Monday, February 6, 2012

Joe Val Bluegrass Festival - February 17 - 19 - Framingham, MA

The Joe Val Festival, New England's premier winter event and 2006 IBMA Event of the Year, opens for its 27th season at the Sheraton Hotel in Framingham, MA (suburban Boston) on Friday, February 17th and runs for three days.  Sponsored by the Boston Bluegrass Union, Joe Val is one of the most ambitious bluegrass festivals we attend, combining first rate national and regional bands with a plethora of workshops at every level for all bluegrass instruments and songwriting (Claire Lynch) with jamming workshops. The showcase stage will present twenty-one bands seeking to grow to regional or national levels, an unparalleled opportunity for many of these groups.  On the Main Stage twenty-five bands plus the Joe Val Kids Academy will perform during the three days of the festival. Meanwhile, there is jamming all over the hotel lobbies, in small rooms downstairs, and in people's rooms on the jamming floors. As usual, the Sheraton Hotel is already sold out, but it's probably worthwhile to keep checking back for cancellations right up until show time. There are a number of nearby hotels at various prices, too. You can find hotel information here.  

Some Featured Main Stage Performers
Blue Highway

Rob Ickes (Blue Highway)

 Claire Lynch
Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Josh Williams
Michael Cleveland
Sierra Hull

 Greg Cahill

The Spinney Brothers

 Steep Canyon Rangers

Amy Gallatin

Joe Val, whose real name was Joseph Valiente (1926 - 1985) pioneered bluegrass music throughout New England. He was said, by Peter Rowan, a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, to be the voice of bluegrass in New England." He learned his bluegrass mostly by listening to Bill Monroe's recordings and by performing with a variety of groups around the region. At the Joe Val Festival this year, singer/guitarist  Joe Singleton will perform a set called "Joe sings Joe" in which he interprets Joe Val's voice. There's a solid acount of Joe Val's career in Wikipedia.

This third weekend in February is, perhaps, the busiest of the winter season for bluegrass. On the east coast alone, three major events take place from Florida to New England.  The Palatka Bluegrass Festival in Florida, Bluegrass First Class in Asheville, NC, the Kinston Winter Bluegrass in NC, and Joe Val in Boston stretch the availability of national touring bands almost to the breaking point. Some bands try to play at least two of these on the same weekend, a demanding and difficult schedule to maintain.  This year there doesn't appear to be much overlap, but it's a big weekend anyway. For people living in the northeast, Joe Val needn't take back seat to any of the others. We'll be missing Joe Val this year, as we elected to try to head south to the sun, but it's a great event and shouldn't be missed.  The BBU web site is excellent and those seeking more information should explore the Joe Val Festival portion of the site carefully. While you're at it, join BBU in order to keep abreast of all bluegrass activities including jams in New England.  Do think about attending Joe Val this year if you can possibly get there.