I’m back from the Fest that was Merle, and while I appreciate the fact that I say this every year – holy crap what a show! Seriously, Robert Plant, Sam Bush, Lyle Lovett, Joan Osborne, Doc Watson, The Waybacks, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Tim O’Brien, and more, more, more! And we didn’t even go to the festival on Day 1!
I will admit to having a religious experience on at least four different occasions throughout the weekend. I’ll give you those highlights, but for the full experience you’ll have to go with me next year!
#1 – Hartford Tribute Band – if you’re not a John Hartford fan, its just because you don’t know you’re a John Hartford fan yet. In a tribute to the late great Hartford, Sam Bush, Allison Brown, Laura Boosinger & Tim O’Brien got together for an awesome rendition of “Steam Powered Aero-Plane,” one of my favorite Hartford songs.
#2 – The Hillside Album Hour – over the past four years, The Waybacks have created a tradition of covering a classic rock album with a host of special guests every Saturday at Merlefest. Past albums include Led Zeppelin II, Sticky Fingers and Abbey Road. Being raised on The Allman Brothers, when they tore into Eat a Peach it was a particularly special moment for me. That I shared with probably 15,000 of my closest friends. This year’s special guest vocalist was Joan Osborne, and man, that chick can wail!
#3 – same set – at the end of the set, they decided that Little Martha was too mellow to end with, so they ripped out a monstrous rendition of “Whipping Post” that must have caused tremors miles away from all the concentrated dancing and clapping. I wept a little. Just a little.
#4 – Sunday – Robert Plant and The Band of Joy – the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame made an appearance at the bluegrass festival, and it was amazing! From the opening number (Black Dog), Plant and his new Band of Joy – Buddy Miller, Patti Griffin, Darrell Scott, Byron House and a drummer who I forgot because I suck – killed it. The closer for the set was a beautiful version of “Ramble On.” I wept a little again, and danced like a happy fat man, which I was.
At some point I’ll get around to telling the traumatic story of trying to get home, but for today we’ll accentuate the positive. It was a great weekend of music with great friends – hope to see you there next year!