Thursday, August 14, 2014

Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival 2014 - Saturday: Review & Assessment

The Hebron Lions Fairgrounds continued to fill up with bluegrass adherents into late Friday afternoon, and the day lot on Saturday was more crowded than anyone expected. The flexibility of the venue allowed a range of camping configurations while Steve Abdu's radio system broadcast the music at 90.1 FM to the entire campground, allowing people to listen from their camp sites. The magnificent trees standing on a low hill in front of the stage provided shade all day, and another hill behind the restroom-shower complex prohibited vehicles, becoming a popular and attractive site for tent campers. Vendors row offered a variety of food choices, including the ever popular Chili Brothers with their Cajun delicacies. It was warm, bright and sunny during the day. As the evening came on, the crowd filled the flat. Roger Moss, having a keen eye and ear, remained flexible in creating space and using it well.

Podunk Village Meeting

Podunk Board President Mike Wilcox came to moderate the Podunk Village Board meeting, a forum providing an opportunity for people to vent whatever frustrations they had and make suggestions. By keeping open ears and listening carefully, both Mike and Roger Moss elicited a number of good ideas and answered questions about issues people had. The entire mood of the meeting was to own the problems and keep looking to next year's solutions, many of which had already been noted and addressed.

How to Shoot a Performer
Photo by Amy Orolomoski

I presented a workshop called "How to Shoot a Performer" focusing on both the concept of this blog and its associated YouTube channel, FaceBook pages, and other social media as well as the photographic equipment I use and some of the techniques functioning to keep microphones out of artist's faces. I was very pleased with the attendance and the quality of the questions.

Nu Blu

Nu Blu has emerged out of North Carolina during the past five or six years to become a well known band on the national stage. They arrived at Podunk after a five day drive returning from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where they performed at the Blueberry Festival there. Musically, their sound ranges from strongly traditional to a more progressive edge, without ever losing their audience. Carolyn Routh is an able song writer whose voice delivers her plaintive love stories and fervent gospel tunes. Daniel Routh's vocal harmony supports Carolyn well, and he takes lead on several songs. Levi Austin on banjo and Austin Koerner on mandolin round out this increasingly visible band.

Daniel Routh

Carolyn Routh

Austin Koerner

Levi Austin

Nu Blu - I Remember Home, I Remember You - Video

Podunk Kids Academy

Sundays have always been a problem for bluegrass festivals. People are eager to get home to church, chores, or to prepare for the upcoming workweek. Podunk, in the past, used Sunday for the Kids Academy and the Band Contest as well as a couple of professional bands, often all presented to a small group of those remaining. This year the festival wisely eliminated its Sunday schedule, thus intensifying the remaining three days. One, perhaps, unanticipated benefit of this decision was that the Kids Academy had a much larger and more receptive audience on Saturday afternoon, including an audience of more than just proud parents and receiving real applause. A larger portfolio of photos from Kids Academy is linked below.

Link to a Portfolio of Photos of the Podunk Kids Academy

Kids Academy - Little White Church in the Valley - Video

Donna Ulisse & the Poor Mountain Boys

Donna Ulisse arrived in Nashville with a contract as a country singer. Sadly she lost her contract and made her living as a song writer and by recording demos for other writers. When she re-emerged as a bluegrass singer/songwriter seven years ago, she initially met some resistance. She has long since overcome that and become well recognized for both her wonderful voice and fine song writing. With her latest CD Back to My Roots she has owned her country background and parleyed her bluegrass connections through her longtime marriage to Rick Stanley, a Stanley Brothers nephew (Ralph Stanley sang at their wedding thirty-some years ago) into a perfect combination of bluegrass and classic country music. This combines with her own wonderful songs into an increasingly successful career. She has been nominated for two IBMA Awards for 2014.

Rick Stanley

Greg "PaPaw" Davis

John Martin

Bill Baldeck

Donna Ulisse

Donna Ulisse & the Poor Mountain Boys
Your Good Girl's Gonna Be Bad - Video

Tents on the Hill Under the Trees

The Claire Lynch Band

Claire Lynch is reaching the end of her reign as IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year (three time), but not to worry, she's been nominated for three awards this year, including Female Vocalist. Her unique mixture of genres coupled with the very high quality of her band places her in a comfortable zone of diversity while remaining in the pocket with her bluegrass. Her jammed version of Wabash Cannonball has become a classic. It was a delight to see two time guitar player of the year Jim Hurst back with Claire for a brief stint. Bryan McDowell is a standout multi-instrumentalist while emerging as a fine vocalist, both singing harmony and lead. Todd Phillips has been subbing while Mark Schatz is on the Nickle Creek reunion tour. He needs no introduction as one of the finest bass players around, having played with a who's who of famous bluegrass bands including The David Grisman Quintet, The Bluegrass Album Band, and the Tony Rice Unit. The Claire Lynch band is just plain outstanding!

Claire Lynch

Bryan McDowell

Jim Hurst

Todd Phillips

Claire Lynch

Bryan McDowell Giving a Lesson

The Campground

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa need to be heard more often. They make fine music with style and commitment. Since his retirement from Country Current, the U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band, he has assembled this fine group that has persisted with changes only at banjo. Emory Lester on mandolin is one of the best, well-known for his duo work with Mark Johnson, his teaching at workshops and conferences, and his solo play. Kene Hyat on bass has a background in jazz and rock as well as bluegrass. He's a superb bass player whose play helps drive this band and then stands out on solos. Scott Walker has recently joined the band on banjo, doing a fine job. Taylor himself has a wonderful baritone voice, is a very good flat picker, and writes much of the band's repertoire as well as selecting classic songs, particularly from his hero Lester Flatt. This band can be counted on for fine performances.

Wayne Taylor

Emory Lester

Kene Hyat

Scott Walker

Wayne Taylor

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa - 500 Miles - Video

Kids Activities
The Petting Zoo

More Supervised Activities

T-Shirts Silk-Screened On Site

Blue Highway

Blue Highway has been together for twenty years and today has the same lineup they started with. The band has been amply awarded through the years, but this might, indeed, be their year. Blue Highway has been nominated for nine IBMA awards including what might be justly called the Big Three: Vocal Group of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. The band just returned from France where Jason Burleson encountered nearly disastrous health issues, which is why he's playing seated. Still a little weak on his feet, his picking was a superb and tasteful as always. Blue Highway closed the festival with a wonderful long set to an enthusiastic crowd.

 Shawn Lane

Tim Stafford

Jason Burleson

Rob Ickes

Wayne Taylor

Blue Highway - Just to Have a Job - Video

Which Is the Right Wayne Taylor for This Band?

Roger Moss Announcing the Winner of the Eastman Mandolin
with Emcee Darwin Davidson

Winner of the Deering Banjo

Roger Moss, Executive Director of the Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival, has a unique skill of envisioning the complex interactions of a variety of interests, constituencies, and needs at a bluegrass festival. Podunk has always had a strong lineup of national bands. What has distinguished it, however, is elements like the band contest, the song writing contest, a professional growth component for promoters, musicians and fans, excellent food and craft vendors, good food for musicians and VIPs, directed children's activities, a fully staffed kids academy that provides for a group performance and instrumental instruction, and more. The Workshop/Performance stage presented a full schedule of performances and workshops during all three days of the festival This year, Tony Watts' Bluegrass University was an added attraction. There was jamming around the campus during the days and into the night. In fact, there's usually so much going on the seats in front of the main stage often look sparsely populated. Podunk was a veritable feast for the bluegrass festival lover. Podunk ticket sales for 2015 are now ongoing, and the far pre-season price is attractive. Get on board now, while electric and water hookups are still available. We're already looking forward to what surprises Roger has in store for us next year.

Jamming Continued Late Into Sunday Morning

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