Another sun sets for the annual Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, which spanned July 14 through 17 in Oak Hill, N.Y. With a stellar lineup and not-too-ridiculous weather, there was music playing all day, everyday, all weekend. Ringing through the distance from the Main Stage, to small gatherings under pop-ups and RVs, there was music, and you were never quite sure if it was played from a record, the radio, or between musician attendees.
Hovering for camp site real estate, Grey Fox attendees loaded in as early as Tuesday to Walsh Farm. Even on Thursday, the first official day of live music, there was no space left in all the camping areas, and people already commenced their festivities and jamming. Since most notable Grey Fox artists didn’t play until the late afternoon, and played two sets at that, most attendees set up sites, got their bearings, and settled into the weekend. Guests ranged from large packs of young adults to groups of families to solo travelers, and everyone made an effort to make their campsites waterproof and visually appealing. There were stations on the walk to and from camp, featuring board games, a jam tent, and even a pop-up tent bar. Before long, the area was a small city of people, all welcoming and eager to hear some fine bluegrass.
After making several laps around the area, with food and drinks in hand, the music kicked off at Main Stage with Compton & Newberry, Band of Ruhks, and Ithaca-based group The Horse Flies. As the sun made its descent for the first festival day, The Horse Flies kept the rhythm moving for festival dancers, which made a nice transition into Steep Canyon Rangers shortly after, with blood-curdling fiddle playing by Ranger Nikki Sanders. This set was particularly percussive as well, which polyrhythmic syncopation on the mandolin, and every member joining in on the drum kit at one point in their set. Their set list included songs spanning the early 2000’s to today, featuring “Stand and Deliver”, “Whiskey in the Afternoon”, and “Radio.” It was the Wood Brothers who closed out the Main Stage Thursday night, featuring three powerhouse musicians, Jano Rix and brothers Chris and Oliver Wood. Some of their songs included “What the Devil” and “I Got Loaded” from arguably their best record to date, entitled The Muse. The crowd was lively and relatively tame for a music festival crowd, but people were certainly conserving energy to enjoy the great music that was still to come.
For most campers that inhabited ares with families, the start of each day was about 8 a.m., when some of Grey Fox’s younger fans woke everybody up for breakfast. Despite ongoing fear of thunder, the weather was relatively smooth Thursday night into Friday, and the sun was harshly shining by the time the music kicked off for the day. First off was Charm City Junction, despite it being the time slot for the Lonely Heartstring Band on the schedule. Never the less, they brought an Irish flavor to Grey Fox with songs like “Train on the Island” and “I’ve Got a Woman,” with some additional jazz improvisation in the tune “Greasy Coat.” As part of their set, they dove off into a brief history lesson, relating traditional Irish music to the creation of old time music, eventually forming its way into bluegrass.
Just as Irish traditional music evolved to bluegrass, Charm City Junction evolved the stage for Pennsylvania-born trio The Stray Birds shortly after. Bringing an element of twang and hollering to the Grey Fox crowd, their music featured tight vocal harmonies, a switch-off of instruments, and an energy that won over the crowd. Along with their latest single release “Sabrina,” the band played the title track from their 2014 album Best Medicine, which features the lyrics music is the best medicine I sell.