From the Editors: May 11, 2016
Here today, Red Rocks tomorrow.
The room was dark and fairly low-ceilinged. Probably wood-paneled, given its usual role – though, a decade later, it's hard to remember for sure.
A three-deep crowd filled the barroom. The band that was just finishing had a pretty strong following in the area, and folks danced nearly shoulder to shoulder in front of the makeshift stage: really just a small, rudimentarily-marked section of the hunter-green carpeted room.
This was a folk music festival – not many drum kits or pedal boards to wield – so teardown and setup between bands could happen in about 15 minutes. Just enough time to grab a beer.
Three dark-haired young men ambled out from behind a curtain. Two looked like kin. One held a banjo, one supported a double bass, and one slung a big ole Martin guitar – practice-battered like Willie Nelson's might have been in his 20s. There was a hi-hat, too, and a kick drum.
The Avett Brothers began their set. And the crowd at Culbertson Hills Golf Course looked at each other with widened eyes, mouthing astonishment to each other: Can you believe this? Who are these guys?
Folks had come out for the Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival. But they knew full well that history was in the making.
So what if The Avetts were playing a small town golf course? Greatness knows no bounds, and everyone there knew they were in its presence.
This is the memory of one of us at the Reader, who went on to see The Avetts at the Beachland Ballroom, and isn't at all surprised that they've since invigorated an entire genre of wild-hearted pickers (and kickers); or that they're headlining all over the place – including the Chautauqua Amphitheater this summer.
The music festival circuit is ripe with bands hungry to make themselves known as widely as possible at the beginning of their careers. The kids-at-the-card-table cliché decidedly does not apply to small stages and early time slots. Instead, the band you see this summer on the side stage might just headline at Red Rocks next year. (Or, in 10 years.)
The same is true for acts whose circuit includes several of the smaller regional festivals like the ones highlighted by Ryan Smith in this issue – including the Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival, which kicks off May 19.
Few things signal the coming of summer like the arrival of music festival season. Finally, you can rest assured that the dance moves you'd hesitate to publicize in a pub are just fine en plein air. And that no shirt and no shoes really is no problem. For the most part.
It could still be a little chilly for shoelessness at the Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival, but that won't stop folks from dancing.
Plan your summer with these festivals in mind, and you'll be dancing, too. And who knows? The next big thing might even have a slot in one of the lineups.