DelFest, the premier bluegrass festival, celebrated its 15th anniversary with a bang this Memorial Day weekend, captivating music lovers from across the country. Set against the stunning mountainous backdrop of Cumberland, Maryland, this milestone event was a testament to the festival’s enduring influence and its commitment to preserving the roots of American music.
From the moment patrons arrived at the festival grounds, the atmosphere buzzed with excitement and anticipation, perfectly encapsulating the joy of a Del McCoury show. DelFest’s well-organized layout, with three stages and various vendor booths, allowed attendees to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and diverse sounds of bluegrass music. The immaculate weather and picturesque scenery added to the overall charm of the experience.
The lineup for the 15th-anniversary edition of DelFest was veritable who’s who of the genre, featuring a mix of iconic bluegrass legends and rising stars. From the first note played, it was clear that this was going to be a memorable celebration. Opening the festival, The Del McCoury Band kicked off the weekend with their signature high, lonesome sound. Del McCoury’s soulful voice and the band’s tight harmonies set the stage for a festival filled with incredible performances. The crowd was on its feet, clapping and stomping along to the infectious rhythms, as Del McCoury led us through a journey of heartfelt ballads and lively foot-stompers.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the performance by recent Grammy-winner Molly Tuttle. Her mesmerizing voice and intricate guitar playing left the audience spellbound. Joined by her band, she delivered a captivating set that showcased her songwriting prowess and her ability to blend traditional bluegrass with modern influences, proving why she is considered one of the best in the genre.
Sierra Ferrell, a rising star in the Americana scene, showcased her captivating vocals and vintage-inspired sound, transporting the audience to a bygone era. Her heartfelt storytelling and emotive delivery resonated with everyone in attendance, leaving a lasting impression. The most memorable moment of the festival was an unscheduled late-night, fireside jam featuring Sierra, members of the California Honeydrops, and Jason Carter of the Del McCoury Band–an experience those present will never forget.
The Kitchen Dwellers, known for their progressive bluegrass sound, brought their electrifying energy to the late-night stage. Their intricate instrumentals and improvisational prowess had the crowd on their feet, dancing and celebrating into the early hours of the morning, and they also rocked the Potomac stage with their signature galaxy grass sound.
As the weekend progressed, the festival showcased a diverse range of talent. The Infamous Stringdusters brought their unique blend of progressive bluegrass to the late night and main stages, dazzling the audience with their virtuosic instrumental skills and tight-knit harmonies. Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and it was impossible not to be swept up in the music–especially with their impressive lighting rig.
Beyond the music, DelFest offered a myriad of activities and amenities that enhanced the overall experience. The food vendors provided a delicious array of culinary delights, ranging from classic festival fare to regional specialties, and local breweries offered a range of cold craft beers. The arts & craft vendors displayed their wares, offering everything from handmade clothing to intricate artwork, showcasing the creativity and craftsmanship that underpins the bluegrass community.
Sam Bush, a true bluegrass legend, took the stage and showed why he is regarded as one of the pioneers of the genre. His virtuoso mandolin playing and infectious energy had the crowd dancing and cheering throughout his set. Joined by a talented ensemble of musicians, Bush’s performance was a masterclass in bluegrass and a testament to his enduring influence.
Overall, the 15th anniversary of DelFest was an unforgettable celebration of bluegrass and Americana music. The festival managed to capture the essence of the genre’s rich history while embracing its vibrant future. From the mesmerizing performances by Del McCoury, Molly Tuttle, Sam Bush, Sierra Ferrell, and the Kitchen Dwellers to the sense of community and camaraderie, DelFest proved once again why it stands as one of the premier events in the music festival calendar. Here’s to another 15 years of unforgettable memories at DelFest.
Gary Jared is a DC-based photographer and lifelong fan of live music who loves seeing his favorite bands in as many music venues in the DMV area as possible. His favorite venues are the 9:30 Club and the 8×10. Gary earned two Bachelor’s degrees in History and Professional Writing and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.