Authentic Unlimited at the 2023 Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival – photo by Dale Cahill
Another Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival in Goshen, CT is in the books, and it may be the best one we have attended. The sun shone for most of the festival. When it rained, it did so in torrential bursts, with thunder and lightning, but the music never stopped. In fact, the rain forced the staff to make some quick changes that resulted in some of the festival’s most memorable moments.
The music started on Thursday, with Full Cord, from Grand Haven, Michigan. The Band Contest followed and included four bands, the Hosmer Mountain Boys, Wood Flower, Mama Corn, and Cole Quest and the City Pickers. It was a difficult decision given all the talent, but in the end the judges gave first place to Cole Quest and the City Pickers out of New York City. Each of the bands returned to the main stage that night to play full sets. Greystone Rail from Center Dale, Rhode Island closed out the night.
Full Cord once again played first on Friday. Serene Green, Podunk’s 2022 Band Contest winners, followed Full Cord and set the stage for two festival favorites, Kristy Cox & Grasstime with special guests Jerry Salley, and Darin & Brooke Aldridge. Just before dinner break, the MCs announced the songwriter’s contest winner, Patrice Webb for her song Idaho. The evening show included all four bands back from the morning plus the headliners, East Nash Grass, who put on a lively show. All six members of the band proved equal in talent and enthusiasm, making for a powerful performance.
The Mike Mitchell Band opened on Saturday, followed by a great line up: Lindley Creek, Danny Paisley & Southern Grass, Henhouse Prowlers, and Authentic Unlimited. This was our first time seeing Authentic Unlimited and their soaring harmonies blew us away.
The evening set began under cloudy skies. Before the second band even ended, sprinkles were falling and the weather radar didn’t look good. The Podunk crew faced a dilemma, to let the show go on, or get prepared for plan B. Just as the skies broke open with torrential rain, lightning, and thunder, their plan B was in motion. Authentic Unlimited’s set was moved undercover to the Housatonic Stage, and the audience set up in their chairs under a roof began drying off.
The audience, now all gathered together rather than spread out on a hillside, clearly did not mind the change in venue. In fact, the compact quarters created a more intimate setting where Authentic Unlimited’s playful show and incredible musicianship was greeted by enthusiastic clapping and hoots of appreciation.
The second part of plan B meant that the headliner, Steep Canyon Rangers, also needed to play undercover. Steep Canyon Rangers and the promoters decided to hold their show inside the Hospitality Barn and to have the band play acoustically. The audience happily moved from the Housatonic Stage to the Hospitality Barn. With limited room for chairs, most of the audience stood in a circle around the band as they played, surprised by the opportunity to hear the band in such a close setting. Steep Canyon Raiders rose to the occasion and put on a rollicking show. The festival goers will not soon forget this unique occasion or the electric storm that sent them all for cover.
While all this music could be heard at the main stage, there were workshops, emerging artists from Connecticut and beyond playing on the Housatonic Stage, late night jams led by main stage bands, vendors to explore, Cajun and contra dances, the Podunk Kid’s Academy, and all day jamming in the campgrounds.