Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival 2014 - Thursday & Friday: Review

Campers eagerly began to arrive at Hebron (CT) Lions Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning and kept coming to the spacious and attractive venue until Friday afternoon. They were attracted by the strong lineup and by Podunk's reputation as a varied event with lots of activities for all ages which encourages people to have fun while not becoming overly obstreperous. The festival grounds and the inclinations of the promoter and his very effective and welcoming staff also encourages extensive round the clock jamming which began almost as soon as the campers began to arrive. After growing an extremely successful festival in E. Hartford, CT, winner of the 2010 IBMA Event of the Year, festival Executive Director Roger Moss was forced to move it to Dodd Stadium in Norwich and then to discontinue it there due to scheduling conflicts. Roger conducted a thoughtful and careful search for a new site, choosing the Lions Club Fairgrounds in Hebron, CT. There was, however, great anxiety about the move and the potential to rebuild in Hebron. All the variables came together, and sufficient numbers of people appeared to assure a continuance of this fine event next year. There's plenty of room for expansion, excellent facilities (including hot showers and flush toilets), and wonderful nooks and crannies to enable campers to find some solitude or gather together for socializing and jamming. The site lies within easy commuting distance for several million people. We've already bought our tickets for next year's Podunk, which promises to be bigger and better. Get on board early. Meanwhile, let's take a look at this year's event.

On the Go Staff Meeting

Afternoon Jam

Brain Trust
Stan Zdonik, Jim Beaver, Roger Moss

Executive Director Roger Moss
Welcome to Podunk

The Telefunken Band Competition

The Telefunken Band Competition at Podunk has long been an important part of the event. Bands from all over the country (Packway Handle Band - Georgia, Gold Heart - Washington area, Travers Chandler and Avery County - Virginia, and Joy Kills Sorrow - Boston) have all been past winners. The winner receives a cash prize and a guaranteed place in the next year's lineup. It's highly competitive, providing a good jumping off point for existing bands wishing to raise their profile to a higher level. 

The Bondville Boys

The Zolla Boys

My Brother's Keeper

The T-Shirt Vendor

Tumbling Bones

Tumbling Bones comes from Portland, ME. They describe their band as "an ensemble of young men inspired by old music. Drawing on bluegrass, pre-war folk, and a bit of the contemporary rock ‘n’ roll the guys were reared on, they make their music with nothing but acoustic instruments, tap-shoes, and—most of all—their voices." Their sound is reminiscent of old-time string band music with plenty of contemporary influences weaved in. This year they have been chosen to embark on a State Department sponsored performing and educational tour abroad. They won the band competition along with the $1300 microphone donated by Telefunken. Since they focus on developing a single mic sound, this will, no doubt prove to be useful to them.

Jake Hoffman

Pete Winn

Kyle Morgan

Tumbling Bones - That's How They're Rolling - Video


The Bankesters

The Bankesters have transcended the "cute" factor and left it demolished in their wake as they move forward into being a mature and entertaining band. The center of their appeal remains three young and attractive women who can no longer be characterized as kids. Their voices blend and meld together, while the harshness that often comes from straining for notes many young bands are frequently not ready for has gone for good. Parents Phil and Dorene are happily and willingly fading into the background, while son-in-law Kyle Triplet is being more frequently featured. Starting their career as a family gospel band, they still play gospel and spiritually oriented material, and have expanded the repertoire to include a much wider range of material as well as musically increasingly complex challenges. Add to that a friendly, engaging interaction with their audience onstage as well as after their performances and you have a real winner.

Alysha, Emily & Melissa Bankester

Phil Bankester

Dorene Bankester

Emily Bankester

Melissa Bankester Triplett

Alysha Bankester

Kyle Triplett

The Bankesters - When I'm Gone (Cups) - Video

Bees to Honey with the Bankester Girls

Todd from Rosewood Sound
On the House Board

Vendors Row

Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys

Jim Gaudet specializes in a Cajun flavored bluegrass often containing wickedly funny, satirical lyrics. His band is based in Albany, NY, where their natural habitat is pubs and clubs. They have a strong local following in the region and could have settled into that sometimes lucrative niche. However, the band has persevered in becoming a bluegrass/folk/Americana band, gradually spreading its influence to prestigious venues such as Grey Fox and Wintergrass, in Washington state. They are consistently entertaining and have attracted an avid, loyal audience. Don't miss this band which offers a change of pace and a lot of fun.

Jim Gaudet

Bobby Ristau

Sten Isaaksen

Sarah Milovich

Scott Hopkins

Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys - Ink My Arm - Video

Jamming in the Field after the Show


Friday morning started early with workshops in the Barn in the middle of the Fairgrounds. Many bands circulated through there, including a number of more folk and Americana bands, which, sadly I hadn't the energy to cover along with the main stage. Irene's role at Podunk is to be manager of the artist's merch area, so she's not available for extensive photography, making festival coverage pretty much a one person job. 

Three Tall Pines

Three Tall Pines is a Boston-based group with a Nashville arm now that Joe Lurgio has gone to work for IBMA. They were the winners of the 2012 Podunk Band Contest held at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, earning themselves a gig at the renewed Podunk here in Hebron Lions Club Fairgrounds. 

Joe Lurgio

Ethan Robbins

Dan Bourdeau

Conor Smith

Jeanette Williams Band

Jeanette Williams has long been recognized for her powerful voice and pleasing personality. She has performed with the Daughters of Bluegrass, recorded widely, and been named SPBGMA Female Vocalist of the Year. Her ability to combine traditional bluegrass with other influences makes her versatile and popular.  Johnny Williams career as a rhythm guitarist and both lead and harmony singer has placed him as a highly sought after side man. The addition of the fine banjo player, and Luthier, Jody King to the band appearing at Podunk was a very pleasant surprise, as was Chase Johner's work on mandolin. Good work....

Jeanette Williams

Johnny Williams

Jody King

Chase Joiner

Jeanette Williams Band - I Will Survive - Video

George Lynch (Father of Kevin Lynch)
Proudly wears his First Year Volunteer shirt. That year, it is said, 
there were more volunteers than attendees.

The Workshop Stage

Colby Laney

Matt Wright - Larry Stephenson Band

The Larry Stephenson Band
Larry Stephenson, Kenny Ingram, Colby Laney

The Larry Stephenson Band recently celebrated it twenty-fifth anniversary as a touring national band, a record of longevity achieved by few. Stephenson's distinctive, pure tenor voice is easily recognizable. His catalog of traditional bluegrass and extensive recording in gospel music gives his music broad appeal within the bluegrass world. He's also, simply, one of the nicest people in the music. The addition of the legendary Kenny Ingram on banjo a few years ago revived Ingram's career and has strengthened the band. Look for Kevin Richardson to rejoin the band on guitar soon. Matt Wright, still a student at ETSU, has added to the bluegrass program's reputation for providing hot young pickers to bands. There are still many more working at finishing their degrees and preparing to join the ranks of touring professionals. We've entered the era of the educated and trained bluegrass musician. The effect of professional training and nurturing in a college environment on bluegrass is only beginning to be seen.

Larry Stephenson

Kenny Ingram

Colby Laney

Matt Wright

The Larry Stephenson Band -The Blues Don't Care Who's Got 'em - Video

How to Beat the Sun

Workshop on IBMA for Profesionals & Fans
Ken Irwin - Recording Co. Executive - Rounder Records

Stan Zdonik - Association President - BBU

Arnie Fleischer - Promoter - Emlin Theater

Adkins & Loudermilk

Friday was the first time we had seen the entire Adkins & Loudermilk Band together, and it is, indeed, a powerful unit making plenty of well-designed sound. Energized by Dave Adkins lively personna brought to the stage and strengthened by Edgar Loudermilk's broad experience and mature approach to the music, the band has a significant future.

Dave Adkins

Edgar Loudermilk

Andrew Crawford

Glen Crain

Curtis Baumgarner

Jordan Rice

The Crowd on the Hill

Note the Tent Village on Top of the Hill

Macbeth's Crones or Just the Bankester Sisters
and Two Nephews?

Kim Ford - Emcee

The SteelDrivers

When the SteelDrivers first hit the stage, we saw them first at Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, I didn't get it. They brought a new vibe and a new personality to the stage - filled with blues, infused with rock music, and enlivened by alcohol. This wasn't what bluegrass was about to me. But the crowd, usually at closing of festivals, at least those who were left, loved them and showed it.... The SteelDrivers are one of the foremost and most powerful closing bands in bluegrass. But gradually I began to hear and understand their appeal. With the coming of Gary Nichols and the emergence of Tammy Rogers as a powerful voice (beyond her wonderful singing and fiddle work) I found myself becoming a fan. They've wormed their way into my heart and mind as one of the best bands around, still performing much of their original repertoire written by Chris Stapleton, and adding more and more varied material. The SteelDrivers are better than they ever were before, and more accessible, too. 

Mike Fleming

Brent Truitt

Tammy Rogers

Richard Bailey

Gary Nichols

The SteelDrivers - If It Hadn't Been for Love - Video

Photographer & Videographer Steve Ide