What more can you say about a festival that has been written about extensively over the last 40 years?
The only thing to add to the conversation would be to tell you about how Mike and Jen Mulligan put together an outstanding line up of artists who dominate the bluegrass airwaves. Hit makers such as Volume Five and Balsam Range, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, The Grascals, Della Mae, The Steel Drivers, Larry Stephenson, The Gibson Brothers, Danny Paisley, not to mention Sister Sadie, Special Consensus, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, and The Lonely Heart Strings Band all made an appearance. So instead of writing about all the things that make Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival a must attend festival, we will instead highlight the musical moments that delighted the crowds, led to standing ovations, and set the tone for a perfect 40th anniversary festival.
New this year was a Wednesday Maine Night, a showcase of talented Maine musicians. The next day, six bands competed to win the showcase competition. More than once, we heard audience members comment on the high caliber of musicians in this year’s band competition. The Ruta Beggars took first place and last year’s winners, Beg Steal or Borrow, returned with a set that included their favorite Old and In the Way tributes and a fresh new line-up of originals. We hope to hear cuts from their new album Old Mountain Time on Bluegrass Junction sometime soon!
Friday’s line up included a band that we’ve been eager to see and hear perform on stage, Volume Five. Their founding leader Glen Harrell turned heads performing Volume Five’s hits, of which there are many! Balsam Range followed with a super charged set full of their most popular tunes. At one point, Buddy Melton looked out over the audience and admitted that the view from the main stage is one of his favorites.
Saturday saw Larry Stephenson performing songs from his new CD, celebrating 30 years as a band leader. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage played three sets over the weekend, their first on Saturday afternoon. It was no surprise that Rhonda stayed up late on Saturday night for afterhours jamming at the Caboose. Special Consensus and the Steeldrivers also took to the stage on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Danny Paisley, The Grascals, and LeRoy Troy & the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band performed for a packed audience. That same night the Gibson Brothers, returning for their 17th year, closed the festival with a memorable set filled with their brotherly banter. Rounding out the schedule over the four-day festival were regional bands including Southern Rail, Seth Sawyer Band, New England Bluegrass Band, who now have Amanda Kowalski on bass, and the Manic Mountain Boys.
Michael and Jen put together a veritable who’s who in the world of bluegrass for the 40th anniversary festival. Mother Nature cooperated with perfect late summer weather, and, as always, campground picking never stopped. Ye Olde English Fish and Chips opened two booths this year and they still make the best fried scallops in the world.
The summer festival season has come to an end, but hello fall festivals!