When Fall Comes to New England
By Cheryl Wheeler
When Fall comes to New England
The sun slants in so fine
And the air’s so clear
You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine
The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean
And in the blue sky overhead
The northern geese fly south instead
And leaves are Irish setter red
A Review of the Mayville Bluegrass Festival
From 2002 to 2009, the Mayville Bluegrass festival was held at Lakeside Park and in a variety of restaurants on the shores of Chautauqua Lake. Bluegrass legends like Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Sierra Hull, Rhonda Vincent and Norman Blake played this Western New York Bluegrass festival.
The festivals ended after 2009, but Bill Ward, composer, singer and guitar player from Mayville who presented the earlier festivals, found a new home for the festival in 2019, the beautiful grounds of the Big Inlet Brewery in Mayville.
This year the festival had a beautiful day and a record breaking crowd. There was a full lineup of local bluegrass bands (Blue Mule from Ellicottville, Old Dawgs New Tricks, Mark Mincerelli, Water Horse, Bill Ward with Tyler Westcott and Sally Schaefer, Deep Fried and Dipped in Honey, Knarly Knuckles, Creek Bend and Mountain Run.
The setting is an old orchard with plenty of shade, picnic tables or room for lawn chairs and excellent craft beer, oh, and food trucks! Add this to the great live bluegrass and bluegrass-flavored bands and you have a real hit. Every band that I heard that afternoon sounded great, but I do have my favorite highlights.
I loved the dynamic trio of Bill Ward, Sally Schaefer and Tyler Westcott. All three can lead a band by themselves and they do, but together they hit a new level of musicality.
The headliner of the festival was Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio fame, and his show was were amazing. Instrumentally it was Gene on mandolin, Jeff Wiser on fiddle, Scott Mcelhaney on guitar and Butch Amiot on bass, and they were exceptional. Gene and Jeff used to play in a ground breaking bluegrass group with Eddie Adcock of the Country Gentlemen. That group was called Second Generation. These guys were all of the seasoned pickers that you would expect, but I have to say the vocals and the arrangements put this band over the edge to phenomenal.
Deep Fried and Dipped in Honey is from the hotbed of old-timey string bands (Ithaca, N.Y.), had a great sound and fit perfectly in the expanded bluegrass soundscape. Knarly Knuckles from Williamsport, Pa., hit all the right song choices for my old hippie ears. I felt like I was listening to a cross between the Old and in the Way band and the Seldom Scene.
Doug Yeomans led his band, Mountain Run, out of a quiet spell with a great showing with Jim Whitford on bass and a return to the bluegrass stage by John Martz and Phil Banaszak.
Another big first for any Mayville bluegrass festival was onsite, free rough camping, which I took advantage of along with a small handful of diehard festival campers.
The day was a resounding success and hopefully will grow even more next year. I will be reminding folks as next August approaches about how much fun this one was.
The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble at the Erie County Fair
On the last day of the Erie County Fair (Aug. 20), the young musicians of the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble (BBYE) took the stage in Slade Park and delivered some 34 toe-tapping and soul-stirring tunes and songs to a full park of friends and family. Fifteen middle schoolers and another 15 high school bluegrass musicians played songs including “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Old Slew Foot,” “Wagon Wheel” and “No Ash Will Burn.” The instrumental tunes included “Angeline the Baker,” “Golden Slippers” and “Orange Blossom Special.”
The BBYE is looking for new kids to join us this fall. We are a free bluegrass music club run that I run in Hamburg with the help of several professional bluegrass musicians. We are open to any students, grades 5-12, who play violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin, five-string banjo or Dobro. We meet every first, third and fifth Monday of the months October through June at Wayside Presbyterian Church on the corner of Amsdell Road and Route 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Public performances may range from appearances in farmers farkets, to fairs and appropriate museums. Learn more about us by searching Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble on Facebook. If you know of someone, please ask them to email me at MarkPanfil@Hotmail.com
Upcoming Bluegrass Shows
The Appleumpkin Festival in Wyoming, N.Y. – Sept. 23 and 24
This two-day mega-music and crafts festival has been growing since 1986. Multiple bands play throughout the village of Wyoming, and endless folk artists and crafters make this a prime destination for couples and families alike. Whether shopping is your thing or watching live music is your thing or just driving out to a beautiful historical village on a colorful autumn day, all bases are covered here.
Bluegrass happens in the tent in front of the Historical Society building on Main Street. This year Creek Bend starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, followed by the Panfil Family Band made up of Scott, Jude and Chris Panfil, Katie Panfil-Clark, Jayson Clark and myself. At 2 p.m., the Diamond Back Rattlers take the stage, with the Matthews Family Tradition following them at 3:45. Classic rock, blues and country are featured at another stage just down the street on the same festival grounds. The next day it all starts again with different bands taking the stage and another full day of music, crafts and food vendors. Oh, and did I mention, this is all free?
The Borderland Music Festival in East Aurora – Sept. 15-17
The Borderland Arts and music festival has been bringing great music and some of the best in bluegrass for the last few years. On Friday the bluegrass band Dirty Blanket from the Finger Lakes (more about them a little later in this article) plays a set, and on Sunday the Infamous String Dusters and Folkfaces each play a set.
The Folkfaces Festival in Darien Center – Sept. 28-Oct.1
The Buffalo Bluegrass Allstars will present a square dance on Friday and later in the festival Dirty Blanket will play a set.
The progressive bluegrass band Dirty Blanket has toured the Northeast, making names for itself on festival circuits and in cities like New York, Washington, Baltimore, Burlington and more. To date, they’ve shared stages with some of the highest profile names in bluegrass, including Billy Strings, the Del McCoury Band, the Infamous String Dusters, Jeff Austin Band, and Kitchen Dwellers. Fiddle superstar Bruce Moulsky will be bringing his deep talents to the festival this year, too.
The festival also features the local Americana powerhouse that event organizer Tyler Westcott leads, Folkfaces.
Other Local Bluegrass Shows
The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars will be playing from noon to 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 7 and Sept. 14 (both Thursdays) at the Sportsmen’s Tavern.
A new local bluegrass group to watch is the Heart To Heart Bluegrass band. They have two shows this September. On Sunday, Sept. 10, they are playing at St John’s Lutheran Church, 55 Pleasant Ave. Lancaster, from noon to 2 p.m. They are also playing Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Pembroke Town Park from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
On Friday, Sept. 22, Creek Bend will be playing the First Ward Music Festival from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, Creek Bend will be at 42 North Brewery in East Aurora from 8 to 11 p.m.
Creek Bend will also be playing at Gullo’s Garden Center on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 1:30 to 5 p.m It’s on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg.
Remember the father of Bluegrass music this September.
Bill Monroe was born on Sept. 13, 1911, and died on Sept. 9, 1996. He was born in Rosine, Ky., and named the band that he led and fronted after his home state, the bluegrass state of Kentucky. The four musicians that he hired for the Bluegrass Boys were Chubby Wise – fiddle, Cedric Rainwater – upright bass, Lester Flatt – guitar and lead vocals and Earl Scruggs – five-string banjo. Bill did lead and tenor vocals and mandolin. They are considered by most bluegrass historians to be the first bluegrass band.
As the days get shorter and you pull out your favorite fleece or sweat shirt, I’m hoping that you get to enjoy the beautiful fall and a lot more great live music and especially the bluegrass.