I spent Saturday at the Ogden Music Festival hoping to hear some hot bluegrass.
The festival was hot -- even before I heard any music. But organizers provided free water to those in need, and the trees offered plenty of shade -- the cottonwood trees even made the day appear cooler with what looked like a snowstorm.
My arrival at the festival was timed to coincide with the 2 p.m. performance by Jake & Rebekah Workman. Workman, from Utah, is a flatpicking champion. I wanted to be impressed by flying fingers, and I was not disappointed. Not only did he play guitar, his fingers flew across the strings of a banjo as well. Among his band members was his wife, Rebekah, who played fiddle. Overall, I felt it was a solid performance, even the vocals, but the shining moments were the instrumentals.
Next up were The Get Down Boys. I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but with a name like that -- and the fact that they actually dress like a traditional bluegrass band -- I figured they had to be good. They were. The L.A.-based band played the traditional bluegrass I wanted, and did it well, but still had a little bit of a modern edge.
I missed the next two bands, although I met one member of Elephant Revival later -- didn't get his name, but he was very nice (and if he reads this post, I want him to know I will learn the words to "Red Wing"). It was during this time that my young nephew and I checked out Todd's Musical Petting Zoo. It was meant to be a short visit between bands, but there were just so many interesting instruments to try. I had never seen several of them before, and I'm guessing they were from other countries, but there were also steel guitars, banjos, dulcimers, and even resonator ukeleles with metal bodies.
The zoo wasn't just for kids -- there were a lot of adults, even pro musicians, petting the instruments to make them purr.
The instrument petting zoo was right next to the workshop stage. That may not have been the best choice by the planners, because when kids tried out the drums, it didn't mix well with what was happening onstage. However, you could keep an eye on kids hanging out in the zoo, while taking in the workshops.
The workshops were a lot of fun. I got to enjoy a preview of Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, and a second performance by The Get Down Boys. They performed on a trailer bed, under the trees, with a very small audience. Between numbers, members of the audience could ask questions to learn from the best. One of the performers even had the audience up learning clogging steps.
Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice took the main stage in the evening. They hit the strings, and within three notes, my nephew turned to me and said, "Wow." We wish we could have heard them a little better over the audience talking, but what we heard made us want to hear more and more -- so we bought CDs. If you know me, you know that's saying something, because I don't like parting with my money.
They have a hard-driving traditional sound, with clean instumentals and harmony. The voice of Chris Davis blew me away, and I found out after the show that he gave that wonderful performance in spite of a splitting headache.
The last performance I took in was by Claire Lynch. She performed at the festival two years ago, and is always a treat. She has a lot of Southern charm onstage, and a honey-sweet voice. Her band includes several fine players, but my nephew and I especially loved watching Mark Schatz slap the bass.