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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Merlefest, day two : Bela!

Woke up early. It was raining, the tent was soaking through. But I decided to stay in the tent and sleep some more, rather than stand out in the rain like a crazy person. Eventually, though, I couldn't sleep any more, thanks to the campers next to us who were all about their Outdoor Voices. So, I went outside and tried to build a fire to warm up next to. Of course all the wood was wet because nobody thought to throw a tarp over it the night before. So, I struggled with damp kindling for a bit before the kindly neighbor came over and dumped a half-gallon of lamp oil on my pile of sticks. That, and a good bit of blowing got it giong.

The people on the other side of us, in their giant Army tent, were already (still?) drunk and having a good old time.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Eventually everybody else got up. We made breakfast and when 2:00 rolled around, we slouched back to the festival to sit in the cold light rain to see banjo virtuoso, Bela Fleck.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

He did a set of his own unique classical/jazz/bluegrass fusion with a couple of nearly-equally-amazing players (on guitar and fiddle). Truly jaw-dropping. The guy has technique to spare. I much preferred this style to the stuff he does with the Flecktones, which always sounded too slick, overprocessed and condensed - almost lite jazz. The three of them sitting out there jamming away live and acoustic was much more interesting, to me.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Then, after a bit of snacking and wandering about, we slouched up a huge set of stairs to see Tony Rice, Peter Rowan and Richard Greene at an indoor auditorium. Our Merlefest veteran, Dan, was clever enough to take us to the entrance where there was no line, so we were able to get in to see the show. Many others waited in the rain in vain. Ha ha! I'd never heard of any of these people before, but apparently, they're well-known to people who know bluegrass (hey, wow - a tautology). They did a good set of tunes, some with a more south-western feel than traditional Appalachian bluegrass - which was a nice break. Peter Rowan (vocals) and Richard Greene (fiddle) would show up in many other bands, as would the bass player, Bryn Bright; she and the mandolin player, Sharon Gilchrist, are both in Uncle Earl who we saw the first day. Bluegrass bands are all one big happy family, apparently.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

And then, The Duhks. They're a young bluegrass / rock / cajun fusion band from Canada. They have a ton of energy, so much that it made us all a bit anxious at times. Nickel Creek does that to me sometimes, too. Slow down, kids ! Still, their fiddle player is truly amazing. She's got a style that sets her apart - maybe it's just a Canadian thing, but she was drawing from a slightly different bag of tricks than most of the other players I saw there. The rest of the band didn't do a lot for me, though.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Then, more Bela! He did a quick set with his trio at the "Cabin" stage, which is a little stage just off the main stage so the audience has something to watch while they switch bands on the main stage.

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Jerry Douglas was up next, but we were beat.

So, we caught the shuttle bus back to the campsite. This is the crowd control guy at the bustop:

Sony P7

And then back to the campsite to eat and sit around the fire, listening to the late night acts on the local radio station.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.