Friday, March 30, 2012

Suwannee SpringFest 2012 Report


Suwannee SpringFest 2012 was highly anticipated around the Hometown Homestead. The lineup was spectacular, maybe the best in years. We had our tickets purchased before Christmas and kept the fires burning all winter. Finally on Thursday morning, we packed up Gnometown and headed south from western North Carolina to arrive on the banks of the Suwannee Thursday afternoon.


I was particularly excited to see Hot Buttered Rum. It had been perhaps five years since I was last able to catch them in Asheville. This San Francisco area band just hadn't made it out to the East Coast for a while, and Black Betty and I really missed their high energy, positive vibes, jammy, grass groove. We weren't to be disappointed since they played the little Porch Stage on Thursday night and fired us up with their infectious enthusiasm and great songs.


Next, we caught Great American Taxi driven by Vince Herman. It seems that every time I see them they get better and better. They are certainly hard rocking and soulful, everything you want in a live band. They were joined on stage by Drew Emmitt, Sean Foley, and Zebulon Bowles.


Friday morning we slept in as long as possible before riding our bicycles to the crowded beach on the Suwannee for some cool and refreshing bathing and swimming. It was a good time spent relaxing with family and friends before committing to the many hours of music that we had ahead of us in the Friday lineup.

Black Betty, Michael, and Sam



Suwannee kiss from Melanie
Our big Friday shows were: Hot Buttered Rum, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, The Emmitt Nershi Band, Elephant Revival (1st time for me) Great American Taxi, Jim Lauderdale, and Greensky Bluegrass. We were especially pleased that Greensky Bluegrass had the big Friday night Amphitheater show; they have worked hard, toured hard, and are finally getting the recognition that they deserve. They produced an inspired and ass kicking performance at the crowded midnight amphitheater. I swear I even spotted Billy Nershi dancing in the wings!


 
Saturday Morning started out with rain and a visit from my sister, niece, and  two great nephews, Dutch and Raleigh. Not only was it Dutch and Raleigh's 1st music Festival, it was the first time that Black Betty, Becky, and I got to meet the little fellows, so it was doubly sweet that this all took place at Springfest. The weather soon cleared and we were off to show the boys how to Festival!

Gnometown Gang

Dutch checking out Greensky Bluegrass

Raleigh diggin' the groove

Meadow stage





Our Saturday shows were Darol Anger and Republic of Strings, Bobby Miller and the Virginia Dare Devils, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Randall Bramblett and Geoff Achison, The Joe Craven Trio, Donna The Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and Yonder Mountain String Band. As always, it was give and take, it was hard to miss other groups that we would have like to see but choices had to be made.

Paul Hoffman and Mike Devol, Greensky Bluegrass.

Mike Bont, Greensky Bluegrass.
Yonder Mountain String Band closed it down on Saturday night with a kick ass jam with a virtual Who's Who of Springfest musicians. I know I'll skip a bunch but I remember seeing Larry Keel, Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Anders Beck, Paul Hoffman, Zebulon Bowles, Sean Foley, Josh Pinkham, Andy Thorn and Wildman Steve on stage. What can I say? It was a great show, great jam, great Suwannee Springfest Saturday night! We joined the huge Amphitheater crowd in dancing, twirling, stomping, and singing along with Vince Herman to the Leftover Salmon anthem, "we gonna rise up...we gonna wake and bake"!

The Yonder Spring Jam

Sunday was cool and breezy in the morning. We were looking for a relaxing day, because we didn't have to pack up and leave like we have at times in the past. We wandered up to see Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson playing the Amphitheater stage. I still have memories of happy times and happy tunes from Guy back in the 1970's. It's all pretty dark these days and Guy has been battling poor health for a few years now.  If you've seen him in the last few years, you know what I am saying. Many tears were shed during the show.

Verlon Thompson and Guy Clark.
Dread Clampitt rocked the Porch Stage, and then we hit the Meadow for the fabulous Ralph Roddenbery Band. The Infamous Stringdusters were up next with plenty of hot licks and great tunes, followed by The Mosier Brothers. The Mosiers were joined onstage by the insanely talented cello mad-man Rushad Eggleston and young newcomer, Emily Morris.


Ralph Roddenbery.

Jeff Mosier.
Donna the Buffalo closed the show down on Sunday, as is the tradition. They played several of their hits and crowd favorites and then started being joined by friends on stage. Randy Judy, Verlon Thompson, Sean Foley, Rushad Eggleston, Donna Hopkins, Taylor Martin, Bobby Miller, Ralph Roddenbery and Samantha Jones, and then again with Randy Judy for Seminole Wind. Verlon's rocking cover of a Dylan tune with improvised lyrics and Ralph's wonderful sing-a-long of  That's Gonna Leave A Mark were the highlights of the jam. Donna finished it out with one of my favorites, Mystic Waters.



Nephews

Suwannee Chicks




Gnometown Gang, Phil, MDiddy, BB, Becky, Nate

 
Lilly, Chris, Black Betty, and M Diddy enjoying the Yonder show

Festivarians, Becky, Rex Thompson, Black Betty, Marie

       Final Thoughts:
  • Once again this festival was a wonderful way to start off the season for our family and friends.
  • I hate that we had friends who couldn't be there. We missed you!
  • These musicians are among the best in the business. I'm sorry that I didn't get to catch many of the wonderful bands that played. You just can never see them all. Maybe next year.
  • The crowd is always friendly, accepting, and appreciative. Anyone would have a difficult time not fitting in.
  • The organization of the festival was as smooth as ever, no surprises, no hassles.
  • The grounds are always a great place to camp, the river a sweet place to swim. The weather, perfect.
  • Did I mention Sweet Revenge's apple crisp and ice cream?
  • Boogie Cat was in attendance, but seemed pretty mellow. It looked like there were several lone dance-masters ready to step in and take his place if he's lost his boogie.

Happy Festival!