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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Merlefest, day four : popularization and abandonment

Sunday, sunny Sunday.

We packed up the tents, parked the cars by the exit, then hopped the shuttle to the festival one last time.

First band of the day was Balfa Toujours, a traditional cajun group, at the "Traditional" tent. I wasn't in the mood, so I wandered around and looked at vendors while the rest laid out in the grass, listening. So, no pictures of that.

Then we went over to the "dance" tent to check out BR549. They're a Nashville honky-tonk band - tons of fun. Lot's of talent, good humor and energy. The slide guitar / mini-telecaster / fiddle player was great, the singer was great and the other two guys didn't hold them back (no offense, i'm just not a rhythm-section guy). They played a set of very danceable country songs (even though I don't dance a step, I know when I'm supposed to be dancing). Good time.

Here's the singer:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Here's the steel player:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Then, back to the main stage to catch a bit of another Chieftans' set. Found this father/daughter (we assume) pair playing a little tune on the way:

Sony P7

Caught the last half of the Chieftans' set. Same basic set as the day before. But this time, Tim O'Brien sang a song, as did Allison Moorer; and Buddy Miller came out for a great version of "Country Blues". Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas were there, too.

Tim O'Brien with the Chieftans:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Allison Moorer with the Chieftans:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Unfortunately, seeing the same band twice means you may get to learn that the witty banter they amused you with last time is as rehearsed as the music, when they tell the same jokes each time. Oh well. They're still fun.

After that, Allison Moorer had a solo show on the Cabin stage:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

She made the only political remark of the festival (that I heard). It went something like this: "I know there hasn't been a lot of political talk here. And I know some of you are grateful for that. But I'm sorry, but I gotta say... I'm disappointed that George Bush is still president." (smattering of enthusiastic applause and shouting among a backdrop of stunned silence) - and then went into some poltical song. So, she did her set, and then... wait, someone else is there too! Who's that? Why it's her boyfriend, Steve Earl:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

He did a song with her, then took off. I didn't really get into her stuff, but she's got a nice voice and is easy to look at, so I figure she'll do OK with or without my interest.

Then, the guy I'd been waiting all day to see, Buddy Miller:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

He did a couple of songs with his chunky electric guitar and then said something like "I feel like I'm in this sacred place here and I'm wrecking it with all this noise." Then he continued on with his set. Great songwriter, awesome singer, very down-to-earth vibe. Jim Lauderdale came out to do "Hole In My Head" (a song the Dixie Chicks covered a few years back). He wore the same ratty baseball hat he was wearing when SKB saw him a few days prior. I got a nice tan, sitting out in the sun all afternoon.

Allison Krauss was up next. And though we really like her, it was getting late, we've already seen her twice, we had a long drive ahead, and they were playing the festival on XM. So we decided we'd try to beat the crowds getting out of there and just listen to her on the radio on the drive home. And, we did. Allison and band were great as always. They did a bunch of new stuff, a bunch of old stuff, and had the longest set of any band at Merlefest (over an hour). They, of course, did that annoying "Man Of Constant Sorrow" song from O Brother, Where Art Thou, because the guitar player, Dan Tyminsky, is the voice of George Clooney on that one. Allison told a lot of cute stories between songs and they did a nice long encore. I wish they weren't the last band of the festival.

After she was done, Doc Watson came out to do the traditional one song tribute to his late son, Merle - to whom Merlefest is dedicted and named after. The song isn't the best - a little corny, IMO, and we heard it the day before. But, it's sincere and you gotta respect the sentiment behind it.

And that was my first Merlefest.

According to the M.C., more than 80,000 people attended, over the four days.

The full series:

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.