The 2024 Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival coming soon 

Widely regarded as the leading bluegrass and old-time music event in Ireland, and one of the main such events outside North America, the 2024 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival returns for the 18th time to the small coastal town of Westport on the shores of Clew Bay in the west of Ireland. 

As in previous years, the festival will take place at the second weekend of June (June 7-9) and will see 17 acts at 10 different venues, playing over 25 official concerts, pub gigs, sessions, workshops, the Gospel Hour and the Square Dance, called by the famous Phil Jamison, with music provided by Alaskan old-time band Big Chimney Barn Dance. Many of these have free entry. 

Big Chimney Barn Dance, The Square Dance, Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival 2019…

…at the Clew Bay Hotel during the 13th Folk & Bluegrass Festival in Westport, County Mayo, Ireland, 

This year’s program will feature 11 acts from the USA, two from the UK and four from Ireland. Most of them will play the event for the first time, and for some it will be their first ever trip to Ireland, and maybe even across the Atlantic.

The festival organizing team is particularly excited to be able to book Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell to play a pre-festival concert at the Westport Town Hall on Thursday, June 6. This will be one of the pair’s only Irish concerts this year, and a unique opportunity to see them in the 225-seat theatre. (Now sold out.)

(Dirk) Powell with daughter Amelia will perform in concert at the Westport Town Hall on Friday. Their music has strong roots in the bayous of Louisiana and the mountains of Kentucky.

Among the other exciting acts who will play the festival for the first time are the superb Martha Spencer & The Wonderland Country Band (Virginia), Remedy Tree (Florida), The Wayfarers (Ohio), Late For The Train (California), and Zoe & Cloyd (North Carolina).

The festival program has something for everybody – musicians, music fans, and people who just wish to soak up a festival atmosphere, while introducing top class acts and unparalleled events.   

This documentary sets the scene, revealing some of the atmosphere in Westport during a festival weekend … 

The festival’s flagship attraction – The University Project – will take a center stage, when East Tennessee State University (ETSU) band Pythagoras travel to Ireland from Johnson City, TN for a week-long trip, visiting the University of Limerick (UL) before the festival.

During their performances they will be joined by some of their teachers, and by Irish students from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at UL.

Pythagoras – License to Steal 

Lexi Wagnitz (vocals / bass), Grant Dresnok (guitar), Joe Henson (mandolin), Zack Vickers (banjo), and Gracie Mae Grossman (fiddle). 

On Saturday (June 8) morning, there will be an academic symposium lead by teachers from ETSU, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Murfreesboro, TN, and the University of Limerick that will explore the future of relationship and future Atlantic bluegrass and Irish Traditional music.

The symposium will be followed by a session and a joint student and teacher concert on that evening.

The IBMA Bluegrass Foundation found the project worthy of the support of their grants program, and Paige Capo company are sponsoring part of the event.

The recent partnership with Enrichment Travel Services (Ohio & Nashville) will see a group of up to 40 quilters attending the festival for a quilting summit, at which the ladies from the USA will spend an afternoon with the town’s local quilting group, The Octagon Quilters. In this new initiative they will exchange ideas and tips, and the festival will commission a cross-Atlantic art piece.

Tom Nechville, of the famous Nechville Banjos, will display his unique instruments, run a banjo workshop and host a session alongside his partner, Linda Leavitt, of the Oregon Bluegrass Association.

Bluegrass Today contacted a few of the acts …..  

Leavitt and Nechville (aka Lois & Clark Expedition) got together when he first moved to Oregon in 2019, just before the pandemic began ….. 

“Tom and I are delighted that Uri Kohen has asked us to be part of Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, and we look forward to being there in June to spread some good Oregon bluegrass vibes with festival-goers. Tom has visited Ireland many times, and this will be my first trip there.”

Nathan Williamson, Big Chimney Barn Dance, commented ….  

“We are thrilled to be coming back to Westport. It was a truly amazing experience, not only because of how well it is run and organized by Uri and team, but also, just an amazing gathering of community and togetherness.

Many festivals happen in settings that are somewhat isolated from the community with big tents, wrist bands, and outside vendors. Westport is fully integrated into the local community, and offers such a rich, engaging, and welcoming feel to it. Not only is it supportive of the local businesses, but also just seems like the whole community shows up and fully embraces and supports this great weekend event. The whole town is bustling and alive with happy festive people.

I truly loved being able to kinda hop around town, check out all the great things happening. Being able to play a show, and then right after go hop in on a local session, was just super fun, and made it all feel less like work, and just a boat load of people having fun together.

The talent that Uri brings in is top notch, with a great diverse range of sounds. And you always know it’s a great festival when extremely talented musicians show up that aren’t performing, the sessions around town are great fun, and extremely welcoming. Even though we come all the way from Alaska, we all felt extremely at home in Westport.”

Big Chimney Barn Dance – She’s a Flower from the Fields of Alabama at The Red Room, Cookstown 

Big Chimney Barn Dance features Williamson (vocal/guitar), Danny Consenstein (vocal/fiddle), Jay Marvin (banjo), Carter Bancroft (vocal/fiddle), and Garren Volper (bass).

Remedy Tree started as a folk/indie / folk/americana band. Around 2018 they started to shift more towards bluegrass. Founder Gabriel Acevedo added….  

It’s definitely been a slow consistent evolution into what we are now.

We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of the 2024 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival! Our band has been picking up steam in the past couple years, but we did not anticipate going international this soon! We were honored to be an official 2023 IBMA Ramble Showcase band that put a spotlight on us, Uri found us through IBMA, and sought us out. 

Our dreams are unfolding right in front of us, and we love the process and the grind that moves us to the next level. Ireland is a major leap for us, and we are so grateful for the opportunity!”

Remedy Tree – Don’t Look Back

Remedy Tree live at the 2023 Florida Winter Music Festival.

The current members are songwriter Gabriel Acevedo (vocals, guitar and fiddle) and my wife Abigail Acevedo (vocals and bass), Nthan Beaumont (vocals, banjo and guitar), and Bryce Griffin (vocals and mandolin). 

One of the Irish groups to perform during the festival are regular participants, The Rocky Top String Band ….. 

Tennessee Rose / Whiskey Before Breakfast 

More information about the 2024 Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival can be found online.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.