In 38 days the annual camp meeting that is Merlefest will begin. I grew up with a love for the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and then Young), James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Over time, and through my thirties and forties my tastes drifted toward country and then roots and, at times, bluegrass and jazz. I am not sure how I came to make the pilgrimage to Merlefest, but for the past decade I have been there (there is an exception–every four years I have been elected to a conference that is held by United Methodists–you don’t want to know about it—but it prohibits me from being in Wilkesboro).
My most memorable moments at Merlefest: a breakout concert by Nickel Creek, when the audience literally would not allow them to leave the stage; getting to meet Darrell Scott and thanking him for his anti-war song; seeing my college age daughter dance to the music of Donna The Buffalo; the swelling of the crowds the spring after O Brother, Where Art Thou; the absolutely delicious food, furnished by local vendors; and listening to Steve Earle, at midnight, in a driving rainstorm. And the Duhks….amazing.
I went one year with a friend whose son was, at the time, in Iraq. It was wonderful to sit under the stars and to hear him say that it was great to be around “a whole bunch of people who are worrying about things I am not even thinking about”. There have been years when I have gone alone, and have not encountered a single person that I knew, and that was ok. There was Chris Hillman, and Sam Bush and Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, and I could go on. It is, I realize, the same music that I learned to love as a teenager in the 70s, only it has migrated to this genre, or sorts, and at Merlefest there is plenty of it.
I am looking forward to Merlefest….only 38 days.