Tuesday, November 14, 2006

RiverHawk Music Festival

The weather was so spectacularly beautiful -- sunny, cool, breezy -- in the Tampa Bay area over the Veterans Day weekend that I made a last minute decision to pack up the kids, unplug from TVs, computers, iPods and music systems and head out to the woods for the RiverHawk Music Festival.

The festival, as it turns out, was a winner: The acoustic music (mostly bluegrass, folk, country), although played mostly by lesser-known artists, was uniformly excellent, the atmosphere was relaxed, the crowds were laidback and the production was well-executed. RiverHawk was VERY kid-friendly, too, with lots of activities oriented to the grade-school set.

Another bonus: The driving time to the fest, located at the rural Sertoma Youth Ranch between Brooksville and Dade City, was only about 75 minutes from Tampa. The OTHER good acoustic/folk/country Florida festival that we like to visit is the Suwannee Springfest in Live Oak, about midway between Gainesville and Tallahassee, a whopping four hours from Tampa. (Other considerations/comparisons: The variety and caliber of the acts at Suwannee are much more impressive; and crowding is more of an issue).

We only caught two days of the four-day festival. But I was particularly impressed by:
  • A stunning mandolin duet by Mike Marshall, the guy from Lakeland who just may be the world's best mandolin player, and teenage Florida prodigy Josh Pinkham. For the tail end of a set by the Pinkham Family, Josh and Mike burned through a Charlie Parker tune.
  • The gospel-influenced, strolling bluegrass of Claire Lynch's coed band. The singer-guitarist was joined by a superb mandolin player, guitarist and bassist for "Safe Haven" and other gems.
  • Cadillac Sky, a tremendously creative five-piece band that enriches its bluegrass with NewGrass and pop elements.

Acoustic string music, by the way, is all the rage, according to the New York Times, in a Nov. 5 story that features or mentions such Springfest and/or Magfest performers as The Duhks, The Mammals, Uncle Earl and the mighty Nickel Creek.

From the story, written by Geoffrey Himes: In this decade more and more musicians under the age of 30 have picked up banjos and fiddles and hit a burgeoning circuit of festivals, small-town theaters and big-city nightclubs. They don’t want to play their parents’ music, but they do long for a tradition older than themselves, one with memorable melodies, deep stories and a boisterous beat.


nikki said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the awesome review & comments! I found your blog by way of google.

Glad to read that you had a great weekend! Mark your calendar for April 13 - 15 for Stringbreak Music Festival at Sertoma - another Lind Entertainment Event!

Thanks again!

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for reading.
We had a great time at the fest.

Maybe we will make it to Stringbreak, too. Has the lineup been announced yet?