Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gettyburg Bluegrass Festival - Friday

Friday at Granite Hill Campground where the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is held dawned misty, overcast and grey and stayed that way through most of the day.  Fortunately, the rain mostly held off and the music achieved the highest quality.  Gettysburg attendees are used to the weather Pennsylvania often offers in mid-May and took the weather with high good grace and humor.  Meanwhile, the festival moved along from band to band with excellent shows, fine sound, a good and varied supply of food and merchandise vendors, and plenty of fun for all.  
Pete & Joan Wernick with Don Rigsby

Pete & Joan Wernick had just completed one of Pete's well-known Jam Camps, at which their students performed as the opening act on Thursday afternoon.  Now they would spend the next two days performing on both the main stage and the Workshop Stage as well as teaching a workshop on Pete's passion, teaching the world to jam.  After years of touring with the fabled band Hot Rize he has continued to perform while spreading the jamming gospel. Check here for more information about Jam Camps taught by Pete as well as by his authorized instructors. Joined by Don Rigsby, who's sung and played mandolin and fiddle with a number of great bands, including his own band Midnight Call, in addition to spending several years in higher education developing programs in traditional music, Pete and Joan perform a combination of bluegrass classics along with Pete's songs and banjo compositions.  Ira Gitlin provided excellent support on bass.

Pete Wernick

Joan Wernick

Don Rigsby

Ira Gitlin

Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie

Bill Emerson was a founding member of two important bluegrass bands, The Country Gentlemen, and Country Current, the U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band.  His appearance gives the impression of a dignified older gentleman, perhaps a professor.  His music offers a pleasing blend of classic bluegrass as well as bluegrassed tunes drawn from an older folk tradition.  His sets at Gettysburg were consistently tuneful and pleasing.  

Bill Emerson

Teri Chism

Chris Stifel

Wayne Lanham

Jenny Lee Obert

Jamming in the Workshop Tent

The Steep Canyon Rangers

Because of the extensive notice The Steep Canyon Rangers have received due to working as Steve Martin's back-up band in his ongoing tour as a bluegrass banjo player, it might be easy for some people to forget that they're a fine bluegrass band in their own right.  Two nights before appearing in Gettysburg, The Rangers performed with Martin at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama.  Despite the attention they've drawn, the members of this band remain the same well-grounded young men they were when they hit the bluegrass trail fresh out of the University of North Carolina five or six years ago.  Performing material from their own catalog as well as several tunes written by Steve Martin, their performance showed the many qualities that led Martin to choose them.  

Woody Platt

Mike Guggino

Charles Humphries

Graham Sharp

Nicky Sanders

The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band

From his early days as a Bluegrass Boy with Bill Monroe through his stint with Jerry Garcia in Old and In the Way to his Mexican Air Force Band and other innovative bands, Peter Rowan has been a well known singer, songwriter, and entertainment personality.  His current band is dedicated to playing and interpreting early bluegrass music as well as some of Rowan's later most popular work.  

Peter Rowan

Jody Stecher

Keith Little

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

When the Martha White Express bus arrives at a bluegrass festival, fans know that one of the hardest working bluegrass troopers is there to entertain. Beyond being a fine singer and musician, Rhonda Vincent is eager to spend large amounts of time meeting and greeting her fans, often signing and standing for pictures for as long as two hours after a performance.  Her band consists of high quality individual players in their own right, contributing a lively mix of singing and picking coming from each of the members.  I particularly noticed on this appearance, the first time we've seen Rhonda this year, that her work on mandolin and fiddle has stepped up a notch or two. Always at least a competent instrumentalist as well as a fine singer, her picking has improved substantially.  Her two daughters, Sally and Tensel, also appeared with her for a family trio, as well as performing with their own band, Next Best Thing.

Rhonda Vincent

Hunter Berry

Mickey Harris

Aaron McDaris

Ben Helsen

Rhonda with Daughters Sally & Tensel

Next Best Thing
Tensel Sandker & Sally Berry

Touring as The Next Best Thing, Tensel Sandker and her sister Sally Berry, Rhonda Vincent's daughters, continue to improve in their singing, stage presence, and performance.  They've worked hard and it's beginning to pay off for them. 

 All Star Jam in the Workshop Tent

Eric Gibson with Pete & Joan Wernick

The Gibson Brothers

With their new CD "Help My Brother" rising in the bluegrass charts and at least two songs from the new recording also charting high, The Gibson Brothers are in the midst of their most successful year ever. The band has been touring hard, becoming tighter with each week, sure of their material and comfortable with their free form style of presentation, they have charmed and excited audiences in large auditoriums, big festivals, and small venues across the country.  Wherever they appear, they're making new fans and solidifying the loyalty of those who've known them for years.  The buzz about their consideration for Entertainers of the Year and Record of the the Year at the IBMA Awards to be held in late September is loud and getting louder.  The superb brother harmonies and song writing of Eric and Leigh are complemented by Joe Walsh, superb on the mandolin, Mike Barber, a bass master, and Clayton Campbell, whose fiddle soars to heights seldom reached by others. Each member of this band deserves serious consideration for individual instrument awards at IBMA. This is a band you shouldn't miss if you get the chance to see them. Meanwhile, get a copy of their new CD and enjoy it.

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

Two Avid Gibson Brothers Fans

A little wet weather just can't seriously dampen a bluegrass lineup of this quality.  More tomorrow.