While I often attend bluegrass festivals, it’s not often that I’m treated the way I have been this weekend at Chantilly Farm in Floyd, VA. Currently in its 5th year, the Chantilly Bluegrass and BBQ festival is quickly becoming a must-attend for many bluegrass fans in and around southwest Virginia. Their 2015 lineup featuring Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, and the Lonesome River Band among others is as strong as most any festival in the nation.
It’s not every festival promoter that would hunt down and bring a rake to your camping spot, but Jason Gallimore sure will. When I arrived on Thursday to set up camp I was a little discouraged that the tent camping area was covered in tracts of fresh cut grass that had been matted down and clumped up because of a recent rain shower. While setting up the tent, ez-ups and all I was a little perturbed by the situation. Then, we had some unexpected guests – the festival staff were going around to campsites to help campers both get checked in and settled. When I asked about getting a rake to help sweep the grass out of the way (nobody likes to track grass in their tent) the problem was quickly resolved. In a matter of a very few minutes one was brought to my campsite by the festival promoter himself!
The 200 acre farm is absolutely beautiful, and the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge mountains provide a perfect backdrop for the mountain sounds coming from the stage and camping areas. I even had the chance to meet the owners of the venue, the Larsons, when they visited out campsites throughout the day. Nice folks!
Yesterday, I had the chance to catch sets by Junior Sisk, Joe Mullins, and Adkins and Loudermilk. Sisk and his band seemed right at home at the festival (which is no surprise as it is their official “home” festival), playing two solid sets full of hits old and new. Banjo man Jason Davis and fiddler Jamie Harper showcased a couple of tunes off their respective solo projects, and the crowd especially seemed to enjoy several numbers from the band’s latest album. Sisk finished off his second set with fan favorite The Wolf is at the Door, prompting much of the crowd to start dancing. Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, who were set to follow Sisk, joined the fun by grabbing their instruments and doing a hoedown as they passed in front of the stage. Emcee Les Sears commented that he hadn’t seen dancing that good since Hee Haw was on television!
Mullins and the Radio Ramblers provided an equally good show, showcasing another side of traditional bluegrass. Several Osborne Brothers numbers were included, reflecting both bands’ Ohio roots. The highlight of the set was the excellent train song medley, ending with a fine Orange Blossom Special including lyrics. Adkins and Loudermilk closed out the evening, providing a more modern, country influenced sound as they sang several numbers from their new record.
The festival continues today, with another great lineup including Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the Lost and Found, Lonesome River Band, and Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice. Hope to see you there!