I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to attend The Bluegrass Situation Festival at the Greek Theater on October 3, 2015 (follow the link for a thorough summary of the event on their web site, with gorgeous professional photos). My main goal for attending was to see the Punch Brothers, those incredible musicians and innovators of progressive bluegrass, and secondarily to see Dawes, an L.A.-based band that all my concert-going friends seems to know about, but I just discovered this year. The concert was really one of two halves — the first, which this blog entry covers, was held on a stage on the plaza outside of the theater and the second held in the theater itself — offering two different atmospheres and attendee experiences.
The bands scheduled for the first half included: The Wild Reeds, The Dustbowl Revival, Spirit Family Reunion, and Sam Outlaw. I arrived at the festival with a friend toward the end of The Wild Reeds set and wasn’t able to spend much time listening before they finished up. I was glad to see a band on stage led by three ladies as I have been recently feeling bothered by the lack of predominately female bands. I recommend viewing this concert for KPSU if you are interested in hearing more from this group.
We found a place near the front of the stage to watch The Dustbowl Revival. With their infectious enthusiasm ever present, one can’t help but have a good time when this band is playing. They energized the crowd by playing a great set of songs from their new album With a Lampshade On, including: “Lampshade On;” “Hey Baby” (love that one); “Old Joe Clark;” “Never Had to Go” (their official video of this one features Dick Van Dyke — just follow that link — also borrowed a line from this song for the blog post title); “Cherokee Shuffle;” and “Whiskey in the Well.” They also played a few old favorites and traditional numbers, including “John the Revelator” and “Riverboat Queen” (Liz Beebe on fire on lead vocals on that number) from their album Carry Me Home; a cover of the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “Down By the Riverside.” They finished off their set by taking their instruments into the crowd and encouraging all to join in singing the traditional tune “Midnight Special.” That was truly a special moment.
Following The Dustbowl Revival, Spirit Family Reunion carried on the festive festival atmosphere. The band hails from New York, but their sound feels straight outta Appalachia — combining traditional bluegrass and Americana styles with a let-loose gospel fervor. Their spirited music is sure to make you want to dance, stomp your feet, call back, and clap along. Their set included the songs: “I Want to Be Relieved;” “It Does Not Bother Me” from their album Hands Together; a song with the lyric, “One thing for sure, I hate the law…” which had some clever lyrics and was sung by their fiddler, but which I cannot find a title for; “To All My Friends and Relations” from the No Separation album; “Alright Prayer” from their self-titled album, and the vibrant “Wake Up, Rounder!” also from Hands Together. Had so much fun during this band’s energetic set.
Next Sam Outlaw took over the stage with his smooth, classic country-flavored music. He opened with the song “It Might Kill Me” from his recent album Angeleno. I also caught another one from Angeleno, a straightforward love song called “Love Her For a While,” which was evocative of the style of 1970’s country songs. We only listened to a few songs before deciding it was time to purchase some merchandise and dinner prior to the main stage event (and we were glad we did, because there wasn’t much time between the outer stage finishing and the main stage beginning).