Thursday, July 23, 2015

Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival - Hebron, CT August 6-9, 2015 - Preview

The Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival will run from August 6 - 9, 2015 at the Hebron Lions Park in Hebron, CT, Beginning nineteen years ago in East Hartford, CT, Podunk, named 2010 IBMA Event of the Year, Podunk has consistently grown and become a favorite New England festival noted for its variety of music, thoughtful design, extensive jamming, and wonderful sense of community. This year, the festival has added a weekend long Acoustic Americana stage featuring a full slate of local and regional bands. This preview presents an overview of the highlights and details of this fine festival. Extensive internal links will take you to relevant portions of the festival web site for further information.
The Lineup
Podunk has long been noted for the wide variety and high quality of its music. With the main stage featuring a strong bluegrass regional and national lineup and the Americana/Acoustic Stage offering more cutting edge music, mostly from the region, and four young, new bands competing in the annual band contest, always judged by top industry professionals, Podunk brings terrific musical variety and power. Podunk has always featured thoughful, comprehensive workshops. This year the Workshop Stage has been relocated, and there's a full schedule of workshops.   As usual, bands appearing on more than one day will only be mentioned once. For specific times and places of appearance, look at the Schedule.

The Main Stage
The Telefunken Band Competition


Vermont-based bluegrass band PossumHaw, from the sample on their web site, is not your mother's bluegrass band. Traditional instruments with a folk/Americana vibe and four CD's already out.

Michelle Canning & Rough Edges

Michelle Canning is a familiar figure to bluegrass festivals around New England, where she has appeared with her band Rough Edges, served as an emcee, and developed the Grass Seeds Stage at Jenny Brook. She's from Massachusetts.

Four Bridges

Four Bridges is a New England-based bluegrass that appeared in the Thomas Point Beach band contest last year. 

Colebrook Road

Colebrook Road is a Pennsylvania-based band which won the Watermelon Park band contest last October. Solid traditional bluegrass....

Check out the follow-up of previous winners of the Podunk Band Competition. It's pretty impressive!

After the band competition, Detour will appear while the judging and band feedback continues, to be followed by the announcement of the winner and another performance, making for an exciting and varied Thursday schedule.


Missy Armstrong has matured as a singer, and Detour has increasingly become a band providing a solid range of bluegrass and strong country covers. Enjoy this Michigan-based band.

The New England Bluegrass Band

The New England Bluegrass Band has been a staple of regional bluegrass strength for many years. Based in Vermont, it has had a revolving lineup of fine pickers and can be counted on to give a good showl 
Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers

Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers are a traditional bluegrass band from Kentucky who appear widely in the mid-west. This year they are in New England for a couple of weeks in August. I'm looking forward to seeing them for the first time. 

Gold Heart

Gold Heart is best known for the tight harmony of sisters Tori, Jocie and Shelby as well as, increasingly, for their song writing. They will be an Official Showcase Band at the upcoming IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh this fall. They have been joined this year by their younger brother Kai.

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers are well known, with three of its members having their own programs on Xm/Sirius satellite radio. Bassist Jon Weisberger hosts a week program with Del McCoury, Ned Luberecki on banjo is host of a weekly program of progressive bluegrass as well as teaching on-the-air banjo lessons, and Chris Jones has hosted his True Bluegrass program featuring traditional music. Both Jones and Weisberger, who is currently Chairman of the Board of Directotrs at IBMA, have won high recognition in the bluegrass industry, while Luberecki is one of the most creative banjo players around. 

The Special Consensus 40th Reunion Show (Long Set)
Greg Cahill

Greg Cahill has been leading his fine band The Special Consensus, for forty years, as well as providing leadership in the bluegrass industry for much of that time. Known as a fine banjo player, he also served as Chairman of IBMA for four years and is widely known for his work in music education, both in his home of Chicago, and around the nation. The band tours relentlessly. It was rewarded with two IBMA awards and a Grammy nomination in 2014. They appear for one long set closing Friday evening at Podunk this year. 

Special Consensus

Tumbling Bones

Tumbling Bones were the winners of last year's Podunk band contest, earning them a spot in this year's lineup. However, they probably would have found their way to this position anyway. The band has been around for about a dozen years, and played a State Department sponsored tour in eastern Europe in 2014. They play traditional bluegrass, old-time, with a sprinkling of the rock music of their own generation. Tumbling Bones is based in Maine. 

The Railsplitters

The Railsplitters, a Boulder, CO-based band, will be playing from Alaska to Connecticut after a successful showcase at IBMA last year. From what I heard of their work on their web site, we're all in for a treat with this dynamic, inventive band.

Blue Canyon Boys

Billing themselves as "high octane bluegrass," the Blue Canyon Boys are another Colorado-based band, bringing a strong western sensibility to Podunk this year. They combine traditional bluegrass, newgrass, and rock covers in their wide ranging repertoire. 

Sister Sadie

Composed of five prominent women in bluegrass. Dale Ann Bradley has won five IBMA Female Vocalist of Year awards, Deanie Richardson currently tours with The Chieftons. All are prominent side musicians well-known to bluegrass fans. Because they're so busy they can't tour much, it's always a treat to see them together. Treat yourself, too!

Seldom Scene (Long Set)

Ben Eldridge has been touring with the now legendary Seldom Scene for forty-four years. He seems to fit as comfortably as an old shoe, until you focus on his still precise timing and taste that knows no rough edges. He's smooth as butter. And so are the scene, which through all these years has managed to maintain a sound familiar to all. The current lineup is the longest lived of any the band has had.Their long set on Saturday night will be eagerly awaited and their request list so long, they won't be able to fill them all, but who cares. They stay at the very top of excellence in bluegrass, yet, when they were formed in 1971, they were seen as being revolutionary. Yes!

Gospel Sing & Jam

James Reams & the Barnstormers

James Reams has been playing his rootsy Kentucky style bluegrass and touring for over 20 years. Now based in Arizona, he has still retained his ties to the east and Brooklyn, NY in particularly. His return to Podunk after some years' absence will be welcome.

Kids Academy

Americana/Acoustic Stage

The new Americana/Acoustic stage features a number of regional, mostly Connecticut, Americana bands. Mike Wilcox, manager of this stage, tells me, "The On Deck Sound Studio Showcase is our attempt to highlight some local artists that are new to the Connecticut music scene. Although after setting up the lineup one of the performers was nominated for a few awards in CT and New England.   In keeping with the Americana / Acoustic stage format, they are doing acoustic sets, but the genres are varied." Festival sponsor Telefunken, will provide the mics for this stage. Mike also provided me with some of the pictures and all of the profiles, for which I'm most grateful. 

On Deck Sound Studio Showcase
David Coffey

Singer/Songwriter, guitar and vocalist for the Dogs of Moscow, from Marlborough CT

Andy Wakeman

Singer/Songwriter from Rocky Hill CT

Julia Autumn Ford

Julia Autumn Ford, though young and newly emerging to the music scene, has already made quite a name for herself. After her first time stepping off-stage, she developed a passion for connecting and relating with people through music, inspiring them with her thoughts and enlightening them with a positive perspective

Jeff Przech

Singer/Songwriter - 2015 finds Connecticut songwriter Jeff Przech supporting the release of his debut solo record, "Sounds Like Fresh." The title is a little piece of wordplay on Jeff's last name, which actually does sound like fresh.

Jay Roberts

Jay Roberts is a singer/songwriter/performer from the Northwest corner of CT.

Seth Adam

A thirty-eight year old singer/songwriter born and raised in Connecticut

Americana Acoustic Stage
Tracy Walton

2015 finds Tracy going strong with the highly anticipated release of his third solo album, “Moderately Unknown” due out in early spring. He is up for Best male Performer in The New England Music Awards for the second straight year. Tracy is currently playing a residency at Daryl Hall’s Daryl’s House Club. The new album finds Tracy steering the ship back towards the singer songwriter/rock roots of his youth. He feels it is by far his best work to date.  

Krizta Moon

I put little musical ditties together meshed with personal quandaries, revelations and epiphanies, and then I sing them out unto the sonic abyss. Chip McCabe of Lonesome Noise wrote: She’s a singer-songwriter, first and foremost; but a sort of mystic as well, one who is able to successfully relay the whispers and the lessons learned from her own not-so-distant past. It truly is the journey and not the destination we should all be paying attention to both in life and on this record.


Influenced by the emotional roots of country, the confessional poetry of folk, and the spatial freedom of ambient and harmonic tones, Ponybird is the solo project of Jennifer Dauphinais, an evolving artist who translates something both introspective and infinite all at once. The heart of Ponybird is derived from a central singer-songwriter focus, with a tribe of players that satellite the work.

Heather Fay

Alt-country singer, songwriter and guitarist Heather Fay chronicles her philosophies and adventures through honest songs with bright, delicate melodies and inventive lyrics. Each of her original tunes is rooted in raw emotion and unfolds a fresh plot that explores her personal perspectives on love, heartbreak, hope, endings, new beginnings and the complex human journey. Her careful work in the studio illuminates her command as a musical storyteller, sparked by the many poets and artists that have colored her world.

Gail Wade Trio

During the past twenty-plus years Gail has gained the respect of audiences throughout the USA, Ireland and several European countries. A strong guitarist and clawhammer banjo player with a rich and soulful voice, Gail brings forth fresh renditions of folk, blues, old-time, bluegrass and swing favorites. Though steeped in the roots of American music, her diverse array of influences enable Gail to handle the transition from one musical genre to the next, with a fluidity that will foster a true appreciation of her talent.

Ebin-Rose Trio

Since their debut as a trio earlier this year at the Katharine Hepburn theater and later shows at The Buttonwood Tree and Strand Theater the inclusion of Bobo on upright bass has brought the band into a more free form unit. Their two new CD's "Bare Wires" and "Live From The Buttonwood Tree" are receiving a broad range of airplay both online and on college radio. In early August ahead of their feature at The Podunk Music Festival they plan on returning to the Coffeehouse studio to record their third EP with more of a focus on instrumentals.

Them Damn Hamiltons

Them Damn Hamiltons write and perform original dark indie New England folk with a touch of gypsy swagger and sea chantey stomp.

Good Night Blue Moon

Goodnight Blue Moon, from New Haven, Connecticut, writes pop songs on folk instruments. By combining 60’s vocal harmonies, traditional roots influences, and catchy orchestrated melodies, GNBM is what New England Americana sounds like. Having already shared the stage with folk heavy weights (Spirit Family Reunion, Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Frank Fairfield), they play high energy and dynamic sets that get an entirely packed room dancing and singing along.

Tuesday Saints

Tuesday Saints is a collaboration between singer/songwriters Jeff Burnham and Nanette Addesso. Their rustic harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, and fiddle paint an Americana landscape that Lonesome Noise calls “Down-home and soulful in their delivery.” The Saints blend additional layers of texture with harmonica, stomp percussion, and electric guitar that make a big sound.

Hannah Fair with The North End Guys

A band performing on the street caught our ear and we stopped to listen. They combined bluegrass rhythms with more mainstream songs. The result was absolutely sweet, just like their name, "The North End Honeys." We stopped to listen for a while; I thought that they were one of the more talented bands that we heard during the entire week. A real treat to listen to. (A review by Andy Christian Castillo on GoNomad)

The Meadows Brothers

The Meadows Brothers get along pretty well, considering they’ve around each other for 19 straight years. Sure, they still have the occasional argument about whether to listen to Tom Petty, Townes Van Zandt, or Doc Watson in the car, or what songs to put on the set list for the night’s gig, but overall, they keep it pretty cool. The brothers’ original songs; which they typically write together, have been praised for their emotive, relatable lyrics and memorable hooks. Several of their tunes have won awards, and been covered by international acts.


New Haven-based quartet Milksop:Unsung is a greasy-diner omelet of Folk, Swing, Rock, and Blues, performing original and eccentric arrangements augmented by witty humor, blistering energy, and found percussion.

Five in the Chamber

Five in the Chamber is a New Haven, CT based rollicking bluegrass and old-time string band with a rocking edge. Brought together through a series of music festivals during the Summer of 2011, the band quickly galvanized and established itself as a staple in the area's emerging Bluegrass scene. With tight arrangements, unique harmony vocals, and a shared passion for writing original music as well as studying and reinterpreting the bluegrass song book.

Michael Dey (Formerly of Little Ugly)

The dynamic front man of award winning Little Ugly embarks on a solo project. Michael’s talent for putting the listener into each song, with lyrics that touch all, and the music that brings in all the sounds that have influenced him along the way. Podunk will be the launch for the new music from Michael.

The Songwriters Competition: Long a feature of Podunk, the songwriter's competition requires songwriters to submit songs in advance of the festival. The three finalists will perform their song on Saturday afternoon. The submitted songs are pre-judged in order to allow an arrangement of the winning song to be required in the set performed by Band Contest finalists on Thursday.This also allows the judges to compare bands in the Band Contest through hearing their arrangements of one common song.

Voice of Kids at Podunk - This competition offers kids at Podunk a chance to sing and have their singing judged by professional musicians. There's a small charge per kid with cash prizes. This event will take place on the Workshop Stage. (See Map)

Podunk Bluegrass Kids Academy will be run this year by the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance. Open to children ages 7 - 17, those wishing to participate in the performance on Sunday morning will need to attend Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday. This activity is Free to those attending Podunk. Children 14 and under need not be ticketed. The staff is composed of experienced bluegrass musicians and teachers from Rhode Island.

Podunk Bluegrass University will run again on Saturday afternoon by Tony Watt and his able staff. These semi-private classes led by some of New England's top teacher/musicians cost $35.00 for a two and a half hour session. I've heard very good things about these sessions from former participants. You must attend the organizational session on Saturday at 1:00 PM to know where to go next. Read the material in the link and then contact Tony Watt if you have further questions.

Tony Watt

Kits Activities have been a long-time feature of Podunk. There's usually a petting zoo available where kids (and their parents) can try out instruments, and other activities for small and a little larger kids. Check it out on Windham Street (on the map). The final program will contain additional information.

Wall to Wall Jamming

Hebron Lions Club Map - When you click on the foregoing map, you can then enlarge it again, to locate all places utilized for Podunk. 

The Details

Tickets: All information about ordering tickets to Podunk online can be found here. Ticket Leap is easy to use and secure. Remember to print out the forms they send  you so they can be validated at the gate and exchanged for wrist bands, which you must wear throughout the festival. You can also print out a mail-in order form to order tickets by mail.

Camping: There are a variety of camping situations available at the Hebron Lions Park from Water and Electric sites to numerous (almost unlimited) rough camping. Just behind the shower/toilet building there's a little hill that's ideal for tenters who also jam, with a great view of the rest of the park. Look for electric sites (many with water, too) to sell out this year. Many people find interesting nooks a crannies (no, not English Muffins) spots to place their camp sites. Print and Fill out this order form, or order camping reservations online.

Tenter's Hill

Rough Camping in the Background

Other Accomodations: A block of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in South Glastonbury, CT has been reserved for the festival at a special rate. You can make reservations here. Here's a list of others hotels near Hebron Lions Park in Connecticut.

Vendors: A good variety of craft and food vendors is available at Podunk. Last year the food was varied and interesting with some healthy food choices available. The artist's merchandise area is under cover and convenient to the main stage.

Vendor's Row

T-Shirt Booth

Shaded Hill, Sound Booth, Main Stage,
Merhandise on the Left

How to Get to Hebron Lions Park
Place You Location in the Spot Marked o and Click 
for Custom Map

Mike Wilcox - Podunk Board President

C. Roger Moss - Podunk Executive Director

The Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival is an unusually well-designed festival offering a wide variety of musical choices, lots of jamming, plenty of kids activities. It's convenient to the millions of people from Boston to New York. Come on out. We'll see you there.