Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Review: Thursday

As is our habit, we arrived at Granite Hill Camping Resort, the home of two Gettysburg Bluegrass Festivals a year, early in the afternoon on Sunday, in time for the 3:00 PM chair drop. Chairs were already neatly lined up around the perimeter of the seating area, waiting for the usually pretty well-ordered rush to place seats. It's always fun for us to greet a few people we know while watching the campground fill up over the next four days while getting some rest, some shopping, and some writing done. This year, we were also able to watch the weather app on our phones and worry about the cold, wet weather headed our way. While there's often a little rain at Gettysburg, we usually can count on plenty of sunny weather, and always bands ranging from old favorites and hall-of-fame greats to new bands we're not yet familiar with and bands on the rise getting an opportunity to strut their stuff at a festival many see as a bucket list event.

Jam Camp

Jam Camps, aimed directly at closet pickers who wish to learn to play bluegrass, Jam Camp, has been a fixture at Gettysburg for years. Often taught by Pete Wernick, who invented and developed the concept, when he's in the lineup, this year's camp was guided by Washington area multi-instrumentalist and top fill-in player Ira Gitlin, a long-time assistant in Pete's classes and a certified Wernick style jam teacher. Many Jam Camp classes, held at festival sites before the festival, open the festivities with a brief performance onstage. 

 Ira Gitlin

Jam Camp On Stage

Graduation Photo

Open Jam at the Workshop Tent

ETSU Pride Band

The Old-Time, Bluegrass and Country Music Program at East Tennessee State University is the first degree granting, full-time program of it's kind in the country. The ETSU Pride Band appears at festivals and other events as a representative of the University as well as to get seasoning as professional performers. This young band brought enthusiasm, a well-thought out and choreographed performance of classic and not-so-classic bluegrass tunes while showcases some of the faces you may be seeing in bluegrass for years to come. Keep your eyes out and ears tuned for these young people.

Carl Smakula

Calder Baker

Aynsley Porchak

Jamie Carter

Ben Watlington

Dan Boner - Program Director

ETSU Pride Band - Grapes on the Vine - Video

Lonely Bass in the Green Room

Feller & Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos

Feller & Hill first came together at Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (the MACC) a few years ago. Since then they have sharpened their focus, shaped their show, and risen in the ranks of desirable bluegrass bands to hire and to hear. The addition of Stanley Efaw on fiddle adds a flavor and color to the band which fills it up and rounds it out. The name of the band gives more than a little bow to Buck Owens, a pioneer of the Bakersfield sound and a star on HeeHaw, the highest rated country and bluegrass network program ever. They capture much of his feel as well as that of the Aubrey Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys, a band which both men have connections to. This weekend they were the best I'd ever seen them, but I expect to see more growth in the months and years to come as the band continues to mature and develop its already unique sound.

Tom Feller

Chris Hill

 Mark Poe

Bobby Davis

Stanley Efaw

Chris Hill

Feller & Hill

Pirate Ship of Play in a Sanbox & Steeps Bus

Band Parking Area

Dale Ann Bradley

Dale Ann Bradley has won the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year five times, surpassed by only one other woman. Her voice is filled with warm emotion, smooth and accurate throughout her wide range. Her song selection includes bluegrass standards, music adapted to bluegrass from other genres, including her signature adaptation of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee." She shows a winning personality onstage and off. Her current band supports her well and contributes to the effectiveness of her performances.

Dale Ann Bradley

Scott Powers

Richard Cifersky

Tim Dishman

Greg Blaylock

Dale Ann Bradley

Dale Ann Bradley -  Pocket Full of Keys - Video

Steep Canyon Rangers Warming Up

 The Steep Canyon Rangers

Each time I listen to and watch the Steep Canyon Rangers I find more and more I like to hear and see. Their movement on stage, made possible by their judicious mixture of microphones and high quality technology that keeps the sound of acoustic instruments right while freeing them to move around the stage. Yet their movement is neither random nor thoughtless. They move to face each other for call and response duets, or to back up band-mates on solos. Their movement complements the songs they sing and play. While they jam, they are firmly based in songs, almost all of which are written from within the band, although they make sure to pay due respect to the founder. They use light effectively, even on a stage not well suited to lighting effects. I didn't hear anyone take exception to the inclusion of Mike Ashworth on percussion. His tasteful use, free the stringed instruments to greater flexibility, has become a non-issue. We're going to see the Steeps twice more this summer, so I'll save something. 

Woody Platt & Mike Ashworth

Nicky Sanders

Graham Sharpe & Mike Guggino

Mike Guggino

Woody Platt

Mike Guggino

Charles R. Humphrey III

Mike Ashworth

Woody Platt

Graham Sharpe

For more on the Steeps, read my column in No Depression here

The Steep Canyon Rangers - Old 97's Gonna Make It This Time - Video

At the Steeps Merch Table and Fans

Sideline closed Thursday evening, which was one of the best opening days we've ever seen at a festival. I'll cover them with my Saturday/Sunday post in a few days.