The tears I cry for you, could fill an ocean.
But you don’t care how many tears I cry.
And though you only lead me on and hurt me.
I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye.
Cause everybody’s somebody’s fool.
Everybody’s somebody’s plaything.
And there are no exceptions to the rule.
Yes, everybody’s somebody’s fool.

Happy April Fools Day! This song is “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” performed by Sierra Hull and written by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller.

Bluegrass Festivals this Summer

by Mark Panfil

April, of course, has many other substantial days in it. The lists of songs dealing with Easter and the weeks leading up to it are almost too many to mention. Here is a link to a pretty comprehensive list for Easter Sunday.

Around April every year I start getting notices about Bluegrass Festivals coming up. In this month’s JAM Bluegrass Roundup I’m hoping to share some that are not to far to drive to and maybe shed some light on what these festivals are like.

As you pull into a bluegrass festival for the first time you may be in a line with a trailer or two in front of you. Most experienced bluegrass festival goers camp out for two or three nights at the festival. Some in RVs, some in tents and some just in their van or car. My wife and I camped in a VW Beetle back in our younger days.

The price to get in varies from festival to festival. Some times camping is free, sometimes you pay. Some of them are in established campgrounds with electricity and water hook ups, but more often that that, they are rough camping. No hook ups. Bring a cooler for your food and beer. You can usually buy food for a very reasonable price at a food tent or truck set up for the weekend.

Some have multiple stages with music being played at each and you make a decision on who most interests you. Bring a lawn chair and plan on leaving it set up all week end in the same spot. Nobody will take it and it’s your place to sit for the weekend. Some festivals post a sign that says you are welcome to sit in any empty chair until the owner shows up and asks for their seat back, and everybody is good with that.

People watch bands and later visit back at the campsite with old and new friends. Many people who come play a bluegrass instrument and look forward to jamming with others camping near by. These jams are casual and fun. There are rules of etiquette with these jams. Here is a good video about “how to jam with bluegrass people”

Bluegrass is not like rock or country, especially at festivals. You will not stand behind Mick Jagger or Blake Shelton in line for an ice cream cone at a rock or country festival, but you may see Del McCoury or Jerry Douglas walking through the food area and perhaps sitting to visit with a fan or an old friend. These artists are approachable. They are regular folks and they will be polite and answer questions or even engage in conversations with the fans. They will be at the merchandise table after their sets to visit and sell CDs and various T-shirts, etc.

Many of these bluegrass festivals have programs designed to bring in families. Kids tents with games and children-focused entertainment, night time kids movies after it gets dark, or even bluegrass kids academies where teachers teach school age musicians how to play bluegrass songs so that they can play them on the same stage as the big bands on Sunday for an adoring crowd of parents and other festival goers. My brother, Chris, and I have been running programs just like that for many years at the Grey Fox Festival and the Wind Gap Festivals. Many of these festivals also have scheduled workshops for adults who want to learn tips on how to play their bluegrass instruments better or hear stories from their bluegrass heroes.

These bluegrass festivals happen all over America, Canada and Europe. Hundreds happen every year. They usually go from Thursday or Friday until Sunday.

Here are some of them within a comfortable drive from Buffalo.

Concert Review of John McEuen at the Sportsmen’s Tavern
by Chris Panfil

March 16 brought John McEuen, founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt band to the Sportsman’s Tavern for a long set dedicated to the breakthrough album “Will the Circle be Unbroken.”

He was joined by Les Thompson (another NGDB original) as they presented music and film clips from the album which spawned a generation of enthusiasts. He spoke of the initial meeting of Doc Watson and Merle Travis, his introduction to Earl Scruggs and the thrill of recording with them.

Along for the ride was Bryon McDowell on guitar and mandolin. The crowd was mesmerized by the first-hand accounts and performances of that genre-altering recording.

April Bluegrass Shows in Great Buffalo

The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars, Doug Yeomans, Mark Panfil, Rich and Sally Schaefer, are playing at 42 North Brewing Co. in East Aurora on Saturday, April 15, 8-11 p.m. The last time we played there it was an incredible energy filled room with great beer, food and bluegrass! No cover.


Friday, April 21, Folkfaces at 7 p.m. at the West Falls Center for the Arts. Folkfaces is Buffalo-based roots music quartet. Folkfaces play a mix of original and traditional music, taking its influence from weird old American music to create an energetic variety show and traveling music revue. They explore a wide range of genres, including country blues, traditional jazz, rock and roll, honky tonk, western swing, bluegrass and oldtime jugband music and more.

The music is driven by songwriter and front man Tyler Westcott (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica, kazoo) who founded the band in 2011. You can find more about them at their website.

Kitchen Dwellers

On Sun, April 30, 4  p.m., the Kitchen Dwellers will be at Buffalo Iron Works. Hailing from Bozeman, Mont., the Kitchen Dwellers equally embody the spirit and soul of their home with a sonic palette as expansive as Montana’s vistas. The quartet — Shawn Swain (mandolin), Torrin Daniels (banjo), Joe Funk (upright bass) and Max Davies (acoustic guitar) — twist bluegrass, folk and rock through a kaleidoscope of homegrown stories, rich mythology, American west wanderlust, and psychedelic hues. After amassing five  million-plus streams, selling out shows, and receiving acclaim from Huffington Post, Relix, American Songwriter and more, the group brings audiences back to Big Sky Country on its third full-length album, “Wise River,” working with Cory Wong of Vulfpeck as producer.

Coming up after April

Monday, May 1, The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble will present a Spring concert and Bake Sale at Wayside Presbyterian Church, 5017 Lake Shore Rd., in Hamburg. This is a group of about 25 middle and high school-age bluegrass musicians from all over Western New York who play banjos, fiddles, guitars, mandolins, cellos, violas and bass. They practice twice a month at Wayside and are taught and led by Mark Panfil, Bill Matthews, Mark Gannon and Chris Panfil. The show starts at 7 p.m. and a free will offering will be available instead of a cover charge.

Danny Paisley and Southern Grass

Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass with the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble at 7 p.m.,  Saturday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. at the West Falls Center for the Arts. Paisley and the Southern Grass play powerful, unadorned and intense traditional bluegrass. There is no hybrid or genre-bending music here. Their combination of instrumentation and vocals convey the energy and emotion of classic bluegrass and country music. Danny’s lead vocals will captivate your senses, so much so that many prominent musicians, including Alison Krauss, have considered Danny as one of their favorite singers. His voice combines powerful range and soulful blues with a sound like no one else in bluegrass today. Members of the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble will  open the concert.

Here is a video of the proud day I played with the band:


Acadian Wild

Arcadian Wild on Friday, June 9, 9 p.m. at the Sportsmen’s Tavern. The Arcadian Wild is a four-piece indie folk/pop group from Nashville, led by songwriters Isaac Horn and Lincoln Mick and Bailey Warren on fiddle. The Arcadian Wild confidently inhabits and explores an intersection of genre, blending the traditional with the contemporary.  They combine elements of progressive bluegrass, folk and formal vocal music.

Check them out here:

The Kevin Prater Band

Kevin Prater Band, June 7, at Community Fellowship Church, 3144 Johnson Creek Rd, Middleport. From the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, the Kevin Prater Band delivers its unique “coal-fired pure Kentucky bluegrass” with additions of classic country, grassed-up vintage rock, original songs and emotion-filled bluegrass gospel music.  The Kevin Prater Band is frequently recognized and celebrated for its stellar harmonies and a capella singing.

Here is a sample:

Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers

Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers will be at West Falls Center for the Arts on Friday, June 30, 7 p.m. Joe Mullins was born and raised in southwestern Ohio. He is a master of the traditional styles of bluegrass banjo. He owns and DJ’s several radio stations in Ohio featuring traditional bluegrass shows. He and his band, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, are members of the Grand Ole Opry and have won multiple awards through the years from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)  and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA). Again, members of the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble will open the show.

Check them Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers here:

John Cowan and his Bluegrass All Stars band at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.   John was the bass player and a lead vocalist in the groundbreaking bluegrass band Newgrass Revival back in the 1980s along with Bela Fleck, Pat Flynn and Sam Bush. His soaring tenor voice and groove filled bass lines helped propel the NGR to the forefront of the modern newgrass movement in bluegrass (bluegrass that borders on rock, reggae, jazz and soulful gospel). Since the NGR broke up, Cowan has guested on many recordings, toured with his own band, the John Cowan Band, and he has been the bass player and has been a major part of the vocal sound for the Doobie Brothers. Lately when he is off the road from The Doobie Brothers, he fronts an all-star packed group named “The Newgrass All-Stars.” Jim Hurst, Shad Cobb, Johnny Staats and Steven Moore will accompany John at the Sportsmen’s Tavern this time. John will also return to the road with the Doobies as they tour Japan, Australia, Canada and the US in 2023. Cowan is a dynamic singer, bass player and band leader and should not be missed this fall.

Here’s a sample:

This month the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars will be playing at the Sportsmens Tavern for bluegrass lunch on Thursdays, April 6 and  20, from noon to 2:15 p.m. On April 6, The All Stars will welcome Ben Proctor, banjo master from Rochester.

Here is a video of his Rochester band, The Crooked North.

The Bluegrass jam at Bennington Lanes in Bennington, NY is canceled in April because it would fall on Easter Sunday.

The Brothers Blue will be hosting their Old Time style jam at 42 North on Sunday April 16 from 4-7 p.m.

Before I close, I have sad news in the local Bluegrass scene. Dave Soda passed away this past March. Dave played banjo for Billy Hamilton and the Bluegrass Almanac and later played mandolin with Poplar Ridge. He was an inspiration to many of the current bluegrass players. RIP, Dave. May you find great jamming among many old friends.

I hope you have a great April and I’ll check in again in May.

Till then, Keep on Pickin’

Mark Panfil/


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