Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival - May 15 - 18: Preview

The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, to be held at Granite Hill Camping Resort from May 15 - 18, 2014, is a bucket list festival. If you haven't been to Gettysburg yet, you need to schedule yourself there for one of the best bluegrass festivals you'll find anywhere. Large enough to be able to attract the very best bands available, yet small enough to feel manageable and personal, Gettysburg has it all - great lineups, surprising and interesting workshops, diversified camping from rough to full hookup, a pool with a view of the stage, vendors serving everything from fairground staples to healthy eating goodies, and more. Granite Hill Camping Resort is a major campground with themed activities held almost every weekend throughout the season. Bluegrass is merely a part, although admittedly a large part, of the overall challenge of running a commercial enterprise in a highly competitive tourism market. When you come to Gettysburg, you'll find plenty to keep you busy if you schedule a whole week to visit the battlefield, the town, and the charming region around it as well as attending this fine bluegrass festival.

The LineupThursday
Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road

Lorraine Jordan's band is reaching new heights of quality. A high charting song this year is a standout.

Special Consensus

Greg Cahill continues to show how to keep traditional bluegrass fresh while bringing contemporary elements into it. Always a good show.

The Claire Lynch Band

Three time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year over a sixteen year period, Claire's longevity, versatility, and the quality of her band remains undimmed. Part jazz, part swing, part bluegrass, and all quality, this is a don't miss band.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

With two changes in this highly successful band, many are waiting to see how it's working out. For us, the answer is already in. The band is as strong and entertaining as always. 

Dr. Ralph Stanley (One Show Only)

Dr. Ralph is on his farewell tour this year. Catch him now.

U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band

This always high quality band presents its show with lots of pizzazz. Remember, they're a major recruiting element for their service and for the American military generally. They do a better job of it than any of the cynical troups seeking to leave the same patriotic message.

The Spinney Brothers

This Canadian group continues to build a loyal audience as it becomes increasingly familiar in the U.S. For the past few years, they have campaigned hard south of the border, and it's paying off for their brand of traditional bluegrass highlighted by their own compositions.

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

The Queen of Bluegrass works harder than anybody, gives herself to her fans, and continues to explore new dimensions as a singer and as an entertainer while always staying grounded in bluegrass and country music. Who could ask for more?

Lonesome River Band

Five time IBMA banjo player of the Year and winner of the Steve Martin prize for Excellence in Banjo, Sammy Shelor continues to provide LRB's signature sound while developing all along the way.

The SteelDrivers

No band can party as much as The SteelDrivers claim to and consistently deliver the highly disciplined, blues and rock inflected bluegrass this band does. They convinced me!

The Howlin' Brothers

We've never heard nor seen this band, advertised as a genre busting string band which has reached high on the Amreicana charts while claiming to retain strong elements of traditional string band vibe. Look forward to a band with a difference.

Pete Wernick, Don Rigsby & Friends

Anticipate heart, soul, brains, and solid musicianship from this duo and whoever their friends turn out to be (look for Ira Gitlin to be one of them). It'll be a strong and satisfying performance, no matter what they play.

The Boxcars

The Boxcars are three time IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year while Adam Steffey has been named Mandolin Player of the Year ten times, not to mention Ron Stewart's awards for both fiddle and banjo. The group is strong at every position.

The Grascals

The Grascals, formed at the Station Inn from a group of experienced sidemen, has toured and entertained for nearly a decade, bringing their own combination of joy and enthusiasm everywhere they go. 

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Ricky Skaggs' legendary career began when he was invited onstage to play with Bill Monroe when he was only seven years old. He has moved from playing in top bluegrass bands, to a much rewarded career in country music, and returned to enrich and keep the music of the Founder alive and filled with energy. His band is filled with quality, and always puts on a good show.

Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run

We haven't seen Rebecca Frazier yet, but her work is seeing a good bit of play on Sirius/Xm satellite radio. Frazier's reputation was cemented when she became the first woman placed on the cover of Flatpicker Guitar magazine. Look for an interesting singer/songwriter take on traditional and progressive bluegrass music. 

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire Squad presents a much loved Sunday morning gospel program featuring Ron Thomason's commentary. They also perform two more conventional (for them) sets on Saturday. Thomason's satirical commentary combined with deeply felt bluegrass music is beloved by many and derided by some as too political, though Thomason appears, to me, to have an equal opportunity skewer. DBFS shows represent a breath of fresh air at any bluegrass festival where wry humor combined with good music are appreciated. Dry Branch Fire Squad has performed at every Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

The Seldom Scene (75 minute set)

When we first heard The Seldom Scene, we were captured. We kept hearing, however, continual references to their just not being the band they were with John Duffey. Well, for us, having come to bluegrass relatively recently, they're the Seldom Scene, and they're just fine. The newest member has been with it for eighteen years. Each member is a thoroughgoing, deeply experienced professional, . Their three sets at Gettysburg, including a long one on Sunday afternoon are always a treasure, with their playing from their long catalog of songs, many of which have been skillfully appropriated from non-bluegrass non-traditional music. 
Flatt Lonesome

Flatt Lonesome is a very young band which has made significant improvement since leaving its home in Callahan, FL to move to Nashville. Originating as a gospel bluegrass band, they have broadened their repertory, moving further into the bluegrass world. Their stage presence, their playing, and their singing has shown steady improvement. 

Three performance slots, one on Saturday and two on Sunday remain to be filled as of this writing. As soon as I hear, I'll add them here. Bands playing on two days  are only pictured once. For times and a precise schedule, look here. Be assured that the TBA's will be filled as well as a bang-up series of workshops and jams in the workshop tent.

Workshop Tent

The Environment
The Audience with Shade Tent and Vendors Behind

The Pool and Bed & Breakfast Farmhouse

The Main Stage

Sand Pit

One Way to Enjoy a Bluegrass Festival
There's Plenty of Room

Food Vendors
Lots of Healthy Food

In the Campground
All Kinds of Campsites from Rough to Full Hookup

Pete Wernick's Jam Camp Before Gettysburg

The Details

Granite Hill Camping Resort is a large multi-purpose campground in a resort area in close proximity to high population areas in Baltimore-Washington, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, which also attracts visitors from West Virginia, New York, and New England as well as from abroad. The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival has been held twice a year (May, August) for thirty-four years. It is highly popular and well-attended. I called the office on Wednesday afternoon. There are no full-hookup sites remaining and only a few water/electric sites. There's still plenty of room for rough camping. People erect very elaborate and interesting campsites. Many groups have camped together here for years and years. 

Advance prices are available until May 9 and can be ordered HERE. Granite Hill is a large campground. You can study its layout on the pdf map HERE. Granite Hill Camping Resort is located six miles west of the Borough of Gettysburg, PA and near the Gettysburg Battlefield.

How to Get to Granite Hill Camping Resort
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Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is one of the best regarded and longest running bluegrass festivals around. It attracts large, well-behaved crowds. It is a truly family friendly event, which does not mean there is no drinking on the premises. Wine and beer are sold in the camp snack bar. The campground is large and there are plenty of places for kids to play and ride bikes. The pool is not guarded, so children must be supervised there by their parents. It's close enough to the stage so people can lie in the water and listen to music. Pete Wernick holds his Jam Camp during the week before the festival. Pete's camps provide a wonderful opportunity to learn to jam in a relaxed, friendly learning environment. Irene has been an attendee for several years. If you've never been to Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, there's still time to schedule it. If not this time, then come August or next year. See you there.