In addition to Tara Linhardt crawling the campgrounds at Grey Fox last weekend, David Moultrup was capturing more of the scene from the stage.
Here is his report and a gallery of fine photos.
Grey Fox 2013 showed again why it is one of the crown jewels of the bluegrass community. Hosted by philosopher extraordinaire Ron Thomason and the Dry Branch Fire Squad, the festival has something for everyone. The joint effort of artists, producers, volunteers, merchants, and festival-goers creates a weekend which has inspired and generated so much passion, so many musicians, and even some big name bands. It fosters a love of the music, and a community without walls. It is an event that has headliners, but the headliners, especially, know that the importance of the festival transcends them.
For example, the Infamous Stringdusters rolled into the festival in an impressive bus, bringing their own smoke machine and special effects. They brought the crowd to a frenzy, and took time to look back. Reso master Andy Hall reminisced fondly about meeting guitarist Andy Falco, and possibly banjo player Chris Pandolfi, while jamming on the hill at the festival. Nora Jane Struthers was passionate about growing up going to the festival, and beside herself with joy at the opportunity to contribute to the music from stage. She was ecstatic at the opportunity to have her father join her for her performances. The sharing of the music from one generation to the next saturates the festival experience.
It’s impossible to look across any part of the festival grounds without seeing families with kids in tow. Many of those kids are going to the Bluegrass Academy, which sparkled on the main stage on Sunday. They were joined by the Grammy nominated band Special Consensus for a rousing version of Fox on the Run, so appropriate for Grey Fox. Over the weekend many of the youngsters were busking on the byways of the festival, with the money made going to support the Bluegrass Academy. This year more than $1000 was made for that effort.
The nightly performances on the main stage were graced by a gorgeous moon above and a welcomed cooling. The daytime temperatures leaned into 100 degrees with a blistering sun and humidity that should be illegal outside of saunas.
The Saturday night Supersonic All-Star Jam lived up to it’s billing. In the middle of unique combinations of extraordinarily talented artists producing one of a kind performances, the special thread of community shone through again. This time there was a nod to the other end of the road from the Bluegrass Academy. Bryan Sutton joined Della Mae’s guitarist Courtney Hartman for a duet on I Am A Pilgrim. Bryan dedicated the song to Tony Rice, noting that it was the first song Tony learned to play. Bryan asked everyone to send good thoughts to Reidsville, NC, where Tony wasn’t feeling too well. A stage full of stars, and a hill packed with fans, joined in the moment. Eyes spoke volumes on the stage, and former band mates, friends, and admirers appeared to be following Bryan’s request.
Grey Fox has a second performance stage called Creekside, which provides a more intimate space for performance, and a dance stage named the Catskill Stage, which offers dancing into the wee hours of the morning. The Grass Roots tent, the Slow Jam tent, and the Bluegrass Academy tent round out the formal areas for activities.
Grey Fox is like the city with never ending stories. There’s Rushad Eggleston eating one of the flowers from the stage flower box while playing his cello like a guitar and singing a song. There’s Danny Paisley introducing his son Ryan as the third generation Paisley at Grey Fox. There’s the McCoury’s joined by Keller Williams and merging two worlds of music into one.
Beyond the stories from the stage, the Grey Fox culture has some endearing signposts which have developed. A hot house environment, typical of mid-July in New York, needs ice to keep food safe. The Ice Truck has become a legend at the festival. The Ice Man drives the festival grounds, calling “iiiiiiiice” in a gravelly, elongated voice, over the loudspeaker. The Ice Man has cultivated such a following that he sells his own Ice Man tee shirts. Also, money from Uncle Sam ain’t acceptable at Grey Fox food vendors. In order to buy food, people need to get “Funny Money,” which also has developed it’s own following.
Some of the photos in the slide show deserve particular stories. But no one story can really capture the vastness of Grey Fox. It is a physically demanding site, with much walking and climbing necessary. Two obviously fit young men were overheard Sunday morning expressing total fatigue to each other. The producers make special accommodations for handicapped access, but the site is demanding. Between the site, and the yearly weather challenges, Grey Fox demands a strong commitment. But it gives back in a richness which can touch everyone who makes the trip.