Monday, April 20, 2015

Raleigh Saturday - Country and Town

Parking in the Meadow

Race Start

Saturday morning promised a sunny, warm, wonderful day. Ron Raxter, a member of the Local Organizing Committee for IBMA's World of Bluegrass and Treasurer of Pine Cone, The Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, inc., promoter of traditional and roots music in the region and a partner of IBMA in presenting World of Bluegrass, had told us about two events on Saturday, both of which we might enjoy and find interesting. He was right! The Umstead Coalition is a non-profit that supports the Umstead State Park nearby, a park developed on land once too degraded by overuse to support any worthwhile enterprise, and now restored. The Coalition supports a number of activities to raise funds and offer opportunities to maintain and develop the State Park. We went to the 21st Annual Walk-Run-Bike event where The Southern String Band, an old-time string band Ron belongs to, would be providing music. We drove into the nearly filled meadow parking lot just as the bikes were leaving and the runners were lining up to start. Meanwhile, there were displays and activities provided for the spouses and kids not participating.

Face Painting

Raptor Rescue - Horned Owl

Screech Owl

Ready to Feed the Participants

Ron Raxter Arrives

The Southern String

The Southern String Band is a group of nine friends, many professionals in other fields, who have come together to continue the tradition of string band music, an Appalachian offshoot of British dance music which took its own form in the hills and hollers of the mountains in western Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and further south. Popular at dances and on back porches for, perhaps, hundreds of years, the music is dominated by fiddles. String band music stands as one of the important precursers of bluegrass, where it is known as Old-Time.

Southern String Band

The Band 
Wade, Annie, Vickie, Mike

John & Kurt

Charlie & Bob


We had a good time in a rural setting (with very comfortable, large houses across the street) only a few miles from our campground at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, and perhaps still within the boundaries of the City of Raleigh. From there, with a brief stop at our trailer, we headed down to The Pit, just two blocks away from the Red Hat Amphitheater and a block more from the Raleigh Convention Center and the two IBMA headquarters hotels, the Marriot & the Sheraton.

The North Carolina Cuegrass Festival
at The Pit

 The Pit

We've enjoyed dinner at The Pit a couple of times since we started coming to Raleigh for World of Bluegrass three years ago.It's the restaurant that has proven to us that gourmet and southern cooking are not an oxymoron. Take a look at the menu. For Saturday afternoon The Pit had closed a couple of blocks on Davie Street in front of the restaurant, put out vendor trucks with their own barbecue as well as beer and merchandise, and placed a stage at the foot of the area. We were sad to miss the first band, Hank Sinatra, for its name alone, let alone the music, and arrived just as the second band, the Moore Brothers, a young band who we have been watching for the past four or five years.

The Moore Brothers

We first saw the Moore Brothers in Nashville, participating in Kids on Bluegrass, the youth program associated with IBMA's World of Bluegrass national meeting, now moved to Raleigh. They were young, oh so young, and pretty much unformed, musically. Now, with Jacob, age 17, ready to start participating in the online portions of the Berklee College of Music, and younger brother Isaac (age 12), growing by leaps and bounds as a musician. The third member of the band is their friend, bassman Daniel Perry. They are a fully plugged in Americana band with deep roots in bluegrass. Like so many young bands, it's impossible to predict where they or their music might be heading. Suffice it to say that it's blazing fast, largely tasteful, and varied. Their voices are still in the becoming stage, so it's difficult to tell where that will go, but their musicianship is superb, belying any of that "for their age" stuff. While their parents, Patty and Jeff (both registered dietitians) are very much present, they are so unobtrusive that no-one who didn't know them would know they were attached to what's going on onstage. The kids are busy discovering what their own thing is and making exciting music while they're at it.

Jacob Moore

Isaac Moore

Daniel Perry

Kids Activities
Painting Piggy Banks

...and Faces

 The Hillbenders

The Hillbenders have been honing their bluegrass chops and extending their understanding of the genre to include songs they themselves have been writing for the past four or five years.Their latest album, is a bluegrass interpretation of the rock opera by the Who, Tommy. Formed in 2008, we first saw them (we think) as a showcase band, and later at both Strawberry Park and Gettysburg bluegrass festivals. We've been impressed since the very beginning by their fine singing, close harmonies, and dazzling instrumental work. The band is based in Springfield, Missouri, and several members studied under Alan Mundy at South Plains College in Texas. Their music is sharp, song-oriented, and cohesive. Their sound...always surprising and energetic. They've worked to find their uniqueness, and succeeded, but always seem to remain within the template of a bluegrass band. This band should be high on the list for Emerging Band of the Year at the IBMA Awards Show this year. 

Nolan Lawrence

Jimmy Rea

Mark Cassidy

Chad Graves

Gary Rea

The beer was flowing, the heat rising, and we were getting tired as the crowd grew increasingly large throughout the afternoon. We decided to head home. Meanwhile, people were having a wonderful time in downtown Raleigh, a town that has taken to bluegrass and its variations with real enthusiasm and gusto. If you haven't sampled the excitement generated here yet, it's time to join IBMA and register for the Business Conference, the Bluegrass Ramble, and Wide Open Bluegrass, coming in September. Hope to see you there. Keep and eye on the IBMA web site and this blog for further information.

Downtown Raleigh
The Sheraton, the Marriott. the Convention Center
and the Red Hat Amphitheater