love the grass, you’ll love this advice. Just have a little faith will you?
The Del McCoury Band - Yet another incredible set from the man himself and his fabulous band. The reason for the season, so to speak, it is always a privilege and an honor to see Mr. McCoury and the musical powerhouse he’s assembled to back him. It is like watching decade upon decade of history and tradition and musical prowess in perfect harmony. The high point for me was when singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale came out for a haunting duet with Del — in one word: mystical. It certainly made the crowd hungry to find out what was to come from Skaggs and Hornsby around the bend.
Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, and Kentucky Thunder - Simply put, I was…not…expecting…that. Wow! I remember seeing Ricky Skaggs play Six Flags Over Texas when I was in my late teens and I must admit, his act has changed ever so slightly since then. As in completely. Not really a hint of the country sound I remember in the mix and with (the reinvented) Bruce Hornsby and Kentucky Thunder there to round out the roster, in the immortal words of Carl Weathers on Arrested Development, “You got yourself a stew going!!” Very interesting to watch Skaggs tearing it up on mandolin like a madman…certainly in contrast to my memories. It's always glad to form new ones, that’s for sure.
Late Night - The Shook Twins - Railroad Earth - Having missed The Shook Twins on Friday and never seeing them before, I was looking forward to witnessing how they might warm up the crowd for Railroad Earth’s late night show on Saturday night. Certainly one of the highlights of their set was the girls singing and beatboxing The Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” backed by the lads from The California Honeydrops. Good stuff, ladies! Bravi! Railroad Earth finished out the night in their signature style, again giving the many RRE fans there present exactly the kind of fix they were hoping for.
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - The earlier shows on Sunday were all admittedly a bit calmer and more relaxed given that the Gibson Brothers set the tone with their special bluegrass gospel session at 10:45 that morning. Later that day I caught about half the Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn show at the Grandstand in the heat of the day, Sunday being the hottest and stillest of the weekend. While I found the music interesting in both form and fashion and Abigail’s anecdotes from her world music background fascinating, the crowd honestly seemed to find the set a bit slow, almost too much so, when compared to the general energy level of the entire fest up to that point. However, I also spoke with several folks who enjoyed the set very much, so I’ll chalk it all up to a matter of a difference in festival musical palate. But that is why we come to festivals like Del’s, no? A wide variety of music morsels to satisfy even the broadest of our melodic cravings? Quite so.
The String Cheese Incident - After just having seen the fellas from Cheese summarily shame Phish at Jazz Fest this year, with one of my favorite Incidents to date, it goes without saying that I was pretty pumped to see what kind of mirthful magical madness they would bring to Del’s 7th fest. I wasn’t the only one in the crowd wondering what the night had in store, but as soon as they walked on stage and took us on a soaring, Peter Pan-esque flight right up into the night sky with a mighty “Song In My Head,” we all were assured that hearts would flutter, pulses would race, feet would dance, and faces would melt as we all basked in the glory of our long-awaited Cheese. The list of notable guests was reminiscent of their Jazz Fest splendor and commenced with Joe Craven joining in for an unforgettable “Smile” and later with Del striding out for a rollicking “Sittin’ On Top of The World.” The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” featuring some classic Jeff Austin face (as well as mando) and Tim O’Brien and Nick Forster of Hot Rize quickly became a crowd favorite of the night. My favorite moment between both sets, however, had to have been the truly mind-boggling “Colorado Bluebird Sky” in the second wherein the Cheese boys were augmented by none other than The Travelin’ McCourys. I mean, really? Seriously? And the rather perfect “BollyMunster” encore to finish our night? Woswers! When I asked a euphoria-eyed lady behind me for a single word to describe her DelFest 7 String Cheese feeling she said, “Quite the Incident! That’s three words, but that’s the only way I can feel about this!” Quite the Incident, indeed…about the only way I can feel about it, too.
Late Night - The California Honeydrops - The Travelin’ McCourys - To be completely honest with you, Late Night Sunday is a bit of an exhausted and tired haze for me, although I did manage to catch some of The California Honeydrops whose energy was mad fun for so late on the last night, as well as a bunch of the Travelin’ McCourys. Jeff Austin joined the McCourys and did an incredible version of “Pretty Daughter” after which I decided it was taco time and then bedtime. And so ended my DelFest music for the the weekend…glutted on great bluegrass and swimming in magnificent memories I drifted off to sleep as my mind tried to process all it had seen over the past four days. Zzzzz…
Packing out at DelFest can be best summed up as easy, breezy, and beautiful. No real worries here that I witnessed. As for clean-up, The Lot Scene would like to extend a huge shout out to Clean Vibes for their usual outstanding job of keeping the grounds so clean and recycled! We couldn’t live this lovely life without the incredible unsung behind-the-scenes heroes like you and we thank you! Next, when sadly it comes time to leave on Monday morning, you will find it is just as easy as your arrival experience if not a bit easier due to the pretty staggered rate at which people pack up and vacate the premises (“…There’s a line in the sky, it’s jet exhaust…”). Enjoy your last morning filled with saying your good-byes and exchanging information…you don’t have to be gone until afternoon! A note about the weather this year — honestly I must admit that this was, without question, the best festival weather I’ve ever experienced! I know that so much of that is purely chance, but it is worth noting how incredibly wonderful weather affected the festival and all its patrons, including myself. Del Yeah!
My final DelFest 2014 moment came when I arrived back at the Denver airport on Tuesday evening. As I stood there waiting for my luggage I noticed a couple meeting up with their friend from my flight to give her a ride home. Since they were just behind me and excited to see one another I couldn’t help but overhear bits of their animated conversation… as soon as the term “DelFest” was spoken I turned around, unable to help myself, and said that I had just come from there as well. Instantly this kind lady and I shared hugs and memories and a few laughs about how amazing the weekend truly had been. After I had grabbed my last bag from the carousel it was time to head home, back towards my lovely Flatirons and beloved Boulder and my sweet family waiting for me there. As I walked by, her intricately henna-decorated elbow slowly rose into the air for one final “Delbow” of the weekend which I, of course, gladly and heartily returned. And thus, with a smile on my face and laughter trailing out behind me I finally ended my first DelFest experience. And, believe you me, it won’t be my last.
Will's Saturday & Sunday Photo Gallery