April 15, 2014. Preparations are well underway for MerleFest 2014, presented by Lowe’s, which officially begins Thursday, April 24, and runs through Sunday, April 27, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Fans of MerleFest know to expect the unexpected with special surprises, spontaneous jam sessions and one-of-a-kind musical collaborations from the 130+ acts performing on 13 stages during the four-day festival.
As in previous years, the list of performers fits the “traditional plus” definition originally offered by the late Doc Watson. Watson coined this term to describe the unique mix of music found at MerleFest: traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock, “plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play,” he would say.
The complete lineup and stage schedules are posted at www.MerleFest.org and available on the MerleFest mobile app; festival updates are delivered via Twitter (@MerleFest) and Facebook.
Thursday, April 24, will feature performances by artists including Alan Jackson, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Holly Williams, Scythian, The Duhks, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice, Josh Farrow and others. That afternoon, participants in Pete Wernick’s MerleFest Bluegrass Jam Camp will perform on the Cabin Stage. Legendary Dobro player Tut Taylor will kick off performances at the Plaza Stage at 2:30 p.m., and the Opening Night Dance with The Duhks will take place starting at 10 p.m. at the Dance Stage.
Thursday is also a day for community outreach, with several MerleFest artists visiting and performing at local schools.
The schedule on Friday, April 25, includes BanjoRama, an all-star collaboration between some of music’s top banjo players, hosted by Pete Wernick and including Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor, Alison Brown, Mark Johnson, Jim Mills, Rob McCoury, Terry Baucom, Ned Luberecki and Graham Sharp. Additionally, fans will hear performances by Old Crow Medicine Show, Keller Williams and the Travelin’ McCourys, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, Balsam Range, Lonesome River Band, Peter Rowan Band, Sutton, Holt & Coleman, Missy Raines and The New Hip, Todd Snider, Donna the Buffalo, The Steel Wheels and others.
The culmination of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest takes place on Friday; after contest chairperson Jim Lauderdale announces the winners, the songwriters perform the winning entries on the Cabin Stage at 9:30 p.m.
Friday will also see the debut of a new performance series, the Doc and Merle Watson Performing Arts Showcase, hosted by Joe Smothers and Bob Hill of Frosty Morn, on the Austin Stage. The series is intended as a diverse, eclectic sampling of local and regional talent, allowing festival-goers to see the artists in a more intimate setting.
The lineup for Saturday, April 26, includes performances by Dr. Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Steep Canyon Rangers, Sam Bush Band, Town Mountain, Alison Brown Quartet, Peter Rowan, The Steel Wheels, Della Mae, Claire Lynch Band, Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Niall Toner Band, Mark Johnson and Emory Lester among others.
Also of note will be several special events at the Creekside Stage, including “Memories of Doc and Merle” with T. Michael Coleman, David Holt, Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Richard Watson and other musical guests. In addition to the always-popular Mando Mania set, fans can also experience BanjoRama Part Two, with the great Dr. Ralph Stanley joining Saturday’s team of banjo players.
The ever-popular Hillside Album Hour – where a revered or iconic album is performed live from start to finish – will once again be hosted by The Waybacks, with many surprise guests joining in the performance. The highly-anticipated Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center (separate ticket required and available for purchase by four-day ticket holders and Saturday-only ticket holders). This year’s Jam, presented in partnership with The Bluegrass Situation and hosted once again by Scythian, will feature special guests Keller Williams, Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line, Peter Rowan, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Steep Canyon Rangers, Della Mae, Moore Brothers, The Steel Wheels, Donna the Buffalo, I Draw Slow, The Waybacks, Pete and Joan Wernick, The Deadly Gentlemen, Jim Lauderdale, South Carolina Broadcasters, Mandolin Orange, Mark Newton and Steve Thomas, Town Mountain, and Lynda and Pattie.
Sunday, April 27, will open with the “Spirit of Sunday” with the Nashville Bluegrass Band and the Avett Family Gospel Hour at Creekside Stage. Sundaywill also feature performances by Merle Haggard, Dailey & Vincent with Jimmy Fortune, Jerry Douglas, The Deadly Gentlemen, Claire Lynch Band, Jim Lauderdale, Mandolin Orange, Donna the Buffalo, Del Rey, Overmountain Men and others.
Fans can also hear the Sunday Blues with Roy Book Binder set, with Richard Watson, Mitch Greenhill, Del Rey, Rory Block, Eleanor Ellis and Charles Welch.
Throughout the four-day festival, the Dance Tent will feature various workshops and dance instructions with plenty of opportunities for festival attendees to cut loose with some stellar music performers. Additionally, Mayes Pit/Cohn Auditorium in Thompson Hall at MerleFest is devoted to a wide variety of workshops and demonstrations on Friday and Saturday, where world-class performers share their expertise with attendees. The Songwriters Coffeehouse will once again showcase the art of the song on Friday. On Saturday, blues lovers will want to check out the “Greatest Acoustic Blues Show on Earth” at the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall. For those attendees who like to do a little performing themselves, there are designated jamming tents at the Pickin’ Place: Traditional Jammin’ Tent, Bluegrass Jammin’ Tent, Anything Goes Jammin’ Tent and Hands-On Tent.
The Acoustic Kids Showcases, formerly known as the Youth Showcases at MerleFest, will be held on the Austin Stage on Friday, April 25, from 5-6:30 p.m.; the Dance Stage on Saturday, April 26, from 10-11:30 a.m.; and the Little Pickers Stage on Saturday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Hosted by performer Andy May, these showcases allow music fans the opportunity hear the next generation of pickers, singers and traditional-style artists.
The Little Pickers Family Area offers children’s activities, crafts and entertainment, as well as performances at the Little Pickers Stage.
In addition to music, MerleFest offers special activities and shopping, all in a family-friendly atmosphere. The Shoppes at MerleFest is a centrally-located shopping village featuring demonstrating artisans, vendors, convenience foods, official MerleFest memorabilia and services such as first aid, lost and found, and Internet access. Nature walks of the gardens and forest on the WCC campus will be offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“For those wanting an affordable weekend getaway, MerleFest provides a true value to its customers,” said festival director Ted Hagaman. “The admission prices are extremely reasonable – especially considering that we feature over 130 artists on 13 stages. Also, there are no hidden charges. We provide free parking, a free shuttle that will deliver you to the entrance, a free program guide as you enter, and all children 12 and under are admitted free with a paid adult. In addition, our Little Pickers Family Area for children offers each child the opportunity to make crafts and participate in several interactive exhibits – all free of charge.”
MerleFest 2014 is presented by Lowe’s. MerleFest is grateful to 100+ sponsors and advertisers for their support in making the event possible, including: Charlotte and Greensboro area Burger King restaurants, G&B Energy, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, Wilkes Regional Medical Center, Tyson, Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority, The InterFlex Group, Winston-Salem Journal, WXII 12, the Law Offices of Timothy D. Welborn, Hardee’s, Carolina Ford Dealers, Carolina West Wireless, CenturyLink, Wells Fargo, Wilkes Communications, Hampton Inn Wilkesboro, visitWilkesboroNC.com, Holiday Inn Express Wilkesboro, WNCW 88.7 Public Radio, Knee-Deep in Bluegrass, WBRF 98.1 Classic Country, RaysWeather.com., Smoky Mountain Living, Yes! Weekly, WTQR Q104.1 New Country, WPAQ 740 AM, WSMW 98.7 Simon, WLNK 107.9 The Link and WBT AM/FM – Charlotte’s News Talk. A complete listing of all MerleFest sponsors and additional information about all aspects of the festival can be found at http://www.MerleFest.org.
MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of the late American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts over 130 artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.