feature Food For Thought — 05 March 2012
Previewing This Summer’s Bluegrass Festivals

Lineups are being announced left and right for this summer’s upcoming festivals, and there is plenty to be excited about for all you bluegrass fans out there. There are festivals all over the country this summer that have some fantastic lineups featuring nearly all of the world’s greatest bluegrass performers (and we can still hold out hope that Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford & Sons will announce some festival dates even though they have not committed to any thus far). So for all you connoisseurs of some quality bluegrass, here’s a look at some of the festivals to get excited about this summer:

McDowell Mountain Music Festival: Phoenix, AZ — April 13-15

Lineup Highlights: The Travelin’ McCourys & Keller Williams, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Big Head Todd and the Monsters

There’s not many better ways to ring in the summer early than in down Arizona in April with some Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Old Settlers Music Festival: Driftwood, TX — April 19-22
Lineup Highlights: Steep Canyon Rangers, Railroad Earth, Amos Lee, Iron and Wine, Greensky Bluegrass, Ha Ha Tonka

I have a feeling that Ha Ha Tonka is about to make a major splash when people see them on the festival circuit this summer, and that starts in April down in Texas.

Strawberry Music Festival: Yosemite, CA — May 24-28
Lineup Highlights: Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Trampled by Turtles

What it lacks in quantity it makes up in quality. Alison Krauss and Trampled by Turtles in Yosemite National Park: doesn’t get much better than that.

Wakarusa: Ozark, AR — May 31-June 3
Lineup Highlights: Umphrey’s McGee, The Avett Brothers, Railroad Earth, Tea Leaf Green, Keller Williams, Emmitt-Nershi Band, The Travelin’ McCourys, The Infamous Stringdusters, Perpetual Groove, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

There is really solid and diverse lineup at Waka this year with a ton of options for the bluegrass/jam band enthusiast.

DelFest: Cumberland, MD — May 24-27
Lineup Highlights: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Sam Bush Band, Béla Fleck, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, The Infamous Stringdusters, Emmitt-Nershi Band, Greensky Bluegrass

Simply put, this is one of the best bluegrass lineups of the summer. If you want to check out Steve Martin playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers you might want to make the trip to DelFest, as this is one of the only festival dates that he will be appearing at this summer.

Mountain Jam: Hunter Mountain, NY — May 31-June 3
Lineup Highlights: Gov’t Mule, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Travelin’ McCourys & Keller Williams, Tedeschi Trucks Band

With Carolina Chocolate Drops at Tedeschi Trucks Band, this festival is undoubtedly going to be a good time.

Clearwater Festival: Croton-on-Hudson, NY — June 16-17
Lineup Highlights: Punch Brothers, Béla Fleck, Martin Sexton, Donna the Buffalo

Getting Chris Thile, Béla Fleck, and Martin Sexton performing in the same place is always a good thing.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Telluride, CO — June 21-24
Lineup Highlights: Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, John Prine, Leftover Salmon, Béla Fleck, Yonder Mountain String Band, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, Head for the Hills, Telluride House Band

There are definitely some acts to get excited about, especially John Prine and Bruce Hornsby. But, when you consider last year’s incredible lineup (which featured Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Decemberists, and Robert Plant), this lineup for what is generally considered thee premiere bluegrass festival in the country seems a little weak. Watch out for some late additions to the lineup card, as I suspect Telluride may have a few surprises up their sleeve with some late additions.

ROMP Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival: Owensboro, KY — June 28-30
Lineup Highlights: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass

These 3 sets should provide plenty of funky bluegrass appeal for those fans down in Kentucky. And while you’re in Owensboro, be sure to grab yourself some of the local BBQ flavors at either Moonlite BBQ or Old Hickory Pit BBQ, you won’t be disappointed.

Bloom Heavy River Romp: Grassy, MO — June 28-30

Lineup Highlights: Yonder Mountain String Band, The Travelin’ McCourys, Hot Buttered Rum

Not an overwhelming lineup, but have you ever heard a better festival name?

Electric Forest Festival: Rothbury, MI — June 28-July 1
Lineup Highlights: The String Cheese Incident, The Travelin’ McCourys & Keller Williams, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival

Three nights of Cheese plus the rest of the great lineup at Electirc Forest should make for an awesome weekend in Rothbury.

All Good Music Festival: Thornville, OH — July 19-22
Lineup Highlights: The Allman Brothers, Phil Lesh & Friends, Trampled by Turtles, Railroad Earth, The Lumineers

Nostalgia is abound with The Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh set to make an appearance. The Lumineers would also definitely be an awesome set to catch.

FloydFest 11: Floyd, VA — July 26-29
Lineup Highlights: Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Leftover Salmon, Drive-By Truckers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, Ha Ha Tonka, Brandi Carlile

Yet another fantastic bluegrass lineup. FloydFest is right up there with RockyGrass, DelFest, and Telluride for having the best bluegrass lineup of the summer.

RockyGrass Festival: Lyons, CO — July 27-29
Lineup Highlights: Trampled by Turtles, Sam Bush Band, Punch Brothers, Chris Thile & Michael Daves, Béla Fleck, The Infamous Stringdusters, Tim O’Brien & Friends, Emmitt-Nershi Band

For the first time that I can remember, the RockyGrass lineup is just as good or possibly even better than the Telluride lineup. Trampled by Turtles always dominate, and it will be very cool to get to see Chris Thile and Michael Daves perform songs from their fantastic album, Sleep With One Eye Open.

Northwest String Summit: North Plains, OR — August 9-12
Lineup Highlights: Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass

An awesome showcase for some the country’s best string musicians.

Targhee Bluegrass Festival: Alta, WY — August 10-12
Lineup Highlights: Steep Canyon Rangers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Donna the Buffalo, Kane’s River

There is some quality bluegrass to check out in the Grand Tetons this summer with the Steep Canyon Rangers and The Infamous Stringdusters coming to Alta.

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival: Lyons, CO — August 17-19
Lineup Highlights: Randy Newman, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Amos Lee, Elephant Revival

Seeing Randy Newman playing in the Rocky Mountain air up in Lyons would be worth every penny.

Four Corners Folk Festival: Pagosa Springs, CO — August 31-September 2

Lineup Highlights: Railroad Earth, Elephant Revival, Loudon Wainwright III

At least three great acts to check out while you hang out at the intersection of four states.

As you can see, there is a whole hell of a lot to be excited about this summer for those of us who dig on some goodtime bluegrass music, and hopefully you will have the opportunity to check out a festival near you to enjoy some quality summertime music.


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A. Smith