The 19th Annual Suwannee Springfest offered an array of music including Bluegrass, Country, Folk and Rock n Roll. Although each musical act was spectacular, we felt like narrowing it down to the top 5 performances of the weekend.
I didn’t know much about Cabinet before coming to Springfest, but their midnight set on Thursday really impressed me.
The first thing I realized about Cabinet was their smooth song progression. Each track built off the last, making the set feel like a story being told through music. The reverberation Cabinet used created echoing melodies that floated through the dug-in, tree-filled amphitheater stage.
These guys are definitely not your average bluegrass band. Their percussionist Jami Novak added depth to their music and more rhythm to each track. The fiddle player Todd Kopec seemed to be the focal point of the band, especially during the jam sessions.
At times Cabinet appeared to be quite psychedelic, and they even used reggae techniques in some of their songs. They’re a very alternative / indie-minded bluegrass band that push the boundaries of their genre. Mandolin player Mark Schimick joined them for a few songs, including “Nashville Blues,” and returned to close the show with some good ol’ fashion bluegrass.
4. Keller Williams & The Travelin’ McCourys
Most people have heard of Keller & The McCoury’s so their set was expected to be one of the best of the weekend. Keller’s fun lyrics and charismatic personality really promise for a great show.
The band gathered on stage and began tuning their instruments as the crowd gathered into the amphitheater with joy. A few songs in, Keller and the boys covered “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer, which funked up the place and got everybody on their feet.
The band mostly played a compilation of songs from their 2012 album “Pick” with tracks such as “Something Else,” “American Car,” and the sing-along “Price Tag.” To my pleasure, all the songs I had been hoping to hear were played with perfect harmony. They also played a new song they had been working on called “The Drop.”
In order to pick things up a bit, Larry Keel joined the stage for “Corn Liquor.” Keel’s deep, raspy rugged voice created a sense on intensity and emotion in the dark wooded amphitheater. To add even more spice, Jeff Austin jumped on stage and took over on vocals for a cover of Danny Barnes’ “Pretty Daughter.”
3. Del McCoury & David Grisman (Del & Dawg)
Del McCoury and David Grisman were the Thursday night headliners and premier act to start a weekend full of wonderful music. The duo has known each other for years and don’t often collaborate together, so seeing the two seasoned veterans was a unique experience.
In between songs Del & Dawg would tell stories of their humble beginnings and how they became friends. Folk tails of legendary bluegrass musicians such as Earl Scruggs were peppered into the set. The crowd chuckled with amusement and had fun learning some history. The fans may have applauded anything the prolific duo had to say, but these tales were special!
The most incredible aspect of this set would definitely have be how Del & Dawg selected each song at random through the entire show. The two took time between each song to discuss what they would play next, resulting in a completely improvised set was full of some of their own songs and tracks from bluegrass legends. They covered Tennessee Waltz (Former State Song of Tennessee) by Patti Page and “I’m My Own Grandpa” by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe.
2. The Infamous Stringdusters
The Country/Bluegrass band played two sets: a late night set on Saturday and an early afternoon set on Sunday. The late night set on the Porch Stage was my favorite of the two because of the intimacy of the night and the song selection.
I enjoy the Stringdusters music a lot but had never seen them live up to this point. The Dusters wasted no time diving into their set with “Where the Rivers Run Cold,” and the crowd was ecstatic as the evening turned into a pleasant surprise.
As I danced around the crowd, the Dusters continued to play hits like “Walking On the Moon.” The band would switch gears from singing to an all-out extended jam blitz.
Collectively The Infamous Stringdusters showed the most chemistry and musicianship as each member in the band took turns soloing and showing off their skills. I was quite impressed with the dobro player Andy Hall and his twangy country licks.
1.The Larry Keel Experience
Keel and his band had the privilege of playing on Saturday night during a beautiful sunset. I know from experience that if you can put on a great show during a sunset, it’s certain to be one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. Sure enough, it was my number one.
Keel’s set was the most collaborated set of the weekend as well, with Mark Schimick on the mandolin joining for a few songs before Keller Williams hopped on stage, shoeless as usual.
Just as the set seemed like it couldn’t get anymore exciting, an entire gang of musicians flooded the stage. Jeff Austin, Jon Stickley, Keller Williams, Larry Keel and Mark Schimick were just a few of the 16 pickers on stage!
The gigantic group of artists played a few songs together in perfect harmony as the sun dropped below the tree line of the Suwannee forest. Each instrument was placed together and took turns in harmonizing solos. I have never seen a super jam this large and that in-sync. I was amazed and privileged to witness such artistry, and that’s what made Larry Keels set the most impressive during the 19th Annual Suwannee Springfest.