Photos by Jamie Kastriches
Tucked between a Cumberland train track and the flowing rapids of the Potomac river, you will find Del-Fest; a sanatorium, known for bringing in the very best bluegrass musicians in the world.
Del-fest has provided a home for some of the biggest music lovers for the past seven years. Young or old, first timer or veteran, Del-fest is sure to impress in almost every measurable aspect of a music festival. The organization of the 7 –year festival is incomparable. From the speedy flow of the ticket line and helpful staff, to the super convenience distance from the campground to the music stage. You add a week of pitch perfect weather, a backdrop of evergreen mountains and a large foot stomping family and you have yourself a bluegrass paradise.
With an amazing lineup and a never-ending flow of great acts leaving the music stages was a tough task. So if you didn’t feel like going too far, but wanted to escape the sun for a while, you could head on up to the grandstands of the old race track where you could hang your hammock or rest your feet.
The bleachers surrounding the stage made for a relaxing panoramic view of Del-Fest. But if somehow you were able to drag yourself away from the mesmerizing twang of banjo, the fun was sure to keep on rollin’.
The highest quality grass on the baseball fields of the fairgrounds provided a place for Delheads to showcase their recreational skills in a leisurely game of kickball or float a Frisbee or fly kites.
After all the heart racing activities of hoe-downin’ and friend making the Potomac river provided just the place to cool down. If you could bear the body shock of the frigid waters, the time down by the riverside was time very well spent.
The first Day of music was made up of many highly anticipated acts such as The Devil Makes Three and Greensky Bluegrass. Greensky, one of the newer groups to explode on the bluegrass and jam scene provided the first real heavy hitting licks of the weekend along with the first real session with the Birthday Boy, Del Mccoury (aside from the sound check).
Using the old fashion “one mic method” the group, along side Del brought loud cheers and Del-Yeahs!!! to the night sky with “Beauty of my Dreams” and “I’ve endured”.
With out a late night show to take place Thursday night, Greensky gave it all they had in hopes of holding over the crowd until the next morning. Friday featured a plethora of top-notch bands including the Oregon based duo, The beautiful Shook Twins, our very own host Joe Craven and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.
With the loss of mandolin player Jeff Austin, possibly the most anticipated show of the day was Yonder Mountain String Band. With the additions of John Frazier, a multidimensional string musician and Jerry Douglas, the world-famous dobro player playing alongside the likes of Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Phish and Paul Simon, I don’t think anyone doubted that Yonder was going to bring it. With a mix of both traditional jams and Yonder originals they no doubt proved why Yonder is still Yonder with their lightning fast picking and energetic peaks.
Following the very satisfying Yonder Mountain String Band, we got our first real look at the festival highlighted Del Mccoury band. The Father, son tri-fecta combined with world-famous fiddle player, Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram The Del Mccoury band pumped their fast pace, contagious finger pickin’ through every bluegrass fan on the grounds.
The progressive sounds of the fan favorite Railroad Earth followed with a fluidly energetic set, ending the first night of main stage music on a positive note with a “Peace on Earth” encore.
As if the day had not been satisfying enough, another round of Greensky Bluegrass was on tap to kick of the weekends first of three late night shows. Those who were lucky enough to squeeze their way into the sold out show know why you shouldn’t miss a mid-night jam!
Saturday brought upon yet another beautiful day accompanied by another stellar lineup of music.
Saturday featured acts such as Sierra Hull, the talented folk singer/songwriter and the highly regarded multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien. With the loss of musician Dom Flemons, the new look Carolina Chocolate drops provided us with a little old-time jig. The informative and cultivating set full of jug blowing and bone clapping was tastefully appetizing and very refreshing.
It was all aboard the bluegrass highway from then on out with yet another lightning quick set from Del and the boys as the sunset slowly started its decent behind the mountains. But what is a little lightning without a little thunder? A little Ricky Scaggs, Bruce Hornsby and Kentucky Thunder!
Providing people with one of the most memorable moments of the fest when they preformed “The way it is.” The Grammy Award wining Mccoury’s took the stage once again, this time accompanied by Billy Nershi, Jeff Austin and Tim Carbone for what was the best sit-in session of the weekend! And boy, did they “make you wanna dance!”
With anticipation that had been building up all weekend long, the wait was finally over. Every fan in attendance packed the main stage as Joe Craven assured us that what we were about to see “ain’t no Velvetta.”
Within minutes the dust clouds filled the air as Nershi’s lightning licks and Mr. Kang’s Bang’s flowed through the souls of Del-Fest.
As we have grown accustom to, The String Cheese Incident mesmerized the crowd hitting on every genre of music from bluegrass with “Sitting on top of the world” featuring Mr. Del Mccoury, to their trancey violin jams with “Bollymunster” and “Bumpin Reel.” The banjo was surely rollin’ as The Mccoury’s joined the stage for the fan favorite “Colorado Blue Bird Sky.” Tim O’brien, Nick Forster and Jeff Austin couldn’t help but get in on the action when they laid down a pulse pumping “I know you rider”.
From the campground to the music stages, the warm sun to the friendly fans, the high-rise mountains to the cool flowing river. Throw in the never-ending lineups of world-class musicians, with the once in a lifetime sit-ins and collaboration jams, Del-Fest provides its fans with some of the best music experience that may never be duplicated. It surly was a heart-warming weekend with the best vibes, the best music, and the best family!