Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Big Lick Bluegrass Festival - April 6 - 8, 2017: Preview

The fourteenth annual Big Lick Bluegrass Festival will run in Oakboro, NC from April 6 - 8, 2017 this year. Hosted this year by The Spinney Brothers, Big Lick is the kick-off outdoor festival for the North Carolina bluegrass season. A small festival held in a rural setting, it offers lots of jamming opportunities, strong national and regional bands, and a welcoming environment. Although the weather can get chilly this early in the season, people in this state where good bluegrass bands seem to sprout almost as thickly as the spring daffodils, there are plenty of people eager to get outside, to jam, show their stuff from an unusually varied and active Thursday open mic evening, and celebrate the coming of Spring. Promoter Jeff Branch has carefully built this small festival, bringing in national bands and finding strong local support. 

Jeff Branch

The Lineup
Open Mic

Big Lick features an unusually enjoyable open mic program on Thursday evening for early arrivals and campers coming to the festival. Some of the bands appearing have been scheduled while others are an organic growth from the pickers who have assembled in the field to jam. Such open mic programs often represent the first live performance opportunity for newly formed bands or regular local jam groups. Occasionally, such a band begins its rise to greater prominence, first regionally, and, less often, to national status. As such, open mics represent the base line of the large, and real pyramid upon which bluegrass is built.

The Wood Family Tradition
Mike Wood

The Wood Family Tradition represents another strand in the growth and development of a much larger bluegrass tradition: the family band with its roots in gospel music. Founded many years ago by family patriarch Al Wood, the current band, under the leadership of Mike Wood performs regionally in North Carolina, continuing a tradition with solid entertainment. The video below provides a sample of what they do. 

Bethel University Bluegrass Band(s)

The Bethel University Bluegrass Band has been a popular feature at Big Lick for the past three or four years. They represent the Renaissance Program of the University, located in McKenzie, TN, which is an exciting performing arts program with strong scholarship support. It's hard to profile the band(s) because the personnel changes markedly from year to year as students graduate and newcomers join the program. Usually, there are two bands at Big Lick representing less and more experienced students from the program. Such performances give them good opportunities to perform while honing their skills.

A Deeper Shade of Blue
Jim Fraley

A Deeper Shade of Blue has moved, during the time we've been watching them, from being an introductory band at the monthly meeting of a local bluegrass association (The Rivertown Bluegrass Society in Conway, SC) to beginning to reach toward national band status, with performances throughout the Southeast and on a cruise. They play traditional hard driving bluegrass, songs written from within the band, and gospel material. Some members of the band have touring experience, while others have turned down such opportunities to remain closer to home, family, and job.

Frank Poindexter

Steve Dilling

Sideline was formed during the off season, when a group of veteran bluegrass musicians were looking for a side project to keep the sharp through the winter. Steve Dilling had just left the road for health reasons after twenty years with IIIrd Tyme Out. Skip Cherryholmes was settled in the Raleigh area and about to marry Dilling's daughter, and Jason Moore was always busy and ready to work. The band came together covering first and second generation bluegrass bands, and quickly had enough dates to justify purchasing a bus. There have been a few changes, with young Nathan Aldridge a standout on fiddle. The band, relying on experience and quality has quickly risen to national status.

Skip Cherryholmes

Nathan Aldridge

The Malpass Brothers
Christopher Malpass

The Malpass Brothers are not a bluegrass band, but they have found a home at bluegrass festivals across the country playing classic country music from the fifties through the eighties. They play electric instruments, have a drum on stage and a pedal steel. They have been welcomed, at least partly because a large proportion of the bluegrass audience has come to bluegrass because they can no longer find the country music they love on the radio. The brothers are very good on their own, and represent a welcome change of pace sound at the many bluegrass events where they perform.

Taylor Malpass

Flatt Lonesome
Charli Robertson

Buddy Robertson

Flatt Lonesome, one of the youngest major bands on the bluegrass stage today, has rocketed to prominence from their beginnings as a bluegrass gospel band playing churches and small festivals near their home in Callahan, Florida. Their close harmonies, youthful enthusiasm, and blend of bluegrass and country sounds have garnered numerous awards at both SPBGMA and IBMA in the past two or three years. They've risen fast in the bluegrass world, and show no signs of slowing down.

Paul Harrigal and Kelsi Robertson Harrigal

Junior Sisk

Interestingly, we also first saw Junior Sisk perform as lead singer with Alan Bibey and Blueridge at a Rivertown Bluegrass Society monthly meeting. His distinctive voice and shy manner set him aside as the "real deal." Fifteen years later, he continues, now as the front man of his own band, to sing his idols, the Stanley Brothers, as well as many songs written for him that sound as traditional as can be. Meanwhile, he's become a able band emcee, pulling together his skills as one of the best rhythm guitar players in bluegrass and one of finest tenor voices. 

Junior Sisk & Jason Davis

The Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers have become sufficienly popular and successful at Big Lick to have been named the host band. They will be on hand throughout the festival, playing four sets from their substantial catalog as well as meeting a greeting friends and fans. Coming from the Annapolis Valley in their native Nova Scotia, they have spread their love for bluegrass and traditional country music across North America for over twenty years. 

Alan Spinney

The Details

Tickets: You can purchase Early Bird tickets until April first for $55.00. From April 1st on, tickets cost $75.00. Day Tickets are:

                             Thursday                                     Friday                            Saturday
Adult:                   $10.00                                       $30.00                              $35.00
12 - 16                  $ 5.00                                        $10.00                              $10.00
Under 12               Free                                            Free                                   Free

For Tickets Call: (704) 985-6987

Camping: There are some hookups and almost unlimited space for rough camping. There are good camping spots under trees for tent campers. Plenty of porta-johns are provided and there are fresh water stand pipes. To arrange for camping call:
Jeff Branch:                        (704) 985 - 6987
Hinson's Festival Park:      (704) 485 - 6987

Remember, this is an early April festival. Weather can be quite variable. Wise festival attendees come prepared for cold or rainy weather as well as sunny days. There are shade tents provided, and some festival goers erect easy-ups around the perimeter. 

How to Get to Big Lick at Hinson's Festival Park in Oakboro, NC:

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We always look forward to returning to North Carolina for much of April. Spring in North Carolina is filled with blossoms, warm sun, and bluegrass music. See you there. 

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