So I know this might not be the best place to post this…but everyone on this board is so well informed I thought I would give it a try. Next year…for certain financial and other reasons the wife and I may not be able to make TBF. We are east coast people and were thinking of going to Merlefest as it would be a cheaper alternative. I was just looking for some info and general idea of that festival from some expereinced people. I would not expect it to be as cool as TBF…but is it a good time? Worth going? We would be driving about 7 hours to get there. I assume it is really good…the lineup from last year looks great. Any thoughts or opinions?
Merfefest is what I’d call a completely different kind of festival. I like it, but for different reasons. Some of the pros and cons… A very huge crowd, with people camped off site all over the place. So with people camping in so many places it doesn’t have that same party atmosphere that TBF and so many other fests have. But the location (North Carolina) brings you a different kind of crowd. You might say sofisticated listeners from a different culture, if that makes any sense. I enjoyed hanging with kids from the east who really knew the history behinds a lot of traditional songs and also a lot of different versions and where they came from. A whole different appreciation of music compared to west coast (where I’m from) A killer lne-up with about 9 stages so you can see all kinds of combinations of performers multiple times over the 4 days. I enjoyed that. The jamming was definitely sparse for the most part with most people coming for the entertainment it seems. Weather wise you can expect rain which as an east coast person you can understand. I’ve been there many times and really had fun, though I had to pretty much give up the jamming part for the joy of all the stages and so many choices it boggles your mind sometimes. It’s on a community college campus so it’s spread out a lot but easy to get to all the stages. Or if you want to hang at the main stage you can do that. I’d definitly go back again. Hope that helps some.
dancingfingers gives an excellent overview. It has been 5 years since I’ve been there, but I went for 3 years on and off. To me it’s the best non Planet Bluegrass festival. If I the money and the time I would do both that and Telluride every year.
There is so much music you an’t take it all in. Too many stages. Pick a stage, pick a plan, and note that walking from one stage to another you might find two pickers you like playing on stage that wasn’t on the schedule. (I swear I saw Doc Watson and John Hartford at one point and the ‘stage’ they were playing at wasn’t even suppose to be there). Some of my favorite sets I’ve seen have been at Merlefest because almost all them pick one set with a guest or two as well as a set just to themselves.
Note last time I went there was no alcohol sold or permitted and I didn’t notice any pot smoking. And the food was nothing to write home about. It’s about the music. Get up early, and plan to stay until you get too cold watching the last act on the main stage (one year it snowed). Telluride for good and bad can be about the party, if anything Merlefest could a use a bit more party - but at least you wont get Marshmallows there.
I have been to Merlefest the past five years. Feel free to message me with any questions you may have… i may be able to answer them.