2023 EMS Springfest weekend report

Ralph Stanley II & The Clinch Mountain Boys at the 2023 EMS Springfest – photo © Bill Warren

Evans Media Source had a successful EMS Springfest this past weekend at the Florida Sands Music Ranch (formerly Sertoma Youth Ranch). The weather was ideal, the bands were hot, and the audience was happy.

Sherry Boyd was in charge of the stage, as she is at all EMS festivals. She keeps the bands in line and the audience informed.

The EMS sound crew drew kudos from the bands.

Young Floridian Morgan Brake opened Friday’s stage show with a number of her friends. They included Ian Lane, Mark Schimick, Cory Walker, Nathan Beaumont, and James Schlender. Morgan presented a mix of classic country and bluegrass music. We will hear a lot more from her!

Remedy Tree is a Florida band that does bluegrass and old time music. Band leader Gabriel Acevedo doubles as EMS videographer.

A special event was presented Friday, the “EMS All-Star Guitar Pull.” It featured thumb picker Richard Smith along with flat pickers David Grier, Skip Cherryholmes, and Mark Schimick. David said his favorite part of an event like this is to hear the different interpretations each player has on a tune.

Sideline gave their final Florida performance, and banjo player Steve Dilling was presented with a cake. There is also attribute to Steve’s retirement on YouTube. Sideline will make its final road appearance in late April.

Songs from the Road spent the entire festival playing and presenting workshops. They are a high energy group that keeps an audience on the edge of their seats. They present everything from hard core bluegrass to some of the most contemporary grass. It is a treat to see them, and they presented a set of music each day of the festival.

Florida solo artist Sam Pacetti played bluegrass and folk music. He is a regional favorite.

David Grier and Cory Walker played a wide ranging set from David’s catalog of music. He gave praise to Nathan Beaumont for picking up the nuances of his music.

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen closed out the Friday show. He tends to the contemporary side of the genre. The Springfest crowd was super enthusiastic. He announced that Chris Luquette was playing his final show with the band after an eleven year run on guitar.

Saturday opened with a songwriting workshop hosted by Charles Humphrey, Mark Schimick, and Chad Spikes. Each showed ways that they approach songwriting, along with some of their songs.

Justin Mason and Blue Night opened the main stage show. They are billed as a Florida band, but now have three members from Georgia. The Georgia contingent is dad, Josh Griffin, on banjo and twin sons, Bryce and Brett, on mandolin and bass. Justin and fiddle player Lester Canada are native Floridians. Lead singer Mary Kate Brennan is originally from Vermont, but now makes her home in Florida. Justin has become the face and voice of Florida bluegrass. He keeps all of us informed of all of the bluegrass happenings across the state.

Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys keep the old time mountain bluegrass alive and well. I know that because I saw Mark Schimick dancing in the wings! When you next run into Landon Fitzpatrick and Caleb Shiflett ask them about the “alligator.”

Tony Trischka presented a tribute to the banjo stylings of Earl Scruggs. A lot of what he played was from jam tapes of music that was never recorded for public consumption. It was a fascinating look into Earl’s music. Tony was joined by Michael Daves, Luke Bulla, and Mike Bub.

The Tim O’Brien Band closed out the festival. The band worked their sound setup during the supper break. It was interesting to see them interact with EMS sound tech Larry Payton. Tim was joined by his wife Jan, Cory Walker, Mike Bub, and Shad Cobb.

He gave us some of his new music along with some old favorites. Tim’s new project will be out this summer. The band and audience sang Happy Birthday to Shad who was celebrating his 50th as Morgan Brake presented him with a cake.

Springfest marks the end of our Florida winter, We will be headed to Michigan in the next few days. We are looking forward to seeing our Michigan bluegrass family.

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