Over the past decade there has been a renaissance in live music through the growth of the music festival.  Today, regardless of the kind of music you like to listen to, there is a music festival for you.  Websites like www.musicfestivalwizard.com are a great way to explore the great offerings out there.

We are lucky here in Middleburg, we have some of the best live music venues in close proximity to us and also have great festivals nearby, including Lockn’ and The Festy, and closer to us, Pasture Palooza, Rivers and Roots, and the upcoming and long running Watermelon Park Fest, on September 22-25.

Watermelon Park, located on the west banks of the Shenandoah in Berryville, has had great music for many years now. When you head to a festival there, you can immerse yourself in the experience by camping onsite, surrounded by other music lovers. The Park is pure Americana, where the campsites are framed by smells of wood smoke and BBQ, and camp music flows through the fields in harmony with the Shenandoah. Then there are the stage acts, some of the best music anywhere.  This year’s lineup is strong, and well worth the quick trip over the mountain either for the day or the whole weekend.  Headlining this year are two grandmasters of the mandolin, David Grisman and Sam Bush, and the great fiddler Mark O’Connor.

Grammy award winner Sam Bush first played Watermelon Park in the early seventies as member of the Newgrass Revival, a band that widened the bluegrass scene by pulling in several genres of music.  Bush has a huge fanbase within the newgrass world today, and his unprecedented 40+ years of playing the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has him crowned the ‘King of Telluride’.

Bush played Watermelon in September 2014, and I had the chance to catch up with him backstage to talk about his memories of Watermelon and influences of some of his musical heroes.

Bush reminisced,

“Last time we played here we were still camping out at festivals. And you know, that’s one of those things were you pick until like, 3 or 4 in the morning, jamming with your friends around a campfire and then you know, crawl in your tent about 4am and by 7:30 the sun is beating down on the tent, and you’re like ‘I gotta get outta there’. So, you never slept and you picked all day and night. And so even though we were playing here at the festival, that was one of our great things was to get to play. And even back then, you know, seeing the Osborne Brothers (www.sonnyosborne.com), and the Dillards (www.the-dillards.com), they were incredibly progressive. We were playing our rock and roll kind of bluegrass, but they were really influential on us.”

Bush continued,

“ I remember it being kind of a wide-open time for music at that time. It’s interesting, right now we’re pretty much backstage at the same stage that I played on, I guess. I’ve heard they’ve moved it around and now it’s back where it was. So it’s neat to be back here, and there are lots of pleasant memories.”

Bush just released a new album, Storyman.  It is a strong set of personal stories that returns to the musician to his roots.  It’s a great warmup before getting out to Watermelon to hear him play the songs live.

One of my favorite musicians, David Grisman is known as “Dawg”, a name given him by the great Jerry Garcia, his good friend and collaborator.  His music is a blend of bluegrass, jazz, gypsy swing, and Americana.  After 40 years of picking, he brought together the David Grisman Sextet, which plays a variety of styles including swing, latin, and the jazz infused Dawg music.  Grisman’s last tour was a duo with the indefatigable Del McCoury, where the two masters played Americana standards.  With this Sextet tour, he is back in the full ensemble format, not to be missed.

Besides the big names, Watermelon has curated a super lineup, including Wild Ponies, The Woodshedders, Town Mountain, Colebrook Road, The Honey Dewdrops, Black Masala, and the great Sierra Hull.  Both 4-day passes and day passes are available, as are camping passes and a limited number of Megamelon Artist Hospitality Pass, that gives you backstage and meal access. You can get lots more information at www.watermelonparkfest.com.  This month’s playlist features artists playing at Watermelon this year, listen to it here http://tinyurl.com/joory84