Daniel Mullins will be reporting from the 2015 Bean Blossom Festival all week, as Internet service in the campground allows. Check back each day for his reports and photos.
Day 1 of the 49th Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Festival in Bean Blossom, IN was definitely a success. The world’s longest running bluegrass festival, is held at Bill Monroe Bluegrass Park, a campground and music venue created by the Father of Bluegrass himself. Monroe began holding a bluegrass festival in Bean Blossom in 1966, and that same festival is still held annually, now in its forty-ninth year.
The festival was kickstarted this year by Nightflyer, a rising band from southern Ohio. Bluegrass veteran, Bull Harman & Bulls Eye kept the day rolling, as did The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band, who was one of my favorite groups of the day. You know a band is a real traditional bluegrass band, when the bandleader asks “Do we have any coonhunters in the crowd today?”; that’s exactly what Tommy Sells did as Big Country Bluegrass brought their staunch traditional sound to the Bean Blossom stage. The Darrell Webb Band brought the energy, as Darrell Webb proved to everyone that he is one of the most talented men in bluegrass today. Future hall of famer, Ronnie Reno and his ace band, The Reno Tradition, played many of the smooth sounds from Ronnie’s latest album, Lessons Learned, to the crowd’s delight. The Boxcars and their hard-driving instrumental prowess was on full display on Saturday, with a set highlighted by a mando/fiddle duet of Cluck Old Hen.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the day (and possibly of the week) was the “Old Friends” show from Crowe, Lawson, and Williams. To see three members of the hall of fame (J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, and Paul Williams) play together is one thing, but to see them do so at a level which all bands strive to reach, is incredible. Hearing old favorites (Hold Whatcha Got, Hit Parade of Love) mixed with new hits from their latest collaborative album (Blue Memories, Once A Day) made this set one to remember! Once the Old Friends finished, Doyle Lawson remained on stage with his band Quicksilver. If you haven’t seen DLQ recently, make a point to do so. Doyle has one his best bands in years (which is really saying something), and his current trio of Doyle, Dustin Pyrtle, and Eli Johnston can literally sing any song from the Quicksilver catalog and nail it, no easy feat.
The evening was wrapped up with Ralph Stanley II, joined by Dr. Ralph Stanley. Ralph II has really grown into his own as performer, and his band delivered the classic Stanley sound to the crowd at Bean Blossom. However, all eyes were on Dr. Ralph as he managed to make an appearance and deliver a handful of his signature songs, following an arduous cross country trip from California to make the show. The crowd at Bean Blossom nearly swarmed the stage to get a glimpse of the Mountain Doctor, and they very appreciative to be able to see the American legend as he nears the end of a mammoth musical career.