“Being here at Festy the second year in a row, I’m amazed at the quality of everything here: the musicians, the friendships, the food. I’m totally blown away. I’ve cried like 20 times here just out of joy, getting moved by the songs that are floating around here. We go to a lot of festivals, a ton, and this is definitely in my top three. No question. Thank you to the Infamous Stringdusters for thinking this up. Everyone is just so on it, the production, the vendors, the sound, the crew, and you guys [the audience,] we make a great team. “
—Nicki Bluhm, in the middle of her set on Sunday in the rain
Sunday morning breaks at Festy with the Garrett Grass Gospel Hour, hosted by Jeremy Garrett. It’s been a favorite since the beginning of Festy and everyone else is now realizing there’s good reason to wake up early on Sunday. Jeremy’s family joins in for several songs, including his wife, Connie, and his father, Glen Garrett, who is a bluegrass musician from way back. His sisters played too and even his mom got in on the family act.
The Duster family played, as well as Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, Sarah Siskind and Julie Lee.
Daniel Walker did a great rendition of John the Revelator.
Out on the main stage, Chris Thile and Michael Daves did a great bluegrass set. With just a mandolin, a guitar and two really talented guys, you get an amazing show. Chris has evolved into an amazingly eclectic artist. Thile and Michael Daves join forces to put their hip, modern take on bluegrass classics and some of Thile’s own, like Cry, Cry Again. Their rendition of Blue Virginia Blue took my breath away. My dad used to play it with the Dixie River Boys and it had been years since I heard it, back then sung by Dad. The Thile Daves version was more progressive but still brought tears to my eyes. Then they ripped into Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms – another one Dad played and one of my sister’s favorites.
Tim and Nicki Bluhm spent the whole weekend at Festy. They did a sweet set together and then two sets as Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Their duo set was more folky but with The Gramblers, she’s got a California country sound with a little hippy San Francisco Dead influence too. Two wonderful sets blew us away.
Jeremy Garrett joined them for Long Black Veil on Saturday. That is such a fabulous song, it goes way back and so many artists have covered it. On Sunday afternoon, Nicki and the Gramblers took the stage as the drizzle was getting thicker. Nicki ripped through Hey Stranger, Ravenous, and Stick with Me. She dedicated Loving You has Made my Life Sweeter than Ever to her band as they wrapped up their tour for a bit.
About the time the drizzle turned to rain, she lit into Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart. Many artists would be afraid to tackle such an iconic song but Nicki Bluhm is fearless and she delivers. I was amazed at the strength of her voice and her comfort in Janis’ song. Her voice got louder and stronger, seemingly in defiance to the rain that was now coming down steadily. And the audience loved it. She could see the rain coming down and yet the audience was completely rocking out. It was emotional. She’s right – we are a good team!
Jen Pawloski, a photographer, captured the song in this video. Thanks to her for sharing it with us! You can’t really see the rain, but it was coming down.
Thankfully, Greg got an audio recording of the show (and several others) so I can listen to it, loudly, at home. I’m still touched at the thought of that moment when Nicki took a little piece of my heart and left it at The Festy.