September 22, 2009

Live Review: 7th Annual Southern Coastal & Bluegrass Festival

Live Review: 7th Annual Southern Coastal & Bluegrass Festival
Kure Beach, NC // Sept. 19–20, 2009

Kure Beach is a long way from the mountains of North Carolina, perhaps even for a bluegrass festival on the retired Fort Fisher Air Force Base. But during the first day of the festival, the base couldn’t have been more proper for settling down to listen to music performed from 10 a.m. To 8 p.m. Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the smell of funnel cakes and Greek food permeated the air while parents and kids played and danced (mostly the kids danced that afternoon it seemed) in the sunshine. A few hippie chicks at the front spun around with hula hoops as they slow danced with themselves.

Amongst the cypress and live oak trees, music echoed and reverberated, giving it an ethereal and long-lost quality. The afternoon was rich with music that sounded from a period long gone. Many of the performers performed dual sets throughout the day. Even conversations performers had with the crowd between songs felt friendly and unfamiliar as many performers hardly speak or address an audience at shows. It made the whole affair more welcoming as they spoke – telling stories about songs, about themselves and engaging the crowd who were comfortably seated in the comfort of lawn chairs and holding cold bottles of beer.

By late afternoon Ken Scoggins & Miller’s Creek took on their second set of the day and bridged humorous songs with gospel ones. Ken spoke at length about not wanting to perform a song about a possum, asking the crowd not to clap because it would only encourage Gentleman Bill Scoggins to play it more. It was all in jest, but as Bill stepped to the microphone all the fuss made sense as he sang about a “possum in the headlights tonight.”

Next, A Deeper Shade of Blue tore through a banjo heavy set. At one point lead guitarist and singer Troy Pope popped a string and changed it faster than a pit crew could change a tire. To his left, banjo player Jim Fraley played feverishly, his eyes tearing to the right watching for Pope to jump back in. The band was pure fun and energy, the rock 'n' roll equivalent of a bluegrass band, especially on the raucous and high flying “Bluegrass to the Bone.”

Closing out the night was The Wells Family, comprised of mother Debi; her three daughters, Eden, Jade and Sara; and bass player Philip Bishop. They were a surprise and change of pace, melding country harmonies from separate eras with strong acoustic music. When singing together it was blissful, beatific and tempered. Jade sang with fiery strength, with the heart and soul of a woman in love or a woman scorned. Eden’s violin playing matched her timber, dolling out delicate and hardened sounds. As the sun disappeared into night the band stood out much more as they began to play “You go, I’ll stay.” It was quite a sight to see and hear a mother and her daughters playing such beautiful music and a fine place in the world to hear it.

-Review and photos by Brian Tucker

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