Day 1 of the 40th Annual RockyGrass

This report from RockyGrass is a contribution from Jake Schepps and Christian Sedelmyer.

RockyGrassThis year’s RockyGrass sold out on February 27th, the earliest ever sellout for the festival by two months. For those lucky enough to get tickets, this year’s lineup is as inspired as ever. Here are a few of our highlights:

Noam Pikelny’s set in support of his album Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail was simply stellar. The band featured Chris Eldridge and Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers, Sam Grisman (bass) and Dominick Leslie (mandolin) of the Deadly Gentlemen, and the wonderful Aoife O’Donovan on vocals (though Critter sang the Seldom Scene’s Mean Mother’s Blues). Of note: this was Dominick Leslie’s 15th RockyGrass Festival, though his first as a performer. Also a family reunion of sorts happened as Gabe’s brother Mike Witcher sat in on dobro toward the end of the set. This was the last Noam Pikelny and Friends show booked so hopefully this band will reemerge in the future.

In terms of the Lonesome River Band, we only have one thing to say: Sammy Shelor is the man.

The highlight of the day was the Michael Daves and Chris Thile set. Their blend of complete reckless abandon and utter respect for the tradition is amazing and contagious. Their playing styles are so dissimilar in some ways that it makes their match as a duo seemingly perfect. Daves’s playing is so aggressively raw and right on, offering a counterpoint to Thile’s virtuosity. They both seemed like kids in a boutique Brooklyn candy store, especially when taking requests from the audience creating impromptu fiddle tune medleys. This is also the last gig on the books for the Thile/Daves duo. Let’s hope they book a lot more.

Chris Thile had his work cut out for him as 2 hours later (read this tweet from the end of his day) Punch Brothers hit the stage. Having seen this band many times between us, they never fail to deliver. They played a cool selection of material from their recordings (including some bluegrass tunes from How to Grow a Woman from the Ground). A definitive highlight was when Aoife sat in with them for a rendition of  Here and Heaven from The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

Much more music to follow today……

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About the Author

Jake Schepps

Jake Schepps has made a name for himself as a banjo renaissance man, an artist with not only an adroit touch on his instrument but an intrepid, imaginative vision for contemporary stringband music. He writes and performs contemporary classical music on the banjo with a string band. His recent recordings and compositions can be heard at Round Window Radio. In addition to music, Jake teaches emergency wilderness medicine around the world.