The Festy Experience

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It’s hard to believe the Festy is already in its fourth year!

The best part of the Festy is the reunion with our friends and Jamily—the Stringdusters, the Artist Farm folks and our friends we’ve met through the ‘dusters.  The festival is at Devil’s Backbone Brewery’s concert grounds in Nellysford, Va. It’s a nice venue, with campground just beside the grounds and everything is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Della Mae did a special set with the Stringdusters for the early arrival folks on Thursday night. Two strong bluegrass bands led to a great acoustic show with lots of voices and harmonies.

 The Infamous Stringdusters are the hosts and they broke out some way-oldies: Hey You, Won’t Be Coming Back and 3×5 – the first time we’ve heard it live and we’ve heard a lot of Stringduster shows over the past five or six years. They also played Let It Go, a new favorite in the old gospel style.

Lake Street Dive is one of the hottest bands on the festival circuit. They are a quartet fronted by the powerful voice of Rachel Price. If you haven’t heard them, look up their schedule now and go! Their set included smooth covers of George Michael’s Faith and the Jackson Five’s I Want You Back.  They did Bad Self Portrait from their upcoming album.

 An infamous drizzle was the weather theme of the weekend. It rarely actually rained but the drizzle was inescapable, even for the musicians. It blew in your face, under your umbrella or right on to the stage, the musicians and the instruments. Because of the rain, we didn’t get good photos of some of the bands. Sorry!

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers delivered a fine bluegrass set. It was our first time hearing them and they offer a stellar line-up of musicians. Chris Jones sings and plays guitar. I’ve read Chris’ column on Bluegrass Today and listened to him on Bluegrass Junction on Sirius XM radio so it was great to finally hear him play and meet him afterwards. Jon Weisberger is the bass player and he’s an extraordinary songwriter, writing with folks all around Nashville and the bluegrass world. He was recently elected as IBMA board president too. Ned Luberecki  is the banjo player and he’s also on Bluegrass Junction. Mark Stoffel plays mandolin. Their show included songs from their latest album, Lonely Comes Easy. Go buy it now!

Marco Beneveto has just a piano, bass and drums but wow! They played several songs from their new Tiger  Face album. He plays a strong piano and their sound is jazzy electronic rock. At one point, they put on big tiger heads while they were playing – freaky!

New Country Rehab is a high energy country band from Toronto and definitely worth checking out.

John Scofield UberJam band played a grooving set and he later joined the Dusters for Kelpers. I wasn’t that familiar with him before this. JJ Grey and MoFro were another band I didn’t know. They were also fun. Festy is an interesting combination of bluegrass, jams, and alt country type bands and like any good festival, it exposes you to some new bands.

Sunliner is a new venture between Sarah Siskind and Travis Book with Brian Caputo on drums. Sarah’s a talented songwriter with a beautiful voice.  Several of her songs have been on the ABC Nashville recently. Their sound is an Americana rock, electric but still sweet and pure. Both Sarah and Travis have wonderful voices.

Sunday night, we closed it down with the Railroad Earth set. Despite the rain, which was steadier at that point, it was a good time with good music and friends. Often in the audience, you’d look around and see musicians out in the crowd. After their set, most of them walk around, talk with folks and enjoy the music with everyone else. Very cool vibe. At one point, several of us were crowded in the dry spot under a big umbrella dancing and talking and having a great time. Who cares about the rain?

Another post soon about Garrett Grass Gospel Hour and Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers.

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