so, delfest is a relatively new festival, but it’s grown like gangbusters – this was only the third one, but the lineup was huge and the crowds were pretty amazing. the festival is held at a racetrack in cumberland, maryland…but the mountains that line the side of the racetrack are on the west virginia side of the state line. it’s a great setting for a festival.
this year, the youngers landed a slot on sunday morning at delfest, and they invited me to come along as the utility guy – we’d had a great show at the opera house in jim thorpe the month prior, and we were pretty well rehearsed…so i was pretty excited about the gig.
we all rode up together the afternoon before, and i brought wendy and danny along…we shared a room with randy, the bassist – while todd set up to camp onsite at the fest. randy left to head down to the festival not long after we settled in, and wendy and i ordered pizza and hung out with the little man at the hotel for the night. i thought about heading down to the fest the night before with the rest of the guys, but there wasn’t anyone on the bill that would’ve lured me away from the baby. i guess it’s an indicator of my age and where i am in my life these days that i would’ve rather hung out with the little guy than to spend the night hanging out backstage at the fest.
the dealbreaker for me, as much as getting to relax back at the hotel with the family, was the heat. now, granted – it was the last weekend of may. and yet, it was absolutely MISERABLE outside…even at night. and, frankly, i wasn’t havin’ none o’ that. i’d suck it up and smile through it for the show, but just for the hang before the show?
there was a short sunday morning gospel set, and we were the first band on after the gospel band. now, it wasn’t what you’d expect for a worship set at what you’d assume to be a bluegrass festival – it was much more in the “dancing in the pews at the church in the delta” vein, and the band was actually really good. they had a pedal steel player who played a steel with no pedals or knee levers on it…i’ve heard the term “sacred steel” before, and i’m not sure if that’s what i was hearing or not. when i bought the sierra that i used to have, it was set up in what the owner called a “sacred steel” tuning, and it was patently unplayable to me – i had to have it redone by my tech and set up in the standard emmons setup with the E9 tuning before i could even use it. but – i digress. this guys’ playing sounded more like a hybrid between ben harper and robert randolph than what i’d heard in my head when i heard the term “sacred steel”…but maybe that’s exactly what it was, i dunno.
we’d unloaded our gear behind the stage…it had rained overnight, and the ground was wet, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been…we actually managed to get everything staged without much of a mess, and i unpacked my gear and staged everything behind the stage so i could carry it straight on and plug everything in with a minimum of fuss – i even had plenty of time to tune everything and prep all the instruments.
we had all brought our own amps, opting to use the drums that were provided for backline…after we got there and i got a chance to check out the backline, i opted to use one of the blackface reissue fender twins they had on hand as well, as i could use that amp for both the pedal steel stuff AND the guitar stuff, and it simplified everything for me quite a bit…i could use a single line out of my pedalboard and use the A/B box to select inputs, whether it was guitar or pedal steel. the guys running the stage were absolute pros, and the monitor mix was damn near perfect – and that was without a whole lot of tweaking, because there certainly wasn’t much going on in the way of soundcheck…we essentially walked up, plugged in, did a really quick line check and off we went, full blast. this is one of the things that separates the men from the boys. 🙂
festival sets always feel short, especially when you’re one of the bands in fine print at the bottom of the poster…and this one was no exception. but i was surprised by the number of people that we were able to attract for a sunday morning slot on a festival show like this one – and they genuinely seemed to love the band, which was great.
after we were finished, we made a quick getaway and loaded everything back into randy’s truck – we were planning on leaving a little later on that afternoon, as we needed to be back home before monday morning, but we did spend some time on the festival grounds for the afternoon and had lunch at the hospitality tent…david grisman walked right by me as we were walking through the maze of tour buses parked behind the stage and alongside the tent.
wendy and danny came down with us for lunch, and danny seemed to enjoy being around so many people – he certainly got his share of attention. later, we stopped for smoothies and he downed almost an entire smoothie by himself…but it was mighty, mighty hot by that time, too.
needless to say, he slept for most of the drive home. he wasn’t the only one who nodded off during the drive, though.