The Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival has its seventh annual go around this weekend. While the festival had the bad luck of terrible weather on both Friday and Sunday, we attended on Saturday. There was plenty of mud and mess created by the torrential rains of Friday night, but the mud and muck only added to the flavor of the event. We arrived around 11:00 on Saturday morning and were parked in the far reaches of the lot where there was a little high(er) ground. We could hear fiddle music over the Rosewood sound system as we slogged our way towards the main stage. Vendor’s row was well established; seats and, towards the rear, individual shade tents were set up. We found some open space and placed our chairs a little to the rear of the sound booth with a good view of the stage. A sea of mud separated the seating area from the food vendors as well as the musician’s merchandise tents.The fiddle contest ended and Big Spike led off seven hours of local and regional bands of varying skill and interest. By investing in three top rank national bands (Del McCoury, IIIrd Tyme Out, and the Gibson Brothers), the promoter of this festival has put himself in the unenviable position of leaving too little margin to provide strong second rank national bands and top regional ones. In booking Del McCoury, as I understand it one of the most expensive touring bands in bluegrass music, Promoter Steve Palmer has boxed himself in. Unfortunately for the festival, McCoury was faced with torrential rains on Friday not, certainly cutting down the day attendance for this festival, a gate promoters count on to make their events profitable.
The Gibson Brothers are, arguably, the home town band for every festival in New England and New York at which they appear. They draw fans from all over the region just to see them. In fairness to the great IIIrd Tyme Out, The Gibsons should have been the closing band at Lake Champlain. If they had closed, they would have held the substantial numbers of people who left after their second set. The Gibson Brothers’ last three CDs have reached the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited charts, and their most recent album, Iron and Diamonds, is currently #3 with two of the cuts in the top thirty. Their recent tours of the south and the west have introduced them to legions of new fans and several appearances on XM satellite radio have also helped spread their music. They are poised on the edge of reaching the top echelons of touring bands. Leigh and Eric Gibson’s unique brother harmonies and evocative lyrics capture the ear and the imagination of listeners, who usually come away raving. While Eric and Leigh feed off the crowd, creating their set list on the fly, it would seem their first set contained songs of particular attraction to this northeastern crowd. “Railroad Line,” “Iron and Diamonds,” and “The Barn Song,” and “Callie’s Reel” all have strong connections to their northern New York roots and drew loud appreciation from this audience. Gibson Brothers sets almost always draw people to their feet and dancers to the dance area. Band mates Mike Barber, Rick Hayes, and Clayton Campbell each bring their own charm and electricity to a Gibson Brothers show to make for an always first rate show.
IIIrd Tyme Out