Punch Brothers at the Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots festival (8/20/22) – photo by Dale Cahill
Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots festival which takes place at Hunter Park in Manchester, Vermont, kicked off its third annual festival with a stellar line up, a fantastic site, and almost perfect weather. The program says it best, “With two festivals and a global pandemic under our belts, we could not be more excited.”
Saints and Liars opened the festival on Friday morning, followed by Jeff Black and then Ric Robertson. In the late afternoon Jacob Jolliff’s Band was temporarily delayed by a quick and drenching thunderstorm. When the sun came back, Jake and his band fired things right back up. With a new album just released, Jolliff played a mixture of new tunes and a collection of his own instrumentals and familiar bluegrass covers. Next came Sam Grisman and Friends and the day ended with Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms Country Band.
As if that wasn’t enough, the music continued at the Lamplighter stage. To get there, the audience had to walk on a wide path through the woods where strings of lights lit up the trees, and an eerie mist settled in to accompany the crowd to their destination, a beautiful meadow with a small hand-hewn stage where Dominick Leslie and Ric Robertson followed by Brittany Haas and Friends kept the show going for all who wandered in. After the music wrapped up, jams could be heard throughout the campground.
Saturday morning began with Allison De Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves. They were followed by Twisted Pine, a band that is fast becoming a favorite here on the East Coast and beyond. Never have we heard a pizzicato fiddle break, but we did during the Twisted Pine set when lead singer Kathleen Parks picked up her fiddle and plucked out a break that surprised and delighted the crowd. Caitlin Canty played next and was followed by Anger, Walsh, Harman, Pool, and Gilchrist who played tunes in E and A.
After the dinner break, the audience was treated to a group of touring artists whose gig marked the end of their American Acoustic tour. The set included Christ Thile and the Punch Brothers, Watchhouse, and the powerful voice of Sarah Jarosz. This group of mega talented musicians played for almost four hours straight with no interruptions by stage changes and set up delays. Instead, they wove on and off the stage beginning with Watchhouse who were joined by Sarah Jarosz. When Watchhouse smoothly exited the stage, Jarosz and Chris Thile took over. At that point, Watchhouse returned to the stage and all the musicians played together. The set was incomparable to anything we have seen at a bluegrass roots festival. Leftover Salmon finished the night and sent the audience off to the Lamplighter stage to hear Jordan Tice, composer and guitar player, Christian Sedelmyer on fiddle, and Watchhouse’s Andrew Marlin on mandolin.
The music continued Sunday with another great line up, starting with local favorites Carling and Will followed by Bella White, and then am extraordinary set by Michael Daves and a group of his talented friends including Jacob Jolliff, Brittany Haas, and The Hargreaves brother and sister team, Tatiana and Alex. Daves is known as “the leading light of the New York bluegrass scene.” Over the past decade Michael has sparked a generation of musicians in and around New York City, and continues to draw other musicians to join him on stage, like Chris Thile, Sarah Jarosz, and Jacob Jollif. This was a tough act to follow by Hawktail at 2:30, and a set of acoustic Leftover Salmon. The finale was a group of GMBR all stars who played and sang Skaggs and Rice.
Just in its third year, we have no doubt that Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival will draw larger and larger crowds. In fact, we don’t want to sing it’s praises too much in fear that this hidden gem will grow in leaps and bounds. Promoters and curators Jill Turpin and her husband John say that that won’t happen. They want to remain a family friendly festival with a combination of bluegrass standards and an exploration of roots music that includes a wide range of music styles.
Clearly the Turpins have created and implemented a festival formula that attracts both a large crowd of music lovers as well as high caliber artists. They do this on a lovely Vermont site surrounded by the Green Mountains, and in the shadow of Mount Equinox. They offered a full range of camp sites, riverside, tree line, woodland, glamping, and open field. Most impressive though was the hospitality that Jill and John extended to attendees and their musicians. Signs of this hospitality included clean porta lets, encouragement to treat others with respect, an easy to access stage area, welcoming and well-organized volunteers, a Kids Corner lead by the local Red Fox Community School, and of course a commitment to sustainability with easy to find recycling, trash, and compost bins.
Everyone was welcoming, and Jill and John modeled a kindness and calm that set the stage for a mindful, peaceful, and joyous music festival in the Green Mountains.