Happy Twitterversary to Me

One year ago today, I joined Twitter. My growing interest in using social media for promoting my favorite bands and small businesses made me realize that I was being foolish to restrict myself to Facebook, so I finally created a Twitter account. I can see now that my reluctance to join Twitter was based on the way it is portrayed in the media with its focus on celebrity, which obscures the fact that it is a great tool for sharing information and making real connections to real people based on interest, region or nearly any other subject.

To commemorate this milestone, here are some observations and notes from my first year of tweeting.

  • One of my favorite bands, The Infamous Stringdusters, was the first “person” I followed.
  • Nora Jane Struthers, songwriter and lead singer of the band Bearfoot, was the first person to follow me back.
  • Laura Click was one of the first people to actually interact with me, when she suggested that I update my Twitter bio so that folks could know more about me.
  • The best Twitter advice I ever got was to actually respond to other tweets rather than just retweeting them as I did for the first several months.
  • The worst Twitter advice I ever got  was to reduce the number of people I follow, especially celebrities and others who don’t follow back, to bring the following count more in line with my follower count so that my “Klout” score would increase. It did not  affect the score at all, and I missed the entertaining tweets from folks like Michael McKean, George Takei, Wil Wheaton, Paul & Storm and Patton Oswalt.
  • The best result of joining Twitter have been the regional connections I have made, especially folks who support local agriculture, real food, roots music, craft beer, wine and spirits.
  • The most fun I have had on Twitter was a recent #bluegrassbeef with @eartyme.
  • Facebook is great for keeping in touch with old friends and family, but Twitter is better for meeting new people with common interests.


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Show Review: The Hackensaw Boys w/ The Founding Fathers

It’s not every day that one looks forward to the opening act more than the headliner, but that was me on Friday, July 8 at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA where The Founding Fathers warmed up the crowd for the Hackensaw Boys to party down. It was the excitement of seeing this first performance of the Founding Fathers that drew me to this show: a new project by Andy Falco and Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters.

With a set containing new arrangements of traditional tunes, original songs and instrumentals, a couple of covers and just a sprinkling of Stringduster sound, Falco’s guitar and Pandolfi’s banjo duets gave us a more living room style of performance than you get at the festival-like Stringdusters shows. Playing seated in center stage facilitated the interaction between the bluegrass jamming veterans as they started off with a vamp into “Angelina Baker”. Falco set the bass with a dropped D tuning while Pandolfi built the tune, enticing the crowd away from the bar and towards the stage. Soon the two were trading breaks back and forth, building energy and improvisations into the classic fiddle tune. They maintained that energy as they shifted rhythms to the highly danceable original instrumental “High Country Funk”. I hope you all get to hear this infectiously funky jam some day!

Stringdusters fans who have long asked for Andy Falco to sing some blues will get their reward at a Founding Fathers show. For the first of three songs for the evening, he reached into the catalog of Grateful Dead acoustic favorites with “Rosalee McFall”. Chris Pandolfi the led the next tune with Bela Fleck’s “The Open Road”, where the two once again played  a game of musical badmitton, passing the breaks while always maintaining a solid groove.

Falco returned to the drop D tuning while they riffed on another classic fiddle tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast”, starting deconstructed and ending with lightning fast breaks. Giving us each one track off of their solo records, Andy Falco sang his original composition, “Sentenced to Live With The Blues”, augmented by an extra jam that I am glad to be able to share with you in the video.  Following that was “Big Bend”, an instrumental off Chris Pandolfi’s album Looking Glass, that rolls along like a mountain landscape, not too fast and with room to move.

Shifting gears, the duo showed the depth of their bluegrass roots with a tribute to banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, where Pandolfi led several of Scruggs banjo tunes that alas I cannot name.  The only Infamous Stringdusters material of the evening was an instrumental jam riffing on “No More To Leave You Behind”, and the final song of the cited Tim O’Brien’s ballad “Pretty Fair Maid”, starting low and serenely and ending in joyous crescendo as the tale unfolded. With big smiles, the Pandolfi and Falco closed their inaugural set with the classic bluegrass jam tune “Salt Creek”.

The Founding Fathers gave a great performance for any music fan and not just for the Stringduster fanatics such as yours truly. The two showed obvious joy in playing together, but while they communicated with each other through their instruments they also maintained a connection with the audience throughout the set. The next chance you’ll have to see The Founding Fathers will be on July 28 in Baltimore, MD at the 8 x 10 Club opening for The Devil Makes Three.

As I mentioned in the beginning, don’t let the level of detail I’ve given to the Founding Fathers take away from the Hackensaw Boys, who followed up with a raucous set that had the crowd dancing and hollering. With all six cylinders firing at full speed, the Hackensaws delivered the backwoods party-time set they are known for with favorite tunes like “Cannonball”, “Miner”, “Sweet Petunia”, “Dance Around”, “Nashville”, “The Parking Lot Song” and “We Are Many”. With the success of bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and Trampled By Turtles, I can’t help but think that the long running Hackensaw Boys should be bigger on the festival circuit, and I hope their upcoming appearance at the All Good Festival will help propel them down that road.

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I Hear That Train A Comin’: Favorite Railroad Songs

Fascination with trains is in my blood. My grandfather worked in a rail yard for a time, and I remember well when he took my brother and I onto an engine and let us blow the whistle while he drove it a short distance forward and back.  My father has been an avid model railroad collector since he was a kid, and has passed on to me the tradition of putting up a train around the Christmas tree. Now I live in a town whose fortunes have both risen and fallen with the railroad, and I often ride the commuter train into work.

Since the earliest days of the iron horse, trains have been celebrated in song by those who have lived, worked and played along the railroad tracks. It is a potent symbol for many  tensions that mark the modern world: man vs. machine, nature vs. man, future vs. past.

On a recent trip into D.C. on the MARC train, I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers for their favorite train and railroad songs, and the large response proved to me that trains and train songs still hold a special place in many hearts and memories. They are songs about trains, stories that take place on a trains, sounds that mimic trains and trains used as a symbol for relentless progression or nostalgic remembrance. Some are over a hundred years old while others have just recently been released. They cross the borders of geography, race and musical styles. This list is by no means meant to be a complete list of train songs, but it does show the diverse interpretations and use of the train in American music.

I have done my best to give proper attribution to the writers of these songs. Any corrections are most welcome. Did I miss your favorite? I’d love to hear what they are, so me know in the comments or tweet me @SthMtnMike.

Song Author Recorded By
2:19 Tom Waits Tom Waits
500 Miles Hedy West Peter, Paul & Mary
All Aboard Stefl, Ellsworth & Rodgers The Del McCoury Band
A Train Robbery Paul Kennerley Levon Helm, Dirt Farmer
Big Railroad Blues Noah Lewis Grateful Dead
Bluegrass Express Bobby Osborne Rhonda Vincent “The Storm Still Rages”
Blue & Lonesome Traditional Down From the Mountain
Blue Railroad Train A. & R. Delmore Tony Rice, Josh Williams
Blue Train (Of the Heartbreak Line) John Loudermilk Nashville Bluegrass Band
Bringing in the Georgia Mail Fred Rose Flatt & Scruggs
Casey Jones Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia Grateful Dead
Church of the Level Track Tim Barry Tim Barry
City of New Orleans Steve Goodman Arlo Guthrie, Seldom Scene
Conjunction Junction Bob Dorough Schoolhouse Rock
Crazy Train Ozzy Osbourne Ozzy Osbourne
Destination Anywhere Valerie Simpson & Nicholas Ashford The Committments
Down there by the Train Tom Waits Tom Waits, Johnny Cash
Downtown Train Tom Waits Tom Waits, Rod Stewart
Dusty Boxcar Wall Eric Anderson Eric Anderson
Fast Freight Terry Gilkyson Kingston Trio
Fireball Mail Floyd Jenkins (aka Fred Rose) Roy Acuff, Lonesome River Band
Freight Train Elizabrth Cotten Elizabeth Cotten, Grisman & Garcia
Freight Train Boogie Traditional Delmore Brothers
Fulsom Prison Blues Johnny Cash Johnny Cash
The Gambler Don Schlitz Kenny Rogers
Glendale Train John Dawson New Riders of the Purple Sage
Green Light on the Southern Norman Blake Norman Blake
Greenville Trestle High Traditional Doc Watson
Hear My Train a Comin’ Jimi Hendrix Jimi Blues
He’s Coming To Us Dead Traditional Dry Branch Fire Squad
Hey Porter Johnny Cash Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart
Hobo’s Last Ride Norman & Nancy Blake Hank Snow
Hootin’ the Blues Sonny Terry Sonny Terry
Homeward Bound Simon & Garfunkel Simon & Garfunkel
I Know You Rider Traditional Seldon Scene, Grateful Dead
It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry Bob Dylan Jerry Garcia Band
I’ve Got The Railroad Blues A. & R. Delmore Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
John Henry Traditional IIIrd Tyme Out, Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Jupiter and the 119 Todd Scheaffer Railroad Earth
Just Like This Train Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
Kentucky Borderline Rhonda Vincent, Terry Herd Rhonda Vincent “One Step Ahead”
Like the 309 Johnny Cash Johnny Cash
The Last Ride Halcomb & Daffan Hank Snow
Little Black Train Traditional IIIrd Tyme Out
Last Train From Poor Valley Norman Blake The Skylighters
Locomotive Breath Ian Anderson Jethro Tull
Long Black Train Josh Turner Josh Turner, Conway Twitty
Long Train Runnin’ Tom Johnston Doobie Brothers
Love Train Gamble & Huff The O’ Jays
Me & Bobby McGee Kris Kristofferson & Fred Foster Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead
Midnight Train to Georgia Jim Weatherly Gladys Knight & The Pips, Indigo Girls
Move Along Train Roebuck Staples Levon Helm, Electric Dirt
Mule Train Boxcar Willie Boxcar Willie, Bo Diddley
Mystery Train Junior Parker & Sam Phillips Jerry Garcia Band
New Railroad Traditional Crooked Still
Night Flight John Paul Jones Led Zeppelin
Nine Pound Hammer Traditional Bill Monroe, Tony Rice Unit, Stanley Brothers
Old Train Herb Pedersen Tony Rice
On the Evening Train Hank Williams Hank Williams, Johnny Cash
Orange Blossom Special Traditional Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Old & In The Way, Stanley Brothers
Raised on the Railroad Line Paul Craft Seldom Scene
Reuben’s Train Traditional The Holy Modal Rounders, Thomas Bailey
Railroad Blues Traditional New Lost City Ramblers, Sam McGee
Railroad Bill Traditional Crooked Still, Dan Zanes
Ridin’ That Bluegrass Train John Pennell Sam Bush “Laps in Seven”
Rhythm of the Wheels Vincent, Smith, Buxton, Dunaway, Cooper, Bruce Rhonda Vincent “All American Bluegrass Girl:
Royal Station 4/16 Melissa Etheridge Melissa Etheridge
Steel Rails Louisa Branscomb Allison Krauss
Texas Eagle Steve Earle Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
Texas 1947 Guy Clark Guy Clark
Train on the Island Traditional Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky
Train to Charleston Dwayne Brooke The Woodshedders
Train, Train “Shorty” Medlocke Blackfoot
The Train That Carried Jimmie Rodgers Home Greg Brown The Gordons, Iris Dement
This Train (Is Bound For Glory) Traditional Indigo Girls, Wayfaring Strangers
Trouble In Mind Richard M. Jones Johnny Cash
The Train That Carried My Girl From Town Traditional Doc Watson
Wabash Cannonball Traditional Carter Family, Roy Acuff
Waiting for a Train Jimmie Rodgers Jimmie Rodgers, Dickey Betts
Wheels Patrick McDougal Dan Tyminski “Wheels”
White Pass Railroad Laurence Baer Del McCoury Band “Family Circle”
Who’s Been Talking Howlin’ Wolf Howlin’ Wolf, Tom Waits
Wreck of the Old ’97 Traditional Mac Wiseman, Woody Guthrie

Delfest 2011: Meeting of the Mandolins

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

Not counting the mud, I came away from this year’s Delfest with a new respect for Ted Lehman and his intrepid blogging of bluegrass festivals all over the country. My dreams of daily Delfest reporting were met with the realities of weather, family, the need for a real vacation and lack of WiFi. Life intervened and it has now been several weeks since the mud has dried, but here are the memories I wrote down during and right after the festival of Del.


We arrived later than expected amid the large, cold rain drops of a rolling summer storm. This contributed to long lines and confusion at both the check-in and the campsite, where misdirection and conflicting orders from security led us on a forty five minute goose chase for a place to camp (there were plenty of sites available in the main field where we have camped every year, but for reasons that were never made clear to me were not allowed to set up there). Eventually more staff were released from emergency storm duty and helped us find a place to settle, but it was the most chaotic arrival I have experienced at four years of this festival.

The rain let up just enough for us to set up camp and eat dinner, though we were bummed to have missed both the Del McCoury Band’s festival opener and most of Donna The Buffalo. At least we made it out for The Infamous Stringdusters in the crowded but rain-sheltered Delfest Music Hall. Having recently seen the ‘Dusters in Falls Church, VA a few weeks prior, it was amazing to see how the happy-go-wild festival crowd energized the band even more than at the previous show. I saw Chris Pandolfi point his banjo cam at the call and response Ronnie McCoury/Jesse Cobb mandolin break on Deep Elem Blues, then Del joined the party on stage for “On My Way Back To the Old Home”. The Stringdusters fed on the festival crowd energy and gave it right back with a great performance.


Cramped quarters and confusion continued in the campsite as folks arrived the next day to find that non mud-pit camping spots were few and far between.  Our baby was too young for the kids activities, but we joined our camp mates down at the make-your-own tie-dye event at Kid’s Pavilion. We proceeded to the main stage for festival M.C. and multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven, whose traditional Delfest morning set mixed old time fiddle tunes with world music and jazz influences. Using found object instruments such as the “Bedpan-dolin” and the “Paint Can-jo” along with several other percussion and string instruments, Joe Craven imparted a love for the the creative process and respect for musical tradition to the eager-eared audience.

Joe Craven

Joe Craven

We moved up to the Delfest Music Hall for another highlight of the day – Ronnie McCoury’s Family Jamboree, where the Del McCoury Band showed that family is at the heart of everything they do. Parents and kids danced and sang along with the host band on songs like “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, “The Monkey And The Engineer”, “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” and “This Land Is Your Land”. By the time the show ended, our cheeks hurt from smiling.

We went back to the main stage for Sierra Hull”s first Delfest appearance, but ended up rushing back to camp at the approach of another series of storms which let up just enough for us to see a scant three songs of the Stringdusters’ second set before pouring again in earnest, turning roads to rivers and deepening the mud. Although the clouds cleared by evening for Chris Robinson, Del McCoury & Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Old Crow Medicine Show to take the main stage as planned, we stayed back at camp and listened to the stage on  the radio and were grateful that it was being broadcast locally so that we could still enjoy the music from the comfort and relative dryness of our camp.


Tie-Dye Time

Tie-Dye Time

As the morning sun burned away the heavy dew, we tuned on Delfest radio once again and were soon bobbing our heads to newcomers Hoots & Hellmouth, followed by western swing-rock of The Sweetback Sisters. Even through the radio, both of these bands made a big enough impression on me that I came home with recordings from both groups and am happy to be a new fan of these bands. Saturday also presented one of my festival highlights – mandolin innovator and bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds’ set of classic bluegrass and Grateful Dead songs from his latest recording, A Tribute to Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter. His cover of “Black Muddy River”, sung with the deep soul and sincerity of McReynolds’ eighty three years of life experience, clearly moved the Jerry-friendly audience. He went on to perform several more Grateful Dead gems like “Deep Elem Blues”, “Alabama Getaway” and “Ripple”.

Back at the Music Hall again, we caught part of a violin workshop with Jason Carter, Darrol Anger, Tim Carbone and Joe Craven. When not playing tunes, these four fiddlers imparted knowledge about playing by ear, playing backup, practicing and jamming tips. After the workshop, we strolled back to the main stage for a superb Emmit-Nershi Band set that had the late afternoon crowd dancing in the sunshine. This band of jamgrass veterans has solidified into a formidable foursome, and it is my hope that they can ride this groove for a long time to come. Setting a high bar, Emmit-Nershi were then followed by the best Railroad Earth performance I have seen since the very first time I saw them five years ago. Whether on old material or new, RRE played with a energy you could almost touch, and I can’t wait to relive this set though the fan recordings.

Saturday’s finale was provided by blues guitarist Warren Haynes, who brought soulful singing and haunting tunes which, like the David Rawlings Machine who closed Delfest last year, may have been too mellow for the groove-thirsty audience. His material was deep and thoughtful, but required more attention than the dance-happy audience seemed to be willing to provide.


The Infamous Stringdusters w/ Del McCoury

The Infamous Stringdusters w/ Del McCoury

Some bands fall victim to festival schedule overload, and I’m sad to have missed both of the Rockin’ Acoustic Circus sets, but the last day offered many other highlights, such as the “Man Oh Mandolin” workshop with Ronnie McCoury, Chris Thile and Mike Marshall which was nothing short of amazing. The triple mandolin tremolos on “Wayfaring Stranger” were unforgettable, and even oft played session tunes like “Angelina Baker” found new life in the hands if these masters.

I came out of the workshop inspired to go practice my mandolin, but walked smack into the second set by The Sweetback Sisters who withstood the withering afternoon sun to deliver a sizzling set of country-rockabilly-swing.  The heat continued over on the main stage with Punch Brothers, who despite their ability to journey into musical astral planes remained firmly grounded and delivered an exciting set of their own original music as well as a few juicy covers like The Band’s “Ophelia” and Josh Ritter’s “Another New World” and Beck’s “Sexx Laws”. After a lengthy thank-you session from the stage, The Del McCoury band lit up the stage for the final time that weekend with the classic “Rain and Snow” and closing with a fan request of “She Can’t Burn Me Now”, with fan support on cue cards for the lyrics which Del had forgotten the year before. Chris Thile joined the McCourys on stage to tear it up on the Ronnie McCoury instrumental “Baltimore Johnny” and they closed with a tribute to the surrounding hills with “Sweet Appalachia”.

The festival finale by Yonder Mountain String Band gave the fans all the groove they could want and more, cranking the bluegrass to eleven with Jeff Austin urging the crowd to channel healing energy back into the earth with their dancing feet on new material like “Sideshow” and YMSB classics like “On The Run”. Joined by Del & Ronnie McCoury and later Drew Emmit for a the second triple mandolin jam for the day on “Death Trip”. The consensus back in camp was that this was a most excellent way to close the festival, and Yonder Mountain String Band provided a display of musical fireworks that made Delfest 4 go out with a bang.

Once again, Delfest provided the perfect mix of progressive and traditional sounds for my ears, and I was able to see many of my favorite musicians as well as discover some new ones. There was quality beer from Lagunitas and Starr Hill and good choices of food that went above (but also included) the common festival fried fare. The great music, family atmosphere and neighborly attitude that carried the fans through the storms, mud and heat will no doubt bring many back for Delfest 5 and beyond.

Posted in Americana, bluegrass, festival | 1 Comment

Gearing Up For Delfest

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

Delfest is our first camping festival this year and this is also our first time camping with a baby, so I have a lot of de-wintering and packing still to do. However if all goes well, my next post will come to you live from the fairgrounds in Allegheny County, MD where I will send photo, video and blog updates as often as I can while still enjoying my vacation. I already feel the excitement for pickers in the Delfest Academy who are about to have a great experience learning music from their heroes in the Del McCoury Band, just as I did in 2009. The Thursday night kickoff  with Donna The Buffalo and The Infamous Stringdusters is bound to be amazing, and are many bands that I am excited to see this year, both new and familiar to me:

Del, Ronnie, Mike

Del and I sing "The Bluebirds Are Singing For Me" at the first Delfest Academy in 2009.

Old Favorites: Our hosts The Del McCoury Band, of course, Yonder Mountain String Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Railroad Earth, Punch Brothers, Emmit-Nershi and Sierra Hull.

New Sounds: These are not all new bands, but also those who I will be getting to see for the first time, like the great mandolin legend Jesse McReynolds, blues rocker Warren Haynes, the Black Crowes‘ Chris Robinson and the jamgrass supergroup Physchograss . Others include The Preservation Hall Jazz BandDailey & Vincent, Hoots & Hellmouth, The Sweetback Sisters, Rockin’ Acoustic Circus, and more. We always come home with a stack of new CD’s due to the wide variety and high talent on the Delfest stages.


Delfest also provides kids play shops that we look forward to attending with our baby: Kids Jamboree w/ Ronnie McCoury and Music in the Moment w/ Joe Craven. There are also some exciting musician workshops on the schedule, like songwriting with Nathan Moore, Todd Shaeffer and Bill Nershi, a fiddle workshop with Jason Carter, Tim Carbone and Darrol Anger and a banjo workshop with Rob McCoury and Tony Trischka.

I love these one-of-a-kind of experiences that you can only get at a festival, and will try to share them with you in words and pictures. With all those great bands on stage, I hope that I can squeeze in some jamming around the campfire as well!

If you are as excited for Delfest as I am and can’t get enough, here is another preview from Cosmic Vibes Live.  If you can’t go to Delfest but are happy for the arrival of festival season, here is one from the archives – Roots to Branches: Tips For Growing a Festival Community.

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CD Review: The Woodshedders “O Dig”


'O Dig' by The Woodshedders

The Woodshedders latest release and second studio album “O Dig” presents a carousel of songs, moving from Americana to gypsy jazz, through island breezes and acoustic funk. Dwayne Brooke has written a bevy of fine songs for this album, and what it lacks in cohesion it more than makes up for with its lyrical and musical strength.

The album opener, “Badger Blood“, is pure bonfire anthem, with a chorus that makes you want to raise your mug  and sing along with the cast of characters, animals and food. The second track, “Narwhal”, presents a very different sound with high octane hot club jazz. Mandolin work by guest Danny Knicely compliments Van Deventer’s fiddle and Brooke’s guitar as they pack hundreds of notes in this two minute romp.

Jesse Schulzaberger’s drums set the mood for the island hopping “Slipping Through”, with more mandolin by Knicely and added  vocals by Aimee Curl. The percussion shines again during a break on the following track, the hot jazzed “Viper James“. Young talent from Gaven Largent‘s dobro highlights the road trip inspired “Four Winds” before we finally slow down for the old time themed waltz “Virginia’s Fair Daughters”.


The Woodshedders

“Sand Grain” may bespeak a small pebble, but this track is a real gem. It evokes the spirit of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”, with Brooke’s lyrical imagery coming through strong and Van Deventer’s fiddle soaring above. Slowing down once more for the dreamy “Swallows Wings”, we are treated to the guest harmonies of Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison of the Furnace Mountain Band, with the ‘Shedders playing impeccable backup and fills to highlight their guest singers.

Before you can be lulled into complacency, the album closer “Chicken to Change” practically demands that you get up and dance. Ryan Mayo’s bass paves the way for this acoustified funk tune containing a fantastic bass, fiddle & drum break that will leave you wanting to hear just what The Woodshedders could possibly bring out next.

No two songs are the same on “O Dig”, but that’s fine because each one stands well on its own. Compared to the more string-oriented sound of 2007’s “Catch That Yardbird”, “O Dig”  cranks up the rhythm, volume and energy featured in the “Yardbird” title track. My only small criticism of “O Dig” is that in an otherwise strong production of The Woodshedder’s talent, on a few tracks the volume level of Van Deventer’s superb fiddling is not quite as loud as I would like it to be. That aside, this is an exciting album of diverse, original, roots-influenced music. While the album as whole avoids easy classification, the hot club, country party sound of “O Dig” will find good rotation in many Americana music collections.


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Frederick Brews A Festival Of Collaboration

When I took my family to the first annual Frederick Beer Week Brew Fest on Saturday, May 14th, I found the delicious ales and festival atmosphere I expected,  but also found an unexpected story of social media success, where tweets and emails helped launch this celebration of local beer and agriculture. Watch my video interview with chief organizer and beer journalist Kevin Smith (@FredBeerWk) to hear how a tweet started the process of getting the local breweries to support his idea of a beer festival.

I would like to thank these blog posts by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) and Chris Pandolfi (@chrispandolfi) as inspiration for my first video blog.

The overcast central Maryland sky held back its rain for most of the day, where a sold out crowd of all ages gathered at Tom Barse’s Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, MD, one of only five producers of brewing hops in the state. Americana music by local musicians The Jug Band, with bluegrass jams and Pogues covers, old timey fiddle and mandolin fun from The Polka Dots and bluegrassy originals and covers by The Fieldhands complimented the scene, but the real star of the day was undeniably the beer.

Tom Barse of Stillpoint Farm & Kevin Smith of Frederick Beer Week

Tom Barse of Stillpoint Farm & Kevin Smith of Frederick Beer Week

The drinks were provided by five of the regions best microbreweries and home brew enthusiasts from the Frederick Original Ale Makers (F.O.A.M.) Club. I could not record the complete variety of names and flavors, but some of the highlights for my wife and I were the Toffee Stout from DuClaw Brewing Co., the Chocolate Stout from Pub Dog, the Rye Porter from F.O.A.M. and the crisply hopped Raging Bitch ale from Flying Dog Ales.  We also tried a sweet Belgian style Saison from Barley & Hops, an easy going Loose Cannon pale ale from Heavy Seas and the one of a kind Collaboration Ale – an arcane, herb tinged sour ale made by the efforts of the three Frederick brewers: Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley and Barley & Hops.

“Beer is slow food in a glass” – Larry Pomerantz, Head Brewer of Barley & Hops, introducing the Collaboration Ale.

Barley & Hops

Not only did this festival idea hatch with a tweet, but with a limited budget as a first time festival much of the promotion was also done with social media, word of mouth/email and hyper-local news. With Kevin’s strategic tweeting and industrious organizing behind the wheel (including cabs on site for those who needed a safe ride home), you can bet this festival will be back next year. Local beer, local agriculture, Americana music and family fun all enabled and promoted by new media and old fashioned elbow grease – in its first year effort, the Frederick Brew Fest has become a great role model for any festival.