Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pemi Valley 2016 - Saturday & Sunday: Review


Brother/Sister duo Tom Venne and Julie Venn Hogan kicked off Saturday with their always popular fast paced bluegrass show. They feature high energy music coupled with sibling bickering and North Country humor. Lively and fun. Harry Ralph on fiddle and Steve Light on banjo have helped unify the band musically and strengthened its presentations. 

Julie Hogan 

Tom Venne

Harry Ralph

Steve Light

Tim Stafford Picturing the Scene

The Beartracks' Merch Table

Blue Highway

With Wayne Taylor on the mend, Daniel Salyer stepped in more than competently as Blue Highway was sharp and on top of their game at Pemi. They seemed relaxed in the mountain setting, and it showed in the ease of their performances. 

Daniel Salyer

Jason Burleson

Tim Stafford

Shawn Lane

Gaven Largent

Ken Irwin, Eric Gibson, Marion Levy

Gold Heart

Gold Heart's harmonies have always been strong while their brother Kai has become increasingly solid on banjo since we saw them at Gettysburg a year ago. They've also become more poised, both on stage and with their audience. The response to their performance, during their performance and at their merch table, was enthusiastic and strong. 

Shelby Gold

Torrie Gold

Jocey Gold

Kai Gold

Trent Gold

Gibson Brothers Meet & Greet

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers always seem to maintain a high standard of energy, voice, and humor wherever they perform, but New England and northern New York seems to bring something even more special from them. They know their audience; their audience knows and loves them. This mutuality creates a palpable electricity everyone there, both audience and performers can feel. They feel free to go deep in their deep catalog and haul out material not always heard these days in their performances. Their encore of "The Mountain Song," surrounded by the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains seemed to ring from the hills, although Rosewood's fine sound may have contributed to that. 

Clayton Campbell

Leigh Gibson 

Jesse Brock

Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

The Gibson Brothers

A Note About Vendors
Vendors Row

This year at Pemi Valley the quality of vendor food was the highest I've ever seen at a bluegrass festival. French fries, barbecue, hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as fried dough, were still available, but there were several high quality, healthy food vendors which were well patronized. The most innovative and, for me and many others, was Miso Hungry, a small, clean, well run trailer selling delicious and filling Japanese soups in generous portions at reasonable prices. Organic Coffee, a wood-fired pizza oven, and delicious home made ice cream in a variety of flavors were also frequented. Hurrah to Steve and Craig for going to the trouble of finding such high quality vendors!

Coffee and Snacks

Burgers & Fries

Wood Fired Pizza

Ice Cream & Miso Hungry

 The Pemi Valley Kids Academy

Kids Academies at bluegrass Festivals have traditionally been one of the many ways of passing on both the traditions of bluegrass and beginning to develop rudimentary skills of playing bluegrass instruments in children and then continuing to develop them into adolescence. While there was a good representation of very young children this year, sadly there were just not any young people who have grown up in the program and remain loyal to it to help build the music. With good weather and lots of young people around, I'd be interested to know why some people who've been in the program and benefited from it in the past aren't staying around to contribute to it as they improve on their own instruments. Ellen Carlson, who's a fine teacher and motivator ramrodded the program again this year. 

The Bluegrass Gospel Project

The Bluegrass Gospel Project offers traditional and contemporary gospel music in bluegrass arrangements that simply take your breath away. The singing and instrumentality are wonderful. The music spiritual without being sectarian or sanctimonious. Many of the songs were deeply moving and always beautifully rendered. A member of the band also emphasized to me that they were fully capable of delivering a secular program on Saturday and their gospel program on Sunday, making them a good two day opportunity for promoters seeking a fuller Sunday and first rate performance on Saturday. 

Colby Crehan 
Gene White, Jr. 

Kirk Lord

Taylor Amerding

Paul Miller

Steve Light

New Found Grass

New Found Grass is the host band of the Pemi Valley Festival, since the two promoters play in the band. The played a regular set in the Saturday lineup, but also took on the task of providing a long set on Sunday afternoon while the campground empties and folks head home. They accomplish this unenviable task with good humor, good music, and willing guests. The band offers solid arrangements of more recent bluegrass songs as well as their own re-arrangements of rock and pop music into bluegrass. Meanwhile, people packed up and left. 

Craig Engle

Steve Abdu

Dave Shaw

Dan Burke

Ron Swisher

Dave Shaw & Charlie

This year's Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival was an artistic and, we hope, financial success. It's well run, thoughtfully conceived, and presented in one of the most beautiful venues we go to in our bluegrass year. Give it a try next August.