Friday, March 31, 2017

Sertoma Bluegrass Festival 2017 - Review

Several years ago the Sertoma Youth Ranch was on the verge of cancelling for lack of attendance the annual Sertoma Bluegrass Festival, always held in March. They contacted Ernie and Deb Evans to take it on as a last resort. During the week of March 21 - 26, Sertoma celebrated it 40th anniversary with the best lineup and largest crowd it has ever had. Ernie Evans' theory of a bluegrass festival extending over an entire week with activities and music each day has resulted not only in increased attendance at all three of his major bluegrass events in Florida this year, but in growing a loyal fan base who attend from the first day they can get into the park through the final gospel sing on Sunday morning. Using the cruise ship experience as a model, there are activities such as an early performance, workshops, covered dish suppers, karaoke and open mic shows, and more. I'm sure, as he further involves those of us who attend, there will be more in the future. How about a corn hole tournament? People who attend Ernie and Deb Evans' (Evans Media Source) bluegrass festivals can count on having a good time as well as hearing some of the best bands in the country. 
Early Arrival

The Sertoma Youth Ranch is located in a beautiful live oak grove within a few miles of Brooksville, FL, which supplies all necessary shopping, and an exit off I-75 with plenty of motel rooms for non-campers. Since we live in our trailer for months at a time, we like to get to most bluegrass festivals the Monday before they start to settle in, get the lay of the land, and prepare for the festival. Sometimes we even get some jamming in. Here's some pics from a walk we took on Tuesday morning, before there were many people who had arrived.

An Early Jam

Rest Room and Shower Building

Our Campsite in Front of the Shed

Ernie and Debi have developed a huge crew of volunteers who work from Tuesday through Sunday to get each site into condition for a festival, keep it running, and clean up after its over. It's a complex undertaking, and each volunteer earns his or her keep. Oh, they try to find time to enjoy the music, too!

John Jaeger

Greg Bird

Ron Stewart

Ron Stewart, Dave Massey, Dave O'Brien & Ernie Evans

Dave Massey & John Brutcher
Laying/Labeling Tape for Reserved Seats

Here They All Are...


Waiting for the Covered Dish

A Bluegrass Tradition - Eating!

Open Mic
Dave O'Brien

Sound Guy - Larry Payton

The Darrell Webb Band

It has been easy to see the talent and versatility of Darrell Webb as a singer and an instrumentalist since he was quite young. Over the years he's performed as a member or a guest in many of the best bands in bluegrass music. His music has expanded far beyond the traditional music he excelled in. Since forming his own band, his breadth has become increasingly apparent. With the addition of Carl White on bass and Carl's wife Rachel Maye on fiddle, Darrell has created an ensemble with the versatility to present a range of bluegrass formats from traditional to progressive in an exciting and entertaining show that the Sertoma audience responded to with enthusiasm. White is one of the most creative and active electric bass players on the bluegrass stage. Darrell's long-time guitarist Jarrod Hensley and banjo player Collins Miller, he has a complete package. Their regular gig at the Ole Smoky Distillery has given the band a chance to become even tighter as Rachel and Carl work their way into the mix. 

Darrell Webb

Jarrod Hensley

Collins Miller

Carl White

Rachel Maye

Collins Miller & Darrell Webb

Mark "Brink" Brinkman - Song Writing Workshop

Blue Cypress Bluegrass

Blue Cypress Bluegrass is a local Florida band coming from Vero Beach where they play a regular gig at Marsh Landing. They also host regular jams at festivals around Florida. 

Tim Lynch

Bill Hare

Allan Rudd

Bo Frazier

Emcee Jo Odum

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy can always be counted on for a lively, good-natured performance highlighted by a thoughtful combination of covers, with special attention to The Country Gentlemen, and songs written within the band. Mike Andes' mixture of serious and novelty songs has now been complemented by Caleb Cox's songwriting abilities. Another Cox, James, played bass with the band this weekend, capably filling the musical role, if not yet ready to chime in on the comedy. It's always a treat to see the big yellow bus in the parking lot when you wake up.

Mike Andes

Chris Sexton

Mitchell Davis

Caleb Cox

James Cox

Frank Shaw Firing Up the Grill for 
Red, White, and Blue Pancakes

Deeper Shade of Blue

Deeper Shade of Blue comes from Monroe, NC, also the home of many other bluegrass performers. The band is noted for its high quality and desire to remain close to home, family, and jobs. Unfortunately, they cannot escape getting recognized for the high quality of their music and professionalism of their stage presence. They sing traditional music from a range of sources, much of it not so familiar that bluegrass fans have grown tired of it. Almost all members of the band have spent at least some time on the road. The band is polished and high quality. The group has been relatively stable throughout its history, leading towards a sound and vibe that can be counted on. Always enjoyable!

Troy Pope

Jim Fraley

Jason Fraley

Frank Poindexter

Scott Barnett


Blue Highway

Blue Highway has been a major band for more than twenty years. They've only had two personnel changes since their founding, the first when banjoist Jason Burleson left the band for a brief period before returning, and the second when ace Dobro player Rob Ickes found himself going in other directions, leaving the band for good, after a run which included fifteen years as IBMA Dobro player of the year. Beyond that, however, they have consistently been nominated for IBMA awards throughout their long history, and are widely accepted as one of the most important bands in bluegrass, both for their consistent performance and ground breaking music. They are always musically challenging and usually very interesting to hear. Their performance at Sertoma featured lots of songs from their new CD Original Traditional as well as a reworked and refreshed presentation which was the strongest I've seen in several years.

Jason Burleson

Wayne Taylor

Shawn Lane

Tim Stafford

Gaven Largent

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley is a relatively young and inexperienced band from around Hollywood, FL. In addition to this performance, they served as an anchor band for jamming during the festival. 

Justin Mason & Shawn Mason


Charles Mason

Joseph Choina

Paul Bryan & Kentucky Border

Paul Bryant, from Kentucky, is an engaging man who has put together a promising band for his first appearance in Florida. There's still plenty of work to do in promotion and development, but I was glad that Paul, after working on this project for some time had pulled it off. Wishing him well, as he seeks to progress in this often difficult to crack genre. 

Paul Bryant

Richard Robertson

Curtis Oyler

Josh Griffin

Ernie's Workshop on Any Instrument You Want

Who's Leading Dave Adkins In?

The Dave Adkins Band

Dave Adkins, from eastern Kentucky, has been searching for just the right outlet for his country inflected, lively version of bluegrass music. The band he brought with him fully filled the bill. Arriving exhausted after an all-night bus drive from Bristol, TN, Dave put on the kind of energetic, enthusiastic show he is known for. People asked me, "Is he always moving and grinning like that? Is that the real Dave Adkins?" Of course, the only answer is, "That's who he is, and it's delightful." Dave writes interesting songs, chooses good bluegrass classics, and covers other interesting songs. His band includes Nashville stalwarts and Kentucky friends, giving him the sort of solid support he deserves. He's one of the hardest working performers around, leaving it all on the stage.

Dave Adkins

Barry Crabtree

Carl Caldwell

Mitchell Brown

Kyle Leopard

Mom at Work

Balsam Range

Balsam Range, Haywood County NC's gift to the world, has not been widely heard in Florida. On Saturday, they closed the Sertoma Bluegrass Festivals with two high powered sets, each of which brought the sellout crowd to its feet demanding multiple encores. This band generates musical excitement as well as stimulating, demanding songs wherever they go. It's rare to find a band that so tickles the ear and stimulates the imagination. Several of the band's members come primarily out of the world of gospel music, and, though their content reflects spiritual values, it does not proselytize the way some much better known bands do. Their schedule for the Spring and Summer takes them across the country and to Europe. Make sure you take the opportunity to see and hear them when they're in our neighborhood. 

Buddy Melton

Marc Pruett

Darren Nicholson

Caleb Smith

Tim Surrett

When a festival ends, it ends fast. Chairs are folded and carried away, the crowd dissipates, returning to their rigs, or ready to find a jam that lasts late into the night. This year's Sertoma broke records for attendance, largely by presenting the most ambitious and forward looking lineup of any recent festival Ernie Evans has presented since the Great Recession. Welcome Back! Meanwhile, the Evans Media Source brand has become a leading light in the presentation of music, whether it controls the entire festival, produces for another entity, or provides sound and light. Ernie and Debi Evans have worked relentlessly for the past ten years to recoup and build. Florida music, traditional and not-so-much is the benficiary.