Eclectic bluegrass festival 

Festival Preview

MagnoliaFest Midwest lands at Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park in Bean Blossom, Ind., July 22-24. It promises to be a weekend to hear how many types of music have evolved out of Bill Monroe’s original bluegrass music formula. Buddy Miller, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan, Uncle Earl and The Duhks are among those performing.

Well over 50 years after Bill Monroe created the bluegrass music archetype, he would probably be a little tickled and sometimes a little ticked off to hear all the innovations his musical influence has spawned. With most of the bands working bluegrass roots into the mix, the festival will present an eclectic mix of acoustic American roots music bands running the gamut from staunchly traditional to wildly progressive.

Topping the MagnoliaFest Midwest lineup are Peter Rowan, Tony Rice and Bela Fleck, all playing in a number of configurations throughout the weekend. All have historical lines in their musical development that run right through the park. They all visited Bean Blossom in their younger days, played on stage with some of the music’s founders and played off stage in informal jam sessions that helped them each form an individual sound. Rowan played with Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys for two years in the mid ’60s before taking off to explore the more progressive side of bluegrass that then began blooming in the early ’70s. It should be fascinating to hear what comes out of them all when they step out on a stage so steeped in tradition.

Another must-see MagnoliaFest Midwest performer is Buddy Miller, performing Friday only. Known for his deep and moving guitar solos with Emmylou Harris, Buddy also has a highly regarded body of solo work and collaborations with his wife, Julie. Playing all three days are The Duhks, a frisky young folk-fusion band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Their sound is their own. Traditional melodies from Ireland, Acadia and Appalachia mesh with propulsive organic polyrhythms that also carry the pulse of electronic funk.

Other bands performing at MagnoliaFest Midwest include North Florida bluegrass-reggae band Dread Clampett, Grateful Dead archivist and radio host David Gans, straight-ahead bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers and Michigan acoustic trio Steppin’ in It.

Advance full festival tickets are $95, available by telephone at 904-249-7990 through July 15 and at through July 18. Ticket price includes primitive camping, parking, park access fees and free admission to the Bill Monroe Museum and Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Water, electric and sewer hookups for RV camping are available with an upgrade fee to the park. Saturday/Sunday tickets ($70) and single day tickets (Friday $30, Saturday $40, Sunday $30) are also available by telephone and online.

Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park is located in Bean Blossom, Ind., 5 miles north of Nashville on Indiana State Road 135 in Brown County.

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