Thank you to all the volunteers who made this weekend’s Blueberry Bluegrass a complete success. And even bigger thanks to all the patrons who purchased tickets, camped, bought raffle tickets and merchandise, and supported our vendors, food trucks, musicians, and the businesses of Stony Plain this weekend: the festival cannot exist without your commitment and continued patronage. As a festival volunteer I am already looking forward to 2023’s festival, and hope you are, too.
I’m going to share some of my snapshots from the festival, as well as identify my Top Ten takeaways of Blueberry Bluegrass 2022.
Beyond the ticket-purchasing patrons, the most important people associated with the fest are Anna Somerville, tireless president of the society and visionary, and Carolyn Hotte who has been booking and organizing the talent since 2017. They are an absolutely amazing team, leading a group of volunteers who are fully invested in the festival’s success. Here are some pictures with brief descriptions.
Fervor Coulee’s Blueberry 2022 Top 10
- The venue, the vibe, the people, the organization- the absolute best Canadian bluegrass festival experience you could imagine. Year after year, no matter the weather, budget, economic circumstance, or lineup of entertainment, the leadership of Blueberry demonstrate their skills in assembling an incredible weekend of music.
2. David Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Five Mile Mountain Road- The Price Sisters: sharing members effortlessly to present three distinct musical visions- Billy Hurt played with each of the groups, seamlessly infusing his interpretation of bluegrass and old-time country fiddling with his friends and musical neighbours. For a variety of reasons- the ongoing pandemic chiefly- the bandleaders were forced to improvise their lineups, presentation, and performances, and each did so successfully. The youngest members of the groups- Connor Vlietstra (What a voice!), Caleb ‘Duke’ Erickson, Trevor Holder (What a voice!)- displayed dexterity and excellence in bringing bluegrass and hardcore country sounds to the various stages. From the senior master, Mr. David Davis, to the youngest- a by-necessity sisterless Lauren Price- and most versatile- fiddling Billy Hurt- we witnessed a weekend of dedication, perseverance, and excellence.
3. The Barrel Boys were (perhaps) the weekend’s biggest hit, drawing large audiences for each of their performances and displaying a penchant for original songwriting seldom encountered within our genre. From Ontario, the group has been going for a decade but were making their Blueberry (and Alberta, I think) debut; they will be back! An excellent group- I’ll need to explore their recordings.
4. Shawn Lane & Richard Bennett- two acoustic masters, the pair held sway especially well on the more intimate, indoor Fillmore Stage, playing and singing for over an hour. Not even the overly-anxious stage manager minded too much.
5. Prairie Sky is an Edmonton bluegrass band comprised of several friends of Fervor Coulee, but for a number of reasons a band I have never previously caught live. They did not disappoint, providing a lovely shade of ‘grass on an extra warm Saturday afternoon. Loved every moment of their performance.
6. Don Rigsby & the Fly-By-Nights- Since I was emceeing on another stage, I was able to catch only one of Don Rigsby’s two sets, but it was fair magic. Rigsby was in great voice, and seemed less distracted than on previous occasions when I have caught his performances. With a crackerjack band, Rigsby’s voice sailed throughout the grounds. Memorable for all the right reasons. Shawn Lane joining in for the second set was a significant bonus.
7. Missy Raines & Allegheny- This year, Blueberry was able to present a number of bluegrass legends, and Missy Raines certainly belongs on that list. Ten-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year, Raines has received four additional IBMA awards and brought an amazingly talented band to Blueberry. Beautiful sounds.
8. Sadie’s Ghost- I strongly suspected I was going to enjoy this old-time band’s music, and I wasn’t wrong. Playing a range of music of the past and present, this Edmonton quartet impressed all who were introduced to their music. Playing “I’ve Endured” is a sure way to get into my good books.
9. The Local Group- Bluegrass always needs youthful energy to provide fresh infusion, and The Local Group brought that an more. A very satisfying set of well-performed originals and familiar numbers was performed on Sunday afternoon, and I am sure throughout the weekend.
10. Lonesome Town Painters- with the festival presenting 18 different performers across the weekend, not all my favourite memories could be included, but I needed to fit in this Vancouver-based band who made it to Blueberry on three tires and a prayer. Good people, great music. The audience loved them, and I’ll have to invest in their music soon.
Three days of Blueberry Bluegrass summarized in a dozen fairly lousy snapshots and a selection of rambling words. Doesn’t do the festival justice, I am sure but I hope it captures something of the brilliance of the weekend. Everyone needs to make plans to attend Blueberry Bluegrass’ 36th iteration in 2023. It really doesn’t matter who is booked for the festival- you can be assured it is going to be a wonderful event.