Reviews > Shows
DelFest Rocks the Bluegrass World
The David Mayfield Parade
Perhaps the most beautiful part of DelFest is the laid-back attitude of the crowd, that clearly reflects McCoury’s own welcoming spirit even when performers are a bit more rock or folk than bluegrass.
Consider the David Mayfield Parade, whose performance was one of the most joyful highlights of DelFest. The sunbaked crowd was enchanted when Mayfield, brother of Americana musician Jessica Lea Mayfield and a former member of Cadillac Sky, literally danced through the crowd and rolled onto the stage to join his folk rock band.
Armed with a guitar, Mayfield worked the crowd like part carnival barker, part comedian as he led sing-alongs and dance offs while he and his band played many songs from his self-titled 2011 album. Dressed in a dark shirt and pants and sporting a tie, Mayfield seemed oblivious to the sweltering heat as he continually bounded about the stage and bantered with the crowd.
“It was incredible,” said the Grammy nominated Mayfield whose other DelFest performances including joining Luther Dickinson and the Wandering for their entire set. “It really was a dream come true. When Del saw us [at a past show], he definitely saw what we were going for and invited us to DelFest. What an honor.”
Reverence for McCoury, who joined many performers on stage even at late night shows, was evident both publicly and privately.
After opening their set with the U2 song “God’s Country,” which McCoury and Dierks Bentley covered on Bentley’s 2010 Grammy nominated album Up on the Ridge album, Stringdusters’ co-founder Chris Pandolfi gave a shout out to McCoury.
“We travel all over and go to a million festivals and this is the best,” he told the crowd before the band continued its set that included songs from its just-released album “Silver Sky” and some new unrecorded material. “The McCoury’s are the best thing we have in bluegrass.”
Almost simultaneously, Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek was on the Potomac Stage, praising McCoury and the crowd as she performed a set that included “Lock & Key,” the Everly Brothers’ song “You’re the One That I Love,” (with her brother Sean replacing Fiona Apple who sang the duet with Watkins on the recording) and other tunes from her just-released album “Sun Midnight Sun.”
Yet no matter the performer, the shadow of Del McCoury and his legacy was present throughout the festival.
“There’s little room for ego or attitude,” said Leftover Salmon co-founder Drew Emmitt whose band played sets that included songs from their soon-to-be-released album “Aquatic Hitchhiker” and joined Del McCoury for a rendition of “Mission Man.” “There’s the joy of pure musicianship and a family feel for people of all ages. Del is open to everything. He is traditional but he’s very hip traditional.”
That included welcoming Steve Martin to front Steep Canyon Rangers at DelFest.
Always a classy musical performer, Martin and the band waited for hours as dark clouds and walls of rain had many attendees concerned a tornado might close out DelFest 2012. But the storm did subside long enough for the group to play its set that included songs from its Rare Bird Alert album including “Jubilation Day,” a collaboration with Del McCoury and his band, Sam Bush and Bela Fleck and plenty of Martin’s trademark humor.
“He is a good musician,” said McCoury noting that much-lauded multi instrumentalist John McEuen taught Martin to play banjo when they were young men. “He is an asset to the community and, really, he brings new things to it. Some of what he does is comedy, but that’s just him. We treasure him. We really do.”
Although McCoury would never believe it, he is the main treasure in bluegrass, according to musicians at DelFest and beyond.
Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jeff Austin tells of leaving a late night DelFest jam and inadvertently crossing paths with Del. Austin said he was still in awe of the set, that included him collaborating with Railroad Earth for a version of “Mission Man,” and was thanking McCoury for the opportunity to play.
“I told him ‘I can’t thank you enough or tell you how much you mean to me personally and musically,’” said Austin. “He goes, ‘Well, you know, music is music.’ That’s some a simple thing but damn, music is music. That is awesome. And that’s Del.”
And that attitude, said Salmon co-founder Vince Herman, leads to some historic moments that you won’t find elsewhere.
“I think Del and [gospel mandolinist] Doyle Lawson singing “Angel Man” at the request of the crowd was unbelievable,” he said as he recapped DelFest. “Fifty years from now people will be talking about that as a definitive moment in music.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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