Monday, April 22, 2013

Infamous Stringdusters at National Whitewater Center - Review

We owe our very pleasant day with the Infamous Stringdusters at the U.S. National Whitewater Training Center in suburban Charlotte, NC to Shelley Burleson, who posted a note that she was heading to Ashville to get her a Stringdusters fix. Irene caught it, and we discovered that the Stringdusters would be performing at TuckFest on Sunday afternoon. Our only regret is that we missed the SteelDrivers on Friday and the Carolina Chocolate Drops on Saturday at this free event to celebrate "the outdoor lifestyle through competitions, exhibitions, demos, and live music at the U.S. National Whitewater Center." The only element overshadowing this magnificent and unusual venue for a music festival was the activity and action surrounding it.  Thus, there are twin stars for this blog entry: the venue and The Infamous Stringdusters.

U.S. National Whitewater Training Center

While the training center is devoted to the serious activity of providing a world class training facility for kayakers and canoists to develop and practice their skills, it also serves as an multi-age fun park centered around outdoor activities like kayaking, float trips, a zip line, a mountain bike trail, body surfing, and more. Local people may purchase season passes and seasonal activity passes, while tourists or more occasional visitors can come for a day or two. The course is enclosed, with water being pumped through and constantly cleaned and filtered.

 Climbing Wall


Float Trip

Zip Line

Looking Down the Competition Channel

Floating a Wave

While the whole event was a spring festival celebrating (and publicizing) the resources provided by the Whitewater Training Center, Sunday was focused on fun fund raising for a serious purpose. KinderMourn (founded in 1978) which describes itself as providing  "a program of professionally guided support groups, counseling services and community outreach programs for families experiencing the death of a child and children grieving the death of a family member or friend." The fund raising effort focused on a hilarious rubber ducky race down the competition channel of the course, laid out on a complex and interesting 400 acre site adjoining the Catawba River.

The Infamous Stringdusters
The Infamous Stringdusters came together, as near as I can tell, at the 2006 IBMA in one of casual jams so typical of the annual confab of that organization. We first saw them at Springfest, held each March at the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. In September of that year, they wond IBMA's coveted Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for Chris Jones and Mark Pennell's "Fork in the Road." Their roots are clearly in bluegrass, while there development has been strongly influenced by the progressive bluegrass jam band movement and rock and roll. The results are a raucous, tuneful, musically satisfying melange attracting an audience as eclectic as their musical roots and continued development. As they have sought out this new audience, they have, sadly, forsaken the bluegrass trail, although they can be seen frequently at major mixed music festivals around the country. The band is largely the one we first saw in 2007, with one change (Andy Falco) and one deletion. They've now given up having a mandolin in the band. For the past year or so, they've frequently toured with super jam band Yonder Mountain String Band.

Chris Pandolfi

Andy Falco

Andy Hall

Travis Book

Jeremy Garrett
KinderMourn's Hope Floats Duck Race
Ducks Waiting to Race

Trophis for Sponsor Winners

Sponsor Ducks Ready to Dive In


Racing Down the Channel

 Prize Ducks Race to the Finish

Sometimes the Ducks Need a Little Help

Awarding the Prizes
NBC Charlotte's Larry Sprinkle Called the Race

The Ambience

The TuckFest was truly a mellow, Sunday afternoon, family friendly event. Labeled at the gate as smoke free, it wasn't until the Stringduster's second set we noticed some younger people ignoring the prohibition while they heedlessly stood or danced in front of the stage, blocking the vision of may people sitting or sprawled behind them. I also learned that there's a new kind of flask, made of some kind of foil, that can be sneaked into venues without detection, despite the fact there was plenty of beer for sale within the site. The sound was very good, reaching to all corners of the spread out site. Vendors sold a variety of water gear and a Grill provided food. I think there was also a table waited terrace just in front of the main building.

There were lots of children and dogs at the event. The children were having a good time. Dogs however, particularly those near the front, appeared overwhelmed by the intensity of the sound and the crowd. We saw one small terrier trying desperately to close his ears and pull his owner away from the noise. Other dogs were nervous and uncomfortable as the crown surged around them. Dog tempers were on edge, and some owners were much more concerned with enjoying the music than caring for the welfare of their charges, canine or human. We saw only two children with any kind of ear covers, although we know the damage high decibel levels can cause to people's, particularly young people's, ears.  One infant in front papoose carrier was directly in front of the speakers.  As I stood close to take some photos, the resonance of the bass speakers pulsed through me. I had a choice of whether to be there or not, and I didn't stay long.

Andy Falco & Travis Book

 Andy Hall

Jeremy Garrett

Chris Pandolfi

All-in-all, the Infamous Stringdusters remain a musically exciting and personally engaging group of young men delivering a rock inflected descendent of bluegrass music carrying with it broad appeal to a wide ranging audience. The U.S. Whitewater Training Center is a remarkable venue featuring both training and recreation facilities that deserve to be on the itinerary of any water oriented tourist sojourning in Charlotte, NC. We had fine day and hope someday to return when the weather is sufficiently warm to entice us into the water.

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