What up festi-folks, Danny Waltman here, aka the luckiest man alive. "Why?" You ask. Because I am on my way to the Blue Ox Music Festival occurring June 8-10 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Nothing but picking and grinning all weekend, and blue skies to boot.
I am writing this from The Nucleus Cafe in downtown Eau Claire, where I just ate one of the best breakfasts I've ever had. I highly recommend this place. I've never had so much trouble deciding what to get because everything looks so good. The drive into this town of about 70,000 was beautiful with rolling hills on each side of the highway covered by a wide variety of trees. We were welcomed last night with great food and friendly faces at the Stella Blues bar and restaurant. It’s clear, this is a music town. With live-music nearly every night and an outdoor blues concert every Tuesday all summer long, plus a few other music festivals. But this weekend it's all about bluegrass.
The Blue Ox 2017 lineup is going to be hard to beat. Everyone's going to be there, and I mean everyone. Sam Bush, Greensky Bluegrass, the Travelin’ McCourys, Jeff Austin band, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, Keller and the Keels, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the one and only Billy Strings, and the list goes on and on. I know what you're thinking right now, and yes there's still time to get here so hurry up and pack the car!
Most of the artists here have been on a Bluegrass train (hypothetical train, not actually on a real train) that started two weeks ago at the Dell Fest in Maryland, made its way to the John Hartford Memorial Festival in Indiana last weekend, and has now arrived in Eau Claire. One major difference is timing of the Grateful Ball, which is the Jeff Austin band and the Travelin’ McCourys playing Bluegrass versions of Grateful Dead tunes. It is usually the last blowout party at festivals but here at the Blue Ox it will be the on the first night if the festival. This will only set the tone for a weekend filled with high-level playing and what I believe will be heavily Grateful Dead inspired music, and most importantly, love.
As excited as I am for the music that will take place on stage, I am even more excited about the jamming that will happen in the campground all night long. It is common at these festivals to see big time musicians joining in the jams after they finish on stage. There is nothing better than going to sleep and waking up to people playing stringed instruments.
Well that's all I got for now, it's hot here and we're going to go take a dip in the Chippewa River that runs through town, then head to the festival tomorrow morning. I will send you updates and pictures throughout this amazing Festival.
Peace, love, and Banjos to all.