Sunday, May 9, 2010

MerleFest 2010 was no sleepy bluegrass festival

By Katie Scarvey

I've heard talk of Merlefest since I moved to Salisbury, but before this year, it's been just a hazy image in my mind: a bunch of old geezers picking banjos on the grounds of a community college.

Ho-hum little bluegrass festival.

Those who have actually attended Merlefest in recent years will imagine my surprise at discovering the reality of this incredible and exhilarating celebration, held April 29-May 2.

If I hadn't figured that out on the first three days, I surely would have realized it on Sunday, when the Avett Brothers played to an enormous and passionate crowd, whose enthusiasm was not in the least diminished by the blazing sun that day.

Security pretty much gave up trying to keep the crowd out of the aisles. As I stood on the media platform waiting to take pictures, a Merlefest security worker apologized to me.

"I'm not sure you're going to be able to get back to your seat," he said.

Fortunately, while Avett Brothers fans are rabid, they were also polite enough to let me through the crowd, especially since I was moving AWAY from the band.

The Avett Brothers seem poised for superstardom; they've been so busy of late that their Merlefest appearance was their first in the state this year, which perhaps accounted for so many of their North Carolina fans making the trek to Wilkesboro for an increasingly rare opportunity to see them.

I attended all four days of Merlefest this year with my co-worker Sarah Hall. The festival, held on the grounds of Wilkes Community College, has come a long way since 1988, when artists performed on a flatbed truck. Now, Wilkesboro has become a vacation destination for many, thanks to this wonderfully well-oiled celebration of music — which has kept its bluegrass roots but also transcended them. Read more.

No comments: