Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gettysburg 2013 - Sunday & Final Assessment

Sunday at bluegrass festivals often bleeds attendees as they head home for church, Sunday chores, and to prepare for the dreaded Monday morning. Gettysburg has two features on Sunday morning that many die hard fans build into their schedules. Dry Branch Fire Squad has appeared at all 66 iterations of this classic festival while The Seldom Scene has been to nearly that many. For this Sunday, Dailey & Vincent were chosen to close with a long set beginning at 4:25 PM. This generated the largest crowd I've ever seen on Sunday at any festival except Merlefest and thus introduced many people to our surprise band of the festival, Steel Wheels. More about them later. Let's get on with the show.

The day dawned still dripping and misty from last night. Sunday breakfast back stage was quiet as people began to assemble for Dry Branch Fire Squad's traditional Sunday gospel show.

Ron Thomason & Tom Boyd at Breakfast

 Chris Lauer, backstage major domo, and Irene

Dry Branch Fire Squad

 For over thirty-five years Ron Thomason has been serving up his unique combination of topical satiric humor, primitive gospel songs, and socially conscious bluegrass songs about life in the mines and the poor hollers of Appalachia. He's never missed a Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. At every appearance since his son left to serve in Iraq (he's since returned in fine shape), Ron has sung the Civil War song "He's Coming To Us Dead" with conviction, and often obvious pain. This morning's rendition seems particularly heartfelt. He talks with deep conviction about the importance of the military for protecting our rights, which we, as voters, may be willing to give away. Agree or not, Ron Thomason generates thinking about the basic assumptions many of us live under.

Ron Thomason

Dan Russell

Brian Aldridge

Brian Aldridge & Tom Boyd

If I Could Just Touch the Hem of His Garment


Circa Blue

Promoter Rich Winkleman often successfully mines the under-exploited bluegrass resources of West Virginia. Circa Blue, whose name is most aptly chosen, is one of these bands. Circa Blue's music is an enjoyable blend of bluegrass and bluegrass related songs and covers with a good deal of humor. 

Steve Harris

Ron Webb

Gaven Largen

Matt Hickman

Lorne Sprague

Marty Raybon & Full Circle

Marty Raybon brought his wonderful voice and a good young band along with reliable veteran bass man Randy Barnes. He sang plenty of bluegrass as well as well-loved songs from his days in country music with Shenendoah.  Marty's a good emcee and has some amusing stories to tell as well as a bunch of great songs.

 Marty Raybon

 ? - Help

Zach Rambo

Chris Wade

Randall Barnes

Seldom Scene

The Seldom Scene has a long history as a much sought after bluegrass band. Initially begun in 1971 by a group of D.C. musicians who preferred not to tour widely, they created a new sound drawing on folk, pop, and rock influences to transmogrify into bluegrass. They were originally seen as revolutionary, but over time their repertoire has become standard. Their catalog of songs is wide and deep, and their fans know it and want to hear the great songs from the eighties and nineties. There's a rumor that the current edition of The Scene is headed for the studio again.

Dudley Connell

Fred Travers

The Elusive Ronnie Simpkins

Ben Eldridge
The Only Remaining Original Member

Lou Reid

Betsy Voss - Die Hard Fan

Frank Baker - Photographer for Bluegrass Today

Steel Wheels

We were at Merlefest 2011 where we heard Steel Wheels from the Cabin Stage, a small subsidiary stage where bands are showcased between major acts on the main Watson Stage. They only had about fifteen minutes, and we didn't get an opportunity to get a feel for their full impact, although there was significant buzz about this superb band during the weekend. Their next to closing performance at Gettysburg, however, was simply jaw dropping.  Steel Wheels music manages to combine a raw mountain sound with a highly sophisticated, melodic presentation always moving forward, grasping their audience at the heart, and shaking them hard enough so they know they've been in contact with a band bridging old-time, bluegrass, and some of the newest and most emotionally engaging song stylings we've heard.  For the past two days we've been listening to their CD's, and they only get better. We're naming them not only our surprise band of the festival, but they stand out among all the new, to us, bands we've heard this year. Steel Wheels is hosting the Red Wing Roots Music Festival from July 12 - 13 in Mount Solon, VA. We're sorry we won't be able to be there, but it looks like a wonderful, varied lineup in a fine setting.

Trent Wagler

Eric Brubaker & Jay Lapp

Brian Dickel

Trent Wagler & Jay Lapp

Eric Brubaker

Steel Wheels

Solitary Warmup - B.J. Cherryholmes

B.J. Cherryholmes & Seth Taylor

Dailey & Vincent
Jamie Dailey

Darrin Vincent

Dailey & Vincent continue to present a carefully designed show which has something for nearly everyone: deep Christian faith expressed in song, classic traditional bluegrass, gospel quartets, Statler Brothers songs from their epic Cracker Barrel CD, patriotic fervor, and broad comedy. It's all delivered with pace and style. I was curious if even Dailey & Vincent could hold a Sunday afternoon festival crowd into the late afternoon and was surprised and happy to see the largest Sunday crowd we've seen outside of Merlefest. Dailey & Vincent delivered their show with its usual class and polish, concluding with their very moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. As the weekend closed, many were sad to see it end.

Jeff Parker

 Christian Davis

Jesse Baker

B.J. Cherryholmes

Seth Taylor

The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival has run twice a year since 1979, sixty-six consecutive festivals. Promoter Rich Winkleman exercises a light supervisory hand on the event, and, for the most part, his trust for the fans is returned with good behavior. It's a happy, music-loving, loyal crowd. As often happens at festivals, we were dismayed by the amount of smoking in the audience area. In the evening, the secondary smoke near the back was nearly overwhelming.  Emcees did little to discourage smoking and there is no posted No Smoking area in the beautifully shaped amphitheater. Sound was superlative. The lineup was nearly unparalleled for a festival of this size. We've re-upped for next year, and only wish our schedule would permit us to come twice a year. The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is one of the greats.