Eli's graduation was scheduled for that day but was postponed by the threatening thunderstorms and so Dave and Eli came along with us. Andrew met us there.
We all started with Chris O'Brien on the Coffeehouse Stage at noon. There was no coffee there! But Chris had some great songs and was a pleasant way to start the day. I stuck around for Anais Mitchell next, and she was very impressive. Not a great voice or guitar technique, but she knew exactly what she had and made the most of it. She's recently written and led a folk opera called Hadestown and played a couple of songs from it. It was obvious that her sensibility came from a musical theater place because she was totally in control of her songs, their effect, and the pictures they painted. A very entertaining set.
Les Sampou was up next with veteran Taylor Amerding on mando lead. I've been listening to Les since her songs first got on the radio but had never seen her and I was in rapture. Almost all of her set was from her recent record and she probably would have liked it if the crowd reacted more ... but it was a coffeehouse you know. Taylor was obviously having a great time and his tricky and loose solos proved it.
Moved to the Lipke stage next for The Kennedys who were as perfect as they always are. After opening with the classics: Life is Large, River of Fallen Stars, Wall of Death, Maura played a couple of songs from her recent solo record and then Pete did a couple of solos, including a classical tune on uke. They rejoined on stage for Midnight Ghost, closed with Stand, then came back for an encore and did Matty Groves. You could have set your watch and your state of mind by their set, it was so steady, fun, and exactly as exuberant as you'd expect. I love those guys.
Next up was Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams ... I'd never seen them before but they were exactly what I expected as well! I don't know about you, but I knew several ragtag bands in college years who spent more time tuning up than they did playing (at least it seemed that way). Most of the acts here had started on the hour and played for 45 minutes like they were supposed to, but Gandalf Murphy and friends were still packing instruments and amps and stuff out onto the stage at the top of the hour and were still tuning up until about 20 after. They started a song and then Murphy realized his guitar had cut out, so they fixed that and then started over. They made some great sounds for 5 minutes or so and as they reached a crescendo the power cut out. Very enjoyable ... we thought this must be part of their act!
They recovered from that start in a very folky way and the packed hall approved. They stood up front on the stage, hushed everybody, and strummed their instruments as hard as they could while harmonizing on High as a Hilltop, Home on the Range, and then Donovan's Try to Catch the Wind. Everybody sang along with Home on the Range of course, and it's amazing how many people knew the words to Try to Catch the Wind ... the audience almost drowned out the performers. The power came on before the band died of embarrassment at the schmaltziness of it all, and they started to seriously jam on. We left at the top of the hour to get seats over at the Field Stage for David Bromberg.
We snagged seats in front of the stage and then got some overpriced pad thai and veggies from a vendor. Bromberg came on and he was exactly what one would expect: a crackerjack band and a very eclectic set. He did everything from self-penned blues (also Statesboro Blues) to traditional country/folk (Dark as a Dungeon) to the Orange Blossom Special. He also did some classic Bromberg, like Watching Baby Fall which is one of my all-time favorites.
As he played the thunderstorms moved in and shook the huge tent like you wouldn't believe. I was almost afraid it would fall down or pull up at the corners. We could see one of the vendors' tents disappear in one super gust. But we made it to the end and the sun came out in time for the drive home. All in all, lots of fun.