Friday Night Fan Fest Report

The Business Conference portion of the IBMA World Of Bluegrass is over and we are firmly into the Fan Fest. I’m pretty tired from a full week of activities, but I did make it out to several of the shows yesterday.

After all the speculation and rumor about the Lonesome River Band was dispelled by Sammy, I was curious to go hear LRB. What a show! The addition of Barry Berrier on bass is a very good thing. The man can sing. And his bass playing was right where it needed to be. Sammy was fired up and driving it to the wall. With Mike Hartgrove gone LRB is a four piece again and the energy was amazing. It was the best show I’ve seen in quite some time.

I also caught Alison Krauss & Union Station. What can I say? They really are as good as you think they are. Their stage show is better than the record, and I don’t say that about just anybody.

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder took the stage and lived up to the Instrumental Group Of The Year award, which they won for the seventh time thursday evening. It’s a very powerful show. Jim Mills also confirmed our faith in him as our Banjo Player Of The Year. And of course he was sporting the famous Jim Mills smile the whole time.

Closing the show was The Del McCoury Band. Del was in fine form last night as he took requests from an enthusiastic audience. He and the boys played some stuff from their newest record, but they did a lot of older stuff as well. It was a great show and the crowd was fired up, especially considering the late hour. The show had been running about 45 minutes late all evening, but Del didn’t cut the show short at all. I got the impression he would have stayed all night had he not been so tired. He said he had been talking so much this week that his voice was starting to give out a little bit. All of us that have been here for the entire week completely sympathize with that.

Over all it was a great first day of Fan Fest 2005. The crowd was quite large. The hall that is the home of this year’s Fan Fest strikes me as considerably larger than the ballroom at the Galt House was, and yet it was full to overflowing last night. That’s a great sign for the future of this event, and for bluegrass music in general.