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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Merlefest, day three : acoustic boogaloo

Early morning. We wake to a horrible smell. You see, our campsite was on the grounds of the Wilkesboro waste water treatement facility (ie. the large intestine of the town itself); and specifically, it was at the very location where the treated water was expelled through a big pipe into the (Yadkin?) river - that's the big yellow thing at the bottom of the staircase. Our two tents flanked the stairway to the anus of Wilkesboro.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Sometimes it got a little stinky. The shirts they sold at the main building all said "Sewerfest '05", with pictures of little outhouses, skunks, etc.. Ha.

But, Bud Light can get you through tough times:

Sony P7

So, back to the festival; and first up, Del McCoury.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

They shared two microphones (though the bass was mic'd, separately) and took turns walking up to one or the other to do their solos, and harmonies - basically they force a 1940's-style stage technology on themselves. It works well, and it's fun to watch them work the mics, using distance to control their individual volumes within the mix. Most bands had individual mics for each player, or mic'd the instruments directly; a few used the same common-mic approach, but none seemed to get as much use out of it as these guys. Plus, they're really good - lots of energy, great songs, etc.. And while I didn't see all the bands at Merlefest, of the bands I saw, these guys stuck closest to the traditional bluegrass sound and style. Definitely one of my favorites from the whole four days.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Then, Ricky Scaggs came out. He was very good, too; played mostly traditional stuff, with a couple of newish things that got some mainstream country radio play (or so I'm told). He can sure pick the hell out of a mandolin. Didn't get any pictures of him.

Then, the Bluegrass Boys. That's a bluegrass supergroup made up of people who all played with Bill Monroe at one time or another.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

I can't remember all their names, but that's Earl Scruggs second-to-left, breaking a string after walking out and playing for less than 5 seconds, then Sharon Gilchrist on bass (not a Bluegrass Boy, she was just filling in), forget the mandolin guy's name, Peter Rowan, Del McCoury, two guys I don't remember, Richard Greene and then Jim Shumate.

Here's Earl Scruggs and Jim Shumate doing Turkey In The Straw:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Then, the Chieftans came out, all fifty of them, and did a set of traditional Irish music. There's not much distance between Irish folk music and bluegrass, and they did their best to highlight that. There were dancers, guest singers (Alison Moorer and Ricky Scaggs each came out for a song), and guest musicians: Jerry Douglas (far left) and Bela Fleck (far right) sat in.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Very nice stuff. The guy in the back in the white shirt looks a lot like Paul McCartney. The short guy in the middle made some pretty witty between-song chatter.

Then, back to the campsite, to listen to Sam Bush's show on the radio.

The full series:

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.