No matter how deep you get into Appalachia a few things never change…no…. stop thinkin deliverance and start thinkin moonshine, river livin, and of course bluegrass. All of which come together in the hills of West Virginia along the majestic Potomac river in Sleepy Creek. That means Harfest is back again for another celebration of a successful harvest at the summers end. Sharing and dare I say showing off of things learned since last year whether that be new crops or lyrics Harfest bring out the best in us all.
This year I wanted to really showcase what Danny was adding to what may seem to be an overfilled docket of festival venues throughout the year. With such incredibly advertised and hyped up attractions as Burning Man, Lockn and the never-ending farewell tour of The Dead leaving me feeling unsatisfied it’s a breath of fresh air to see a small group of people pull off such a big feeling experience.
Its been 24 hours since I left Sleepy Creek and I am still in perma-grin status from all the amazing music. But it’s not just the music, it is also who you spend the time listening to it with. The crowd at Harfest is a predominantly local one so there are many familiar faces to rage with. But there are is always new family to meet at this special place. I got in about an hour before the music began while Mateo Monk was starting his sound check. I immediately ran into my good friend Jimmy at the gate and we both set up an impromptu camp consisting of our ez-ups over the back hatches of our cars. That would prove to be just the temptation the weather was waiting for as when the storm came along Friday (there’s always a storm right?) It would play a virtual game of flip cup with them until they were broken but functional (sorta like yours truly).
The Plate Scrapers were the opening set and not long after they started up people were clamoring to get a good spot picked out to see the show. Jody Mosser joined in after a few songs with his magical dobro sliding in and out throughout the nights sets. Even Mateo Monks flute could be heard in the breaks while Even Bell and his righteous beard kept everyone in sync with the beat on the upright bass. The Plate Scrapers last CD that I was given during SpringDig has kept it’s spot in my disc changer since then and I’d been waiting a long time to hear them live again, they did not disappoint! “Flying Car” seems to take such a playful approach to the idea of bluegrass where too many play it safe the Plate Scrapers don’t hold back. My favorite though has to be “Lightning”, I think of a nice day floating down the Potomac when all of the sudden a fierce storm rolls thru and its time to git! The speed at which Andrew, Brett and Derrick work as a team is indeed lightning fast!
After the scheduled sets were over a spontaneous campfire jam took center stage as random musicians popped in and out to show off there skills and sometimes homemade instruments. At one point there were dueling washtubs accompanied by spoons (I think someone was even beat boxing). Andrew from The Brummy Brothers led a couple tunes in beteen shwills of whiskey with the group and Dylan from Brokedown Hustlers sang a couple of his NSFW diddies that had everyone cracking up and singing along while the campfire kept everyone toasty warm (or maybe it was the shine). Morning came too soon, no one wanted the night to end but we all knew there was much more to come.
Day two began with a horrible headache from too much shine the night before. But none the less I had to get up at 8 to get to a golf tournament (yes golf golf) that I had already commited to months earlier. It was for charity so I manned up, filled my flask and pulled a John Daily! After an amazing round with 4 birdies on the card (let’s not get into how many bogies), I made it back to the festival by six with my washtub ready for some Newgrass style from The Brummy Brothers.
I love me some Brummy Brothers, Eric gets so into the mandolin it sucks you in with him, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person that was air mandolining to “Whiskey Weed And Woman” as we all sang out “there’s nothing like being horney, drunk, stoned and laughing” at the top of our lungs. It was a good weekend for hearimg what I wanted and the next one to make me smile was “No Good” A little tune about an outlaw on the run that has to travel by night to not get caught. It starts off as a ballad but picks up speed half way thru as the intesity builds in the story. Dave played his slap style bass that I’ve tried so many times to imitate on my washtub but just couldn’t replicate. Catching the strings just right to keep the vibrations flowing. But the real gem for me this night was Russell’s Banjo picking. Fast doesn’t sum it up, Russ took that bad boy to the edge danced around on it for a bit then brought it all back just in time for the rest of the group to join back in. Bravo my friend, well played!
Next up for me was The Brokedown Hustlers. Now I’d been aware of August Wests poetry (drunk ramblings?) on facebook since I had last seen them at this very venue for Springdig and I was stoked to hear them (spoken words?) live on stage again, accompanied by my man Philthy Lush on bass, Tennessee Jed on guitar, Jack Straw with his Mandolin and Barely Garcia on guitar and banjo. The girl in the red hat was there, sporting said hat, with whiskey for all, and never a more rambunctious crowd was there before as bags of wine were slapped like red headed mules in the electric blue night.
BDH put on one hell of a show, getting the crowd ready and rowdy, opening with one of everyone’s favorite sing alongs “Bread, Water and Wine”. After many a bag slap and a “Hellcat Maggie” later the Sirens were ready to rumble as I was wrestled to the ground for my shine. Family got a good laugh and a small dose of humility for “Headier Than Thou” a song of tall tales taken straight off Shakedown street. After the excitement of The Hustlers began to wind down it was time for another all night campfire jam. Or jams I should say as there was music coming from every corner of the venue. I would end up playing my gutbucket alongside another washtub (yet again) at The Plate Scrapers camp til four in the morning. (Yet again, again)
Saturday was a day of recovery, everywhere I looked people were wrapped up tight with a snuggle partner trying to enjoy the day from there camps, while some diehards kept the party going with beer and shine in hand. I sampled some of the vendor food with a double egg and cheese sandwich that was dripping with two kinds of cheese and a breakfast bloody mary that opened my sinuses right up. There was even a show to go with breakfast as Primate Fiasco put on a Party Animal Costume Parade that was not just for the kiddies. Later in the afternoon the scent of Caribbean spices slapped me in the face and it was time for some super jerk chicken while I browsed the other vendor booths looking for goodies for family at home. Most of the day was spent at the fire pit before the inevitable food coma doubled with an abundance of spirits put me down for the night. Although I expired a little early one must remember that the candle that burns twice as bright only burns half as long, and I’m not here for a long time just a good time!
Photo Credits go to Seth Freeman, Thanks for the great action shots You captured the spirit of HarFest with your pictures. Check out the whole Sleepy Creek gallery @ http://sethfreeman.photoshelter.com/gallery/Sleepy-Creek-HarFest-2015/G0000adSFeMTOiU0/C0000zYoQmwSdQTY (copy and paste if link is broken) Thanks to Danny, Cindy, Jim, Chris, Jay, Bill, Alan for the spare pants, Winnie for the quote, Matt from Hau ink for the Tee shirts you were pressin all weekend, and all the unnamed soldiers that made HarFest awesome once again! And this just in, the dates for SpringDig 2 at Sleepy creek have just been announced for May 5-8 2016 so get your rain boots ready for some mud stompin bluegrass music to celebrate the big thaw out!!