Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Podunk Bluegrass Festival 2017 - Saturday & Sunday

The success of a bluegrass festival often rises or falls on Saturday. All the planets have to line up to produce the sort of day that will turn most events into a success: weather and lineup draw day crowds whose attendance can make or break a festival. With school openings moving further and further back into the summer, the traditional Labor Day grand finale seems almost anti-climatic. For this year's Podunk, the air was filled with change as festival executive director Roger Moss, having moved to a new job in Morgantown, WV will no longer be running the festival from a distance of over 500 miles. Furthermore, Jim Beaver, former board member and long-time stage manager and emcee has retired and moved to his dream  home in Mount Airy, NC near the center of the traditional music he loves, collects, studies, and exposes others to. Saturday's lineup contained a pretty typical Moss lineup of new and more traditional music combined with surefire headliners calculated to bring a strong audience. 

Mile Twelve

As the winner of last year's band competition, Mile Twelve earned its opening position in the Saturday show. Without the win, they might well have been higher in the lineup, since they have become a hot band. In the coming months, they will be playing at a number of venues in the mid-South, where emerging bluegrass bands must seek and find an audience, will be an official showcase band at IBMA's World of Bluegrass at the end of September, and then will embark on a tour of New Zealand, home of banjo player Catherine (BB) Bowness, who came to Boston to sharpen her already outstanding picking. Furthermore, in the past year, the band has filled an important hole in its sound by adding mandolin player David Benedict. This is a band with the training, chops and ambition to go a long way. Take a look at their group and individual credentials on the bio page of their web site.

Evan Murphy

Nate Sabat

BB Bowness

Bronwyn Keith-Hynes

David Benedict

Emcee Kim Ford Introduces
the Next Band

The Barefoot Movement

The Barefoot Movement has made significant moves beyond doffing their shoes. Recognized by IBMA for a Momentum Award, they have been an official showcase band at World of Bluegrass and in the Americana world, too. They bring the sensibility of an old-time string band to contemporary music and subject matter with warmth, humor, and musicality. Their homespun look belies both their training and their professionalism as they've found a look and sound that fits them well.

Noah Wall

Tommy Norris

Alex Connerly

Katie Bomerz with Norris

The Becky Buller Band

Becky Buller seems to have become increasingly comfortable inside her skin as she leads her band through a variety of songs, most written by her over career from the time she left her home in Minnesotta to attend ETSU, spent significant time with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike honing her delivery, and, after assuring herself of her own readiness sojourned out on her own. The result, after one major personnel change this year, is a polished, professional, yet down home show that gives each member of the band plenty of opportunity to show his chops while the focus remains on Buller, a versatile and engaging performer. Nate Lee, doubling on mandolin and fiddle along with Dan Boner on guitar and fiddle add to an extremely versatile band lineup. Banjo guru Ned Luberecki, at least at Podunk, wasn't sufficiently showcased.

Dan Boner

Nate Lee & Becky Buller

Daniel Hardin & Becky Buller

Boner, Hardin & Buller Trio

Ned Luberecki

Daniel Hardin

The Gospel Quartet
Hardin, Buller, Luberecki & Boner

At the Americana Stage

Siblings Amy and Dave (Tex) Orlomoski

Famed Guest Sound Engineer 

Real Sound Engieers
Todd Hutchinson & Mark Fitzgerald

David Parmley & the Cardinal Tradition

David Parmley & the Cardinal tradition has come together into a delightfully entertaining and musically strong band that those who remember Parmley's earlier sojourn with the legendary Bluegrass Cardinals have hoped for. They simply put together a terrific show including lots of singing of familiar songs as well as plenty of humor thrown in by bassist/ventriloquist/singer Ron Spears. The use of the traditional single microphone choreography and ensemble singing add to the visual interest of a band's work, yielding subtle, but important entertainment value as well as a connection to earlier days. It does, however, make individuals harder to photograph. The strength, resonance, and warmth of David Parmley's voice and personality have become firmly imprinted on this latest band. 

David Parmley

Steve Daniels, Steve Day, Ron Spears & David Parmley

Steve Thomas

Steve Day & Dale Perry

Ron Spears

Recogniton and Farewell
 Stage Manager & Emcee Jim Beave
with Podunk President Pat Coffey

Roger Moss & Pat Coffey

Roger Moss Bids Podunk Good-Bye

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have joined the relatively small group of bands that can ask for, receive, and become entirely satisfying through a ninety minute closing or next to closing Saturday night headline show. The long form show gives the brother duo and their band the opportunity to build a concert quality presentation of unitary power and complex design. Even working, as they do, without a set list, their shows build towards a rousing finale that usually proves to finish the evening with the kind of well-earned bang only fully substantial bands can develop. Mandolinist Jesse Brock is nominated for again for an IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year award. If he should win his third trophy, it will surely signal the end of the Steffey/McCoury domination of so very many well-deserved years. 

 Leigh Gibson

 Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Jesse Brock

Die-Hard Fans Stage-Side


Sunday at most four day festivals is, primarily, a get-away day. Some people, in a hurry, had packed and left on Saturday afternoon, but the Gibson Brothers, with their one set closing act served to keep many for Sunday. The main entertainment for the morning was a performance by the Kids Academy, which had worked on Friday and Saturday to prepare their performance. The Barefoot Movement closed the show on Sunday afternoon with a third set. Then, pretty suddenly, people were packing their rigs, closing down the site. Volunteers were scouring the grounds dragging large plastic bags and picking up any trash left behind. One reason fairgrounds love bluegrass festivals is that bluegrass people leave the site relatively spotless, as campers have always been taught to leave their sites in better shape than they found it. As will pulled out on Sunday around mid-afternoon the signs were being packed for next year, and the grounds were returning to the neat park we had entered on Tuesday afternoon. 

Kim Ford Introduces the Kids Academy

Tom Pritchard - Staff

Sal Sauco - Kids Academy Staff

Parents and Academy Fans

Time to Relax Before Going Home

Next Year's Podunk: August 9 - 12, 2018
See you there!

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