Weekend report from the 2021 Jekyll Island Bluegrass Festival

The Gibson Brothers at the 2021 Jekyll Island Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren

I heard a bass begin playing Friday morning in the Jekyll Island campground. I grabbed my camera and went exploring, and found three fellas – banjo, fiddle, and bass – were jamming. We talked about seeing Doyle’s last show and they played Julie Ann in honor of Quicksilver. One of the guys said he made dobros and asked if I could take pictures of it. I will save that story and the pictures for another day.

We then made our way to the convention center where the Last Jam All Star Bash was going on. Band members were jamming with the audience members prior to the stage show. Everyone was having a good time!

The stage show kicked off with Nothin’ Fancy. Chris Paganoni was again filling in on guitar and vocals, and Randy Graham had fought I-95 traffic and filled in on bass. The band always takes opportunity to give the audience a posed photo op. Energy plus is the only way to describe these guys who did two strong sets on Friday in addition to their Thursday show.

Rhonda Vincent then brought the Rage to the Jekyll stage. Rhonda was dealing with a cold, but as always, she is a trooper and put on two great sets. She did have a fill-in fiddler for Hunter Berry who was suffering through the flu. Aynsley Porchak, one of the best young fiddlers in the genre, did a great job.

The Gibson Brothers were up next. They brought along Shawn Lane to play mandolin and sing, and had Eric O’Hara on dobro. Eric plays steel guitar in their country configuration. Mike Barber has been the bass mainstay for 28 years. The Gibsons played two sets on Friday and two more on Saturday to the delight of the crowd. Leigh did the “obnoxious little brother” to perfection until he told about going on a “hare hunt” with a friend. After a few minutes Eric stepped to the mic and said, “So you went on a ‘hair hunt’?” The audience roared! It turned out to be a completely unplanned, spontaneous thing.

Sideline brought their two new players to Jekyll. Kyle Windbeck is a former student of the late Jason Moore, and is now playing bass with the band. He did have a mishap on stage when the fingerboard fell off his bass. A borrowed bass was quickly brought to him and the show went on. He did post on Facebook that the bass was at the doctor and would be available next weekend. Andy Buckner is the new guitar player and vocalist and is one of the powerful young voices in bluegrass.

Deeper Shade of Blue played one set on Friday and one on Saturday. They are becoming one of the most sought after bands in bluegrass. They have a strong trio with Jason Fraley, Troy Pope, and Scott Burgess. Steve Wilson provides top notch banjo and Frank Poindexter is in a class all by himself on dobro. See these guys!

Ernie Evans created a well thought out fundraising opportunity for the family of the late Jason Moore. Rickey Wasson took a picture of Lawson, Williams, and Crowe from backstage at Bean Blossom some years ago. Ernie did a bunch of work on it to leave just to recognizable silhouettes of the three guys. He then had a company make oil paintings of the picture. Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams, J.D. Crowe’s family, Rickey Wasson, Tim Dillman, and Ernie each have one. The final one was auctioned Friday night at the festival with the proceeds going to Jason’s family. John Apfelthaler was the successful bidder as $3,500 was raised. Susanna Langdon accepted the donation on behalf of Mollie Moore.

The Queen of Bluegrass closed out 2021 in grand style. There is little to be said that has not already been said about this remarkable entertainer. She is a commanding presence on stage.

Saturday kicked of with a Florida band, Justin Mason and Blue Night. Justin is one of the driving forces in the Florida bluegrass community. He and his wife document most bluegrass shows throughout the area with pictures and videos on their blog. Justin has been involved in bluegrass from a young age. His father, Charles Mason was a promoter and band leader for many years. You will have opportunity to see this band at other EMS festivals and many other Florida venues.

The Grascals put on two enjoyable sets of music. The vocal trio of Terry Smith, John Bryan, and Chris Davis just gets stronger and stronger. Danny Roberts introduced twelve year old Wyatt Ellis to the audience who is his a mandolin protégé. He picked Southern Flavor and Road to Columbus with the band. Wyatt will be a star one day soon!

The Triumphant Quartet closed out the festival with a rousing set of Gospel music.

GBS Sound – Dave and Traci Chichester – provided top quality audio for the festival. The EMS sound crew worked the stage and monitors.

The next EMS festival is the Yeehaw Music Fest in Okeechobee, Florida on January 20-22.

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