The roads were treacherous, the mud was deep, the sun was out and the sounds of bluegrass filled the warm summer air. The 2nd annual Fiddlers Picnic in Marion, NY brought us securely into full blown festy season. With a lineup that impressed bluegrass lovers young and old, this intimate festival nestled in the woods was of all things one hell of a family ho’down!
Friday: Ahhh, the first day of the fest; always a wild card in my book. It can go two ways really, calm and chill and hanging with friends – gearing up for a late Saturday … OR it’s the night that we all get crazy and dance barefoot in the mud with a jar of pineapple moonshine in our hands till the sun comes up.
Highlights from Friday included Eastbound Jesus with the sounds to bring people from setting up their camp to dancing in the hay covered mud. The Blind Owl Band who set the bar high for the two remaining bands that night, played their hearts out while a barrage of friends graced the stage.
The night got better as it progressed with South Carolina’s Dangermuffin keeping the energy high! The straw dance floor atop the mud only added an old-timey feel to the family ho’down this festival had become. It was clear that this weekend was going to be filled with sit-ins and campfires, despite the weather just a few short days before. Late-night Friday belonged to Hogmaw from Pennsylvania who rightfully refer to themselves as ‘bringing a distinct abstract sound to string band music that can only be best described as THUNDERGRASS!’
Saturday: The day began with The North and South Dakotas, a great sting band with a drummer and amplified instruments. It was quite relaxing and a beautiful way to start the day – sunshine in your face sitting on the grassy hill, enjoying the people watching , and girls with hula-hoops and a jug o’ shine to set their dancing mood.
Saturday Afternoon brought us to the 3rd stage for the Aaron Austin Band which slowed things down a bit more than the previous act. For a lovely cover of “Tangled Up In Blue” we sat in the hammock and enjoyed the coolness of the shade. Late afternoon developed into a gathering of close friends and families; children in rain boots and hay strewn across the ground to make a dance floor above the muddy earth. Festival goers were also treated to sets by Still Hand String Band, Boots n’ Shorts and Rochester natives, Clinton’s Ditch.
The real treat Saturday was the surprise first time live performance of Ms. Haley Rose (age 12) with her breathtaking rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and a captivating “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, which brought festival goers to a stand still on the hill as she sang her heart out to the ears of fans and family alike. Natural talent runs in her family and it’s worth noting that Haley’s singing talents were equally impressive to that of her younger brother, Brayden Vaughn, whom MC’d the entire festival with the experience of a seasoned announcer.
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Also on the bill for Saturday was Boots n’ Shorts, Jatoba, Floodwood, the Rumpke Mountain Boys and a late-night jam with Free Grass Union. Saturday night’s Jatoba set gave us a fast-ass-jam-grass version of Phish’s “Rift” that had phans hootin and a’ hollerin for this Vermont-based festival favorite.
Bands these days are creating side projects for themselves that seem to be crossing the genres in which they have been known in – Floodwood is no exception to this trending concept in music. moe. band members Vinny Amico and Al Schnier are credited for face melting jam-rock while also belonging to a down right kick ass bluegrass ensemble. Floodwood followed suit with the rest of the weekend and brought the roof down with their original brand of newgrass.
After a set with Floodwood, the energy was high and the mud was deep – the Rumpke Mountain Boys, from Ohio, brought the music hungry crowd to the second stage for what turned out to be one of my favorite jams from the weekend. The band has molded their own style of bluegrass/jamgrass into what they call ‘trashgrass.’
Unfortunately because of the severe weather warnings for Sunday, Fiddlers Picnic had to cancel the music for Sunday – when campers woke to down pouring rain early Sunday morning, we were sad about missing the music for that day but relieved that we got the warning early enough to pack-up. Gear loaded onto the back of a sleeping-bag, we embraced the mudslide down the side of the hill we were perched upon so happily the two previous days of the festival.
This festival had a stellar line-up from morning till late-nights, the family-friendly vibe, and beautiful camping spots. Fiddlers Picnic should be on the radar of any bluegrass lover. Cheers!