“DelFest, a bluegrass festival in my hometown,” “How was that…I can’t even imagine…”
You can imagine, but until you experience DelFest for yourself, you won’t understand it. DelFest is four days of music, fun and love to kick off your summer.
Start with the setting, DelFest is located at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland, Maryland. The fairgrounds are settled in the valley, the nearby Potomac River separates Maryland from the mountains overlooking in West Virginia. 2016 was the ninth year of DelFest on Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland. The weather has varied over the years, chilly days when you better layer up and hot days where it’s best to put on your swimsuit and listen to the music echo off the mountains while you float down the cool river. The usual rain and thunder storms like to make their appearance too, but it’s just part of the DelFest tradition now it seems. The only protest DelFest goers have for the weather, “Del yeah, hail no!” (Hail has made an appearance or two).
So what is DelFest? According to delfest.com, “DelFest was born from the desire to create a family-friendly music festival celebrating the rich legacy of McCoury music by providing a forum for world-class musical collaborations while also exposing fresh new talent.” There’s Del McCoury, the father, an American bluegrass legend who sings and plays guitar in “The Del McCoury Band” along with his sons, Ronnie, who plays the mandolin and other son, Rob, who plays the banjo. Cumberland was the first site Del looked at and he was sold when he saw the river, the rock cliffs and perspective festival grounds.
"Once we had a festival, we didn't plan on having it just one year, we wanted it to go on and be a part of the community and help the community," said McCoury. (Cumberland Times News)
Through the years DelFest has raised and donated over $250,000 for local charities. This year the McCoury’s participated in a Habitat for Humanity “Build Blitz” where they helped construct a home in Cumberland. The heart and soul the McCoury’s put into this festival is returned by the love and sense of community DelFest brings each year.
The Del McCoury Band is the heart of the music lineup. Each year, on the first day of DelFest, The Del McCoury Band kicks off Thursday with sound check. Beyond the family band is a mix up of incredibly talented Americana, bluegrass, rock, funk and soul artists. This year there were 36 music groups that played on three different stages. Some big name artists and returning festival favorites are Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Old Crow Medicine Show, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled by Turtles, The Infamous Stringdusters and Keller Williams. The up-and-coming band The Broomestix is a funky 10-person band, whose members graduated from high school just a few days before playing this year. Evan McCoury, Ronnie’s son, is the guitar player in the band. The variety of music and venue space plays a huge role in attracting fans from all ages to the festival.
So what is more fun than spending four days in the beauty of the mountains of Maryland, listening to amazing musicians, dancing in the rain and being surrounded by love? Nothing I can think of, but it does get better. There is plenty of good food at the festival, my favorite is Pie for the People pizza. There are great beverage stations to grab a coffee drink, a water, or a beer complete with a Klean Kanteen souvenir cup. There are vendors selling instruments, clothes- including kilts, tarpestys, Eno hammocks and handmade crafts and artwork. And the trend occurs again, those (vendors) who come to DelFest come back. DelFest even provides a kidzone with many activities for the children to enjoy the festival. There are arts and crafts, hula hoops and jump ropes to use and scheduled workshops. On Saturday my little sister went to a young yogis class and her and I got our lips read by Ariana. If you are looking for something fun for the whole family on Memorial Day weekend, make your way to Cumberland.
Now you know the origin, the music and the fun, but you still don’t know the meaning. DelFest is a community, a family if you will. I have been to all but the first DelFest and I’ve seen it not only grow in population, but togetherness. DelFest has its own culture and vocabulary. “Delbows” (basically a high five, but with elbows) are exchanged all weekend, and “Del Yeah” is said in excitement, approval and used as an overall feeling. Those who are lucky to get close enough to Del can even score a “Delfie.” During the weekend it’s common to see several crowd members wearing stickers that read “Del Yeah,” “Fun sure is fun” “I have no complaints” and more. The staff and festival goers are focused on making DelFest the best it can be and ensuring everyone has a great time.
In 2016, artist Dre Anders requested any DelFest fans to send in a video of themselves singing “Get Together” by The Youngbloods to use as the chorus and for the video of her recording. The song and video were released right before DelFest and the names of those who participated were featured in the credits of Dre’s album. The video perfectly captures the fun, the good music and the meaning behind Delfest. I am happy to be one of those people in the video (1:03, bottom left). Watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/dre.anders.9/videos/g.603356589759681/1315734658442801/?type=2&theater
I go home to Cumberland twice a year: Christmas and DelFest. And DelFest is definitely my favorite holiday. I have volunteered the past seven years for the beverage crew and this year I was even given an opportunity to be late night beverage supervisor. I love that I am able to volunteer 16 hours of my weekend to the festival in exchange for a weekend pass. If I have sparked your interest, start following the DelFest social media accounts and go ahead and start planning to attend the 10th anniversary of DelFest in 2017. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
In Nashville, the music and fun never stop. After spending the evening before playing in St. Louis, the Infamous Stringdusters made their way to the city where it all began for them on Thursday. A mixed crowd of concert-goers in their 20’s to 50’s generously dressed in green entered the Exit/In for a night of jamgrass. The smaller, intimate venue holds about 500 people max with an open floor area, limited seating upstairs, and a bar area on the main floor.
At 8 p.m. sharp the opener, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, took the stage. The band hails from the bay area and has a California sound born of country, folk, rock, soul, and psychedelia. The band consists of Nicki Bluhm (singer), Deren Ney (lead guitar), Steve Adams (bass guitar), Dave Mulligan (rhythm guitar), and Mike Curry (drums). On stage, Nicki and the Gramblers played several songs from their latest album “Loved While Lost” which was released in April 2015. The band covered “Piece of my heart”, by Janis Joplin, and the audience couldn’t help but sing and dance along to the classic. After getting the crowd moving, they played one more song, then left the stage after their 45 minute set.
During the break between bands, the audience mingled in excitement for the next set and prepped for the show with fresh drinks. The Infamous Stringdusters sound engineer Drew Becker ran around the stage setting up stands, connecting cords, and testing the microphones while tour manager Katrina Hennigar set up fans, taped the set lists down at each stand, and got the band’s drinks ready before the set.
Around 9:15 the Infamous Stringdusters came out on stage, all of them in button-down shirts. Looking at the stage you see Andy Falco (guitar) stands the farthest left, then Travis Book (bass), Jeremy Garrett (violin), Andy Hall (dobro), and Chris Pandolfi (banjo), all of them in position, tuning their instruments while the audience welcomed them with cheer.
The band opened with an upbeat “Once You’re Gone” then played “Light and Love” and “Rivers Run Cold” both high energy songs with sections of full-on jamming. During the jams, as each instrument is highlighted, the other members of the band circle around, feeding into the energy. Next up was the ‘Dusters fun, classic “Get it While you Can” which got the crowd singing along, “I like your biscuits in my gravy ma’am, before the stores are closed get it while you can.” After the crowd settled, Book talked about the band’s latest album “Ladies and Gentlemen” which was released in early February and features different female vocalists on each song. He introduced a guest singer, Lindsey Lou and claimed that the only reason she wasn’t on the album was because they didn’t know her yet. In a flowing white blouse, high-waist bellbottoms, and with naturally curly long brown hair Lou joined for one song, singing “Old Whiskey Bottle” off the ‘Dusters album. Next the guys played their cover of U2’s “In God’s Country”, then Falco sang “Peace of Mind” which went into the “Cissy Strut” then back to the end of “Peace.” The audience was full of energy and when the following song, “Sirens” –a fast paced instrumental- was performed no one could resist moving to the music and occasionally shouting out in excitement. Book sang “All the Same” next, then invited Nicki Bluhm onto the stage. She appeared in a long sleek green dress, perfect for the holiday, and a long beaded necklace. She sang “Run to Heaven” a gritty country-bluegrass song from their new album. The first set ended with the band and Bluhm covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” The bluegrass flare added to the classic was fun for the crowd to singalong and move to the strong banjo sounds. When the song finished around 10:15 p.m., Book announced they would be taking a short break and coming back out for a second set.
The break was good for moving, stretching and refueling the crowd and lasted about 25 minutes. The boys came back out starting strong with “Big River” then “Old Chuck Hen.” Garrett announced his two sisters were at the show and dedicated “Night on the River” to them. They jammed out to that song and continued with “Well Well.” Bluhm rejoined the band for three more songs, “Listen” and “See How Far” from the album and an “Amarillo” cover. Book dedicated “The Places I’ve Been” to his wife, who was in the audience. They kept pickin’ and the audience kept moving to “Space”, “Highwayman”, and “Blackrock.” Next they unplugged and performed the soulful “Let it Go” acoustic. “Seventeen cents” another fun song followed, then a last jam to “Rain.” For the last song, the ‘Dusters, Bluhm and the Gramblers all took stage and performed “Little Too Late.” The crowd went wild as the musicians bowed and left stage chanting, “once more song!” The ‘Dusters reappeared with Bluhm and they played “Not Fade Away” for the finale.
The night in Nashville was a high-energy, positive, and fun experience. After personally seeing the ‘Dusters about a dozen times, their shows just keep getting better. If you want to go see an extremely talented, high energy band, go see the Infamous Stringdusters.