Throughout the day, the Grass Seeds Stage, coordinated and directed by Michelle Canning, had a full schedule of performers. Bands selected by a fan vote performed again for three judges at the end of the day and a winning band was selected for a Sunday performance on the main stage. Since not all participants were seen by all the fans voting, one must question the validity of this method of choosing a winner. The three bands were given detailed, and public, feedback by the judges after their performances. The Gazebo provides a marvelous setting for such an event, while the format appears to place a premium on attracting fans to a particular performance.
Throughout Friday and Saturday a wide variety of children's activities were presented near the Gazebo stage at the back of the festival grounds. Adult supervision and professional direction were both clearly in evidence with a wide variety of activities provided for children. This gave parents an opportunity to either leave their kids in a supervised activity or enjoy sharing it with them, a vast improvement over parents merely allowing kids to run rampant around the performance areas, playing in a totally unsupervised manner. Jenny Brook provides a model of what "Family Friendly" really means at a festival. Here it's brought to reality rather than remaining a euphemism for "don't drink in public."
The Gibson Brothers by themselves are superb workshoppers, largely because they take their workshops seriously. Often their workshops feature new songs still in the development process while providing insights into how they work and who they are. This event, moderated by their friend and fan John Saroyan, who has recently moved from New York City to rural Vermont, provided another real highlight for the weekend as John carefully culled through the brothers' musical and personal development, hitting high as well as not-so-high points in their career. With their mother, Shannon, sitting front and center, they made clear the importance of family and their development on a hard-scrabble rural farm in northernmost New York state. John asked pointed, probing questions requiring thoughtful answers, which he got while always keeping the focus on "the boys." Jesse Brock provided instrumental backup to this very well-attended workshop.
The Boxcars have not only survived what looked like a major loss with John Bowman's moving on to a full time music and preaching ministry, they've thrived on it. The addition of the very young and very talented resophonic guitar player Gary Hultman is and should continue to be a huge addition to the band. He brings a new sound, a feeling of youth, and additional humor along with a touch and feel for his instrument way beyond his nineteen years. Only in his first full weekend with the band, he's already making mature contributions, and will only get better. The fact that Ron Stewart, usually found on banjo, is one of the best fiddle players around adds even more versatility to this band. Meanwhile, the great Adam Steffey appears increasingly comfortable as emcee of the band, allowing his wit and sense of fun to emerge along with his always great mandolin work and singing. This band, fine musically from the beginning, appears to be burnishing its entertainment value, too, the one element that has been missing from placing it at the very top of touring bands. Keith Garrett continues his fine contributions as both a singer, song writer and (mostly) rhythm guitar player, while Harold Nixon maintains his drive and solo dexterity. Watch for this band and appreciate the changes coming over them.
Leigh Gibson & Mike Barber
The Kids Academy On Stage
Link to Google Album of Kids Academy
Click on the Picture Below
|Jenny Brook Kids Academy 2014|
Jesse Smathers, Tony Shorter, Mike Andes