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Brushy Mountain Jamboree, Union Grove, NC- 8/17-19

There's a place nestled in the foothills of North Carolina
where the sun shines bright, the people are really nice and the music
feels your soul…Where you say? It's the Van Hoy family campground
in Union Grove (near Greensboro). With the help of the nice folks at
Smilefest productions, the Van Hoy campground has managed to bring
the people together to experience the magic where David Grisman and
Jerry Garcia first met. The energy of this amphitheater is
overwhelming and when the sun goes down and the music begins to fill
the air there's no telling what might happen. This past June
Smilefest productions teamed up with the Van Hoys for Smilefest, a
yearly event of peace, love, and music under the Carolina sunshine,
it was such a success that they decided to do it again for brushy
mountain. It all started with a beautiful campground but once you add a
covered amphitheater, nice folks, great music and sunshine you
have the Brushy Mountain Jamboree.

As everyone began to arrive Friday afternoon and unload their
tents the music began to fill the air. First
was Barefoot Manner. They set the mood for the weekend and eased
everyone into the comfort zone. As the sun began to set one of my
favorites took the stage, Mr. Larry Keel. If you have never seen The
Larry Keel Experience, do your self a favor- GO SEE HIM. The way this
man picks a guitar is amazing. As his voice filled the air,
people began to fill the amphitheater.Later, just when darkness took over the
campground, the John Cowan Band hit the stage. From the first stroke
of the guitar there were difficulties which plagued the group throughout the set.
They took a five minute break to work out
the kinks, but they never really found their sound. At times the bass
seemed to overpower the rest of the band. They were an interesting
band to hear and watch and at times they seem to be finding the
grove, but would lose it. Many folks returned to their tents at the end of Cowan's set until the sounds of "Panama Red" echoed from the stage. Who was it? None other than The David Nelson Band who energized the crowd.
At about 1am the rains began, but few cared, in particular because Larry Keel stepped up to join the DNB
for strong a rendition of "Cumberland Blues." All in all, an exhausting first night.

The second day of music began as Keith Lovett took the stage early in the
afternoon, and his one man show was the perfect beginning to the day.. His guest
mandolin player, Bingo, was a nice addition to the sound and together
they were in perfect harmony. Next on the list was Blues Bamboza. At times
their drummer seemed to overtake the sound but I was impressed by
their performance. I missed the next few bands, but my tentmates and camping neighbors said that
Railroad Earth is a must-see. I was quite pleased to see Space station Interrelation.
They combined various ideas and sound and they are definitely
a band to look for in the future. They are one of my new favorites
and I will pass the word around.

As the temperature dropped and everyone ate dinner, we all waited in anticipation for the night
of music ahead. First up was Tony Rice and Larry Keel, joined by the Experience and Curtis
Birch. There were some difficulties in the beginning, but soon they
disappeared and the vocals blended well with the instruments. Then
everyone except Larry and Tony left the stage and the two were left to pick with
each other. although David Via showed up for a little impromptu jam. Sam Bush performed
next, and I was in awe of all of his instruments sitting on stage and couldn't wait to
see him play. I wasn't disappointed- this man plays the mandolin as if it was an extension of his arm.
He was joined by numerous guest including the guitarist from Hootie
and The Blowfish. The night ended with personal favorites Acoustic Syndicate, contributing an energetic set.
I am glad to know that other people are starting to listen to their music and enjoying it.

As Sunday morning took over (there was drums circles
to the left, John Hartford requests to the right and Dead kaoroke
behind me) I thought I would never be able to get up and pack to come
home. But wait, weren't Curtis and Ruth Birch gonna play a set? Yes,
And they were joined once again by The Larry Keel Experience. This
was the perfect closing to a wonderful weekend as they
harmonized with perfection. It was just what we needed before
driving back to Wilmington.

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