Merlefest day 3

Here’s a day 3 report on Merlefest 2011 from Georgia Lowrance, delayed by poor connectivity on Sunday. She has promised us daily updates, with photos, from her position on the ground in Wilkesboro.

So many stages… so many artists… so little time! With over 90 artists playing on 14 stages, how can one possibly see it all?

Saturday at Merlefest is typically the ‘biggest’ and the longest day. This year it included The MerleFest Midnight Jam, held annually in the Walker Center with a 900-person limit – never nearly enough for those wanting to attend. This is the event that everyone wants to see but only the die hard and lucky ticket holders get a seat. The Midnight Jam was hosted this year by Casey Driessen, the 32-year old violin wizard.

It was hard to leave the Watson stage for any other today. Donna The Buffalo started things off, and did a wonderful job getting the blood moving and the feet dancing. What a great way to wake everyone up and get us started for the long, fun filled day of music. Their distinctive style of traditional mountain music infused with a twist of zydeco, folk rock, country rock, reggae and bluegrass had ‘The Herd’ groovin’ right from the start.

Later that day, one of the greatest innovators in acoustic flat-picked guitar, Tony Rice, took to the main stage joined by Josh Williams. The perfect follow up to that set was a tribute to John Hartford featuring the John Hartford String Band, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Peter Rowan, Tut Taylor and a few other special guests. Next up, the award-winning Michael Cleavland & Flamekeeper, who gave the audience exactly what you would expect from a five-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Fiddle Player of the Year Award.

Later in the evening was Docabilly with Doc Watson, Sam Bush, T. Michael Coleman, Buddy Greene Mitch, Bob Hill and Jeff Little. Now what more could you ask for in a day? How about throwing in the ‘King of Newgrass,’ Sam Bush. He plays the mandolin, fiddle and guitar and has played with so many including Doc Watson, Steve Earl, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett – not to mention his time leading the seminal New Grass Revival. His talents have earned him numerous honors including 3 Grammy Awards and a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Music Awards.

And for the icing on the cake for Saturday night, four-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett brought his fusion of country, Texas swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues to Merlefest for the first time.

It was almost midnight, and the crowds were all leaving except for the lucky attendees who secured a golden ticket to the sold out show. Driessen hosted this blissful collaboration of artists including Zac Brown, Scythian, Jeb Puryear (Donna The Buffalo), Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters), Levi Lowrey, Sarah Jarosz, Chris Sharp, Bill Nershi (The String Cheese Incident/Emmitt-Nershi Band), Jim Lauderdale, Robert Greer and Town Mountain.

The Midnight Jam wrapped up somewhere around 3:00 a.m. Goodnight for now. More music in a few hours.