By PETER PAPPALARDO
is alive and well in North Carolina, with three events in as many weeks
that will provide top-notch entertainment to bluegrass lovers.
The first of these, the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival, will be held
from Thursday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Sept. 28 in Manteo.
festival features an all-star roster of bluegrass greats, including
Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Blue Highway, Ricky Skaggs, Dailey and
Vincent, and dozens of other local, regional, and national bluegrass
and newgrass bands.
is no denying the beauty of the venue for the festival, located at
Waterfront Park in Manteo. The water views of Shallowbag
Bay serve as the backdrop for the stage, confirming the festival’s
claim of bringing mountain music to the sea. Besides the music, there
are vendors, a band contest, and fireworks on Friday night.
at the previous two festivals have heaped praise on the event for
providing stellar lineups of bands, possible in part because the autumn
months fall after the outdoor bluegrass festival circuit is finished
north of the Mason-Dixon line after Labor Day, while the bigger
festivals in Florida have not yet commenced.
like the Lonesome River Band and Blue Highway are good examples of the
second generation of bluegrass pickers, musicians much younger than
Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Earl Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers,
the founding fathers of bluegrass.
bluegrass bands are ones which utilize the configurations of guitar,
mandolin and/or fiddle, banjo, and bass used by the masters, although
bluegrass bands can and do use other instruments as well. The
difference in the approach of newer bands is to use bluegrass
instruments and conventions to play jazz, rock, swing, blues or pop
tunes in a bluegrass style, to broaden the range of music considered
Steep Canyon Rangers are known beyond bluegrass circles, mainly because
they have toured with Steve Martin, who was a proficient banjoist
before he was a comedic success. Another band, Carolina-based
Nu-Blue, centers around the vocal talent of Carolyn Routh, a
self-avowed rocker with a haunting and powerful bluegrass voice.
is just one example of female bluegrass vocalists and players like
Allison Krause, Rhonda Vincent, and Clair Lynch who are claiming their
rightful place among bluegrass greats.
A recently recorded
Nu-Blu tribute to the late George Jones, entitled “Jesus and Jones,” is
a great example of the melding of musical worlds. The recording
features a vocal duet with soul star Sam Moore, who had actually spent
time with Jones on tour over his long career, and by rights could be a
cross-over hit on the R&B charts as well as being a superb
has made appearances a little further down the beach, having performed
this past year at Red Drum Pottery in Frisco. Here, local
musician Wes Lassiter hosts a Wednesday night weekly bluegrass concert
along with his band, Banjo Island.
The band includes
Lassiter on banjo, his wife Rhonda Bates on bass, and newest Banjo
Islander Lucas Wayne Raye on a variety of instruments, including
guitar, mandolin and cello, another example of stretching the bluegrass
envelope. Lassiter is heavily involved in running the festival,
and Banjo Island will be performing there as well.
used to more traditional bluegrass festivals will find some features of
this event that don’t fit the standard festival model. There is
no camping on the festival grounds where aspiring bluegrass pickers
will stay up all night trying to steal each other’s material, although
jam events at near-by venues afford the chance for bluegrass musicians
to take part in impromptu jam sessions.
aspects of the festival are more traditional. Like any good fair or
festival, the atmosphere would not be complete unless it was encircled
by vendors selling food and merchandise. Festival-goers during
the previous two OBX festivals were generous in their praise of the
quality and variety of the food and happy to shop the merchandise at
most bluegrass festivals have one price for weekend tickets, there are
three different levels of weekend tickets for the OBX festival -- a
four day pass for $110, a pass for $200, which includes backstage
access, and a third tier of VIP tickets, which includes preferential
seating in front of the stage as well as access to parking on festival
Single day passes are $40 per day, $15 for children between the ages of 7 and 12, and children’s four-day passes are $50.
to the festival website, “Due to the unique location of the festival,
which is on a 27-acre island off downtown Manteo, parking is limited."
The site says that parking on the island is reserved for wheelchair
handicap, VIP's, band members and vendors only. All festival attendee
parking will be located at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (The
Lost Colony Parking Lot). Shuttle service will be provided for a fee of
$5 for an all day pass and will run every 20 minutes to each location.
Shuttles will begin at 9 a.m.
For the daily schedule of performers and more information, go to the website, http://www.bluegrassisland.com