Wednesday, January 18, 2017

YeeHaw Music Fest 2016 Part 1 - Review

After a long, pretty dreary drive down I-95 from Kingland, GA to the Vero Beach exit we found ourselves happily headed towards the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center for the second year of the YeeHaw Music Fest held at this large, flexible facility, an ideal site to hold a bluegrass festival. With expansive camping facilities, water and electric hookups for many attendees, and plenty of room, with pads, for additional camping space, this investment in recreational space for the city of Okeechobee will certainly prove itself to be popular and frequently used. We settled in and prepared ourselves to spend the rest of the week immersed in our first bluegrass festival for the winter of 2017. 

Promoter Ernie Evans has adopted a model for his festivals encouraging early arrival and full participation. People begin arriving on Sunday or Monday, with activities beginning on Tuesday. He successfully offered a musical prelude on Tuesday evening, featuring a band or solo performer in a tent. This year, the Darrell Webb Band appeared on Tuesday evenng. 

The Darrell Webb Band

Each appearance of the Darrell Webb Band we've seen in the past few years has been a high energy, driving show featuring his increasingly tight band which has benefited from steady work together at the Old Smokey Distillery in Pigeon Forge, TN. The band combines bluegrass classics with contemporary songs fitting Darrell's personality. His animation on stage has increased greatly as has his confidence in his own leadership and the quality of his band. In addition to strong musical selections, the band is entertaining and lively.

Darrell Webb

Jared Hensley

Collins Miller

Tyler Collins

Jeremy Phillips

 Ernie Evans & Larry Payton at the Board

With warm weather promised by the weatherman and a strong crowd attracted by the finest lineup Ernie and Deb Evans have been able to provide, the high quality of the coming week was established with this Tuesday show from a strong band. 

Covered Dish and Open Mic

Covered dish suppers and home grown entertainment often ushers in the opening of a bluegrass festival. No group is better at feeding itself than bluegrassers, and on Wednesday they did themselves proud in providing and proved more than adequate at consuming their own contributions. 

The evening's entertainment included plenty of pick-up bands from the campground, who had spent the past couple of days jamming together and practicing. It opened with Greg Bird's popular Karaoke country singing and was conducted by his able hosting of the evening's festivities.

Greg Bird

Karen White

Pete Petrick

George Koserowski

Alan Rudd

South Country Classic

Many bluegrass fans found their way there when the country music they loved from the fifties through the seventies was supplanted by a rockier, more modern version. Thus. what's now referred to as "Classic Country" is welcomed at bluegrass festivals, with songs by the Masters like Hank Williams, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and others welcome on bluegrass stages. To help meet this fan (and performer) enthusiasm, Ernie has formed a local band called South Country Classic, which performed at Wednesday's open mic as well as at an after hours set on Friday evening. The band helps remind everyone of the strong connections between country music and bluegrass. 

Ernie Evans

Dave O'Brien

Jr Davis

Sonya Stratton

Josh Griffin

Joe Choina

 As the evening got late, those of us who froze through last year's set by the Lonely Heartstring Band for the weather we saw coming through the rest of the weekend.

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley is a promising, young bluegrass band from Hollywood, FL making its first appearance at a major bluegrass festival. The three brothers Mason supported by banjo and bass made a good their chance with pleasant personalities and upbeat presentation of, mostly standard bluegrass repertoire but included a few songs of their own. They'll bear watching as they gain in experience and polish.

Charles Mason

Justin Mason

Shawn Mason
Mark Richardson

Joseph Choina

The Mason Brothers Vocal Trio

Remington Ryde Warming Up

Remington Ryde

Remington Ryde comes from the Harrisburg area of central Pennsylvania and hosts its own bluegrass festival in Center Hall, PA in the summer. They've significantly improved themselves with the experienced Warren Blair on fiddle and baritone vocals. They feature high energy and enthusiasm as well as improving taste in their between-the-songs humor. Lead singer Ryan Frankhauser writes fervent, sincere gospel and patriotic songs, while Billy Lee Cox is a marvelous banjo player. This is a hard-working band.

Ryan Frankhauser

Billy Lee Cox

Warren Blair

Richard Egolf

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy has, for many years, cultivated a loyal fan base and toured widely as well as hosting their own festival. During the past couple of years they have elevated the quality of their musicianship, continued to write and perform good songs written from within the band, and matured in their humor. With their new CD, Where I Come From it has all come together. Playing four sets over two days, they never repeated a song and delivered first rate show. Songs like "Andersonville" and "The Long Road Home" written by Mike Andes and Caleb Cox respectively, are excellent additions to their catalog. Here's a case of a veteran national band making subtle, but significant, changes adding to their quality and attractiveness.

Mike Andes

Chris Sexton

Mitchell Davis

Tony Shorter

Caleb Cox

Nothin' Fancy - Andersonville

Emcee - Jo Odom

Near Full House on Thursday Night

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have established themselves as one of the finest performing and recording band in contemporary bluegrass. With two IBMA Entertainer of the Year awards and to many others to list hear and ten albums that have reached the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited Chart, they are well recognized as a superb band, noted for the singing, song writing, and the brother banter coming between the songs that so endears them to their many fans. Appearing at YeeHaw Music Fest for the first time, they attracted a huge Thursday audience which would happily have kept them on the stage for hours, adding to the ninety minute evening set they offered. This Band is always a joy to see!

Eric & Leigh Gibson

Jesse Brock

Leigh Gibson & Mike Barber

Mike Barber

Eric & Leigh Gibson

Clayton Campbell

Clayton Campbell

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers - Three Song Medley

A fine opening day for a first rate festival. Second half coming soon.

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