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ryan’s forecast

by Ryan Snyder

upcoming shows you should check out

MERLEFEST RIDES AGAIN

Time was, street hookers were everywhere. Nowadays you have to call a service and they come with a driver, so it’s much more difficult to dispose of the body. Those were simpler times, like when you could pick on your instruments in the warshtub without electer-cutin’ yourself. MerleFest ain’t forgot those times, and aside from a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning sprinkle, the forecast is optimal for a four-day weekend of one of America’s greatest bluegrass festivals and this looks to be one of the best yet. If you’re waffling on ditching work Friday for the Thursday session, would it help if I told you Rhonda Vincent & the Rage are playing that afternoon, with blues legend Taj Mahal headlining the evening session? Throw in the Zac Brown Band afterwards and Friday sounds like a sick day, when the first full day of music comes. Guitar greats Tony Rice and Peter Rowan jam in the late afternoon opposite Canadian folksters the Duhks, but it’s only a mild precursor to the loaded evening schedule. Starting at 6 p.m., the run of Dailey & Vincent, Dierks Bently with the Traveling McCourys and Sam Bush lead into Southern rock legends Little Feat playing into the midnight hour. The tunes pick up only a few hours later as you drink your Saturday morning coffee with former Biscuit Burner Shannon Whitworth. Try to squeeze in sets by Jim Lauderdale & Friends, David Holt and the Lightning Bolts and Steep Canyon Rangers — all before noon — if you can. It’s going to be a busy day regardless, with the John Cowan Band, the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, gospel steel virtuosos the Lee Boys, the Tony Rice Unit, Benton Flippen and the Alberti Flea Circus all before 6 p.m. Then it gets really good. The main stage heats up with two sets by the ageless Doc Watson, before the Steve Martin reinvention tour continues. The comedian/actor/banjo maestro plays a set with the Steep Canyon Rangers in tow and if you haven’t had enough, Elvis Costello & the Sugarcanes featuring Jerry Douglas and Jim Lauderdale close out the main stage. The music doesn’t stop, however, not with Scythian hosting the dance party until midnight. For the truly daring, the ever-anticipated late-night jam this ear features Zac Brown, the Duhks, the Greencards, Peter Rowan and “surprises” until 2:30 a.m. Did I mention that Sunday might be the most anticipated day of all? The Lee Boys and the Travelin’ McCourys team up for services around noon, but you’re going to be hanging around until the Avett Brothers set the place on fire before the final “Tribute to Merle Watson” closes it all out. Boy howdy. Multi-day passes range from $130 for Friday/Saturday/Sunday to $250 for 4-day reserved seating. Single day tickets are available as well and can be had at www.merlefest.org.

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