Guest Author - Chris Curtis
What a concept, holding a Bluegrass Festival in the middle of the winter months just outside of Boston. Who would brave the cold or potential for snow? Sounds crazy but the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival happens every year in February and it sells out! As a matter of fact, this year the promoters are expecting in excess of 2,000 patrons throughout the weekend. No, the promoters of this highly successful Bluegrass festival are not crazy enough to hold an outdoor festival in February but rather the festival takes over the Sheraton Framingham in its entirety.
The 2006 Joe Val Bluegrass festival is being held over President's Day Weekend, February 17-19, 2006. The Boston Bluegrass Union once again delivers a full weekend of bluegrass music featuring top national and regional bands and endless hours of picking and jamming in the corridors, rooms, and any convenient corner. What would a successful festival be without the picking!
I asked Gerry Katz, president of the Boston Bluegrass Union why he feels this festival has been a major success story. He explained that there a several factors that contribute to its success.
• A 21 year track record of presenting a top notch talent located in a quality setting
• A rock solid lineup of great bluegrass artists
• Educational programs at no extra charge
• Great vendors
• A Bluegrass Film Festival
All these combined offer patrons of the festival a variety of activity from which to choose. Plus you cannot discount that Joe Val is the ONLY winter festival held in the Northeast. Gerry believes that Joe Val is considered "one of the top five festivals in the Northeast in terms of lineup and quality of allied activities." I personally was impressed at the 2005 JoeVal Festival at how well it was organized and how smoothly everything seemed to run even in the face of having to replace a band at the last minute due to illness.
This year marks the 21st festival honoring the late Joe Val. Massachusetts born, Joe is remembered as New England's first bluegrass musician.
Boston Bluegrass Union has consistently delivered a well organized festival event with a strong line up. This year's line up sees the scheduled return of the Grascals. This band is blazing hot, having been named the 2006 Emerging Artists of the Year at the 16th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards and also recently securing a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year for their 2005 release "The Grascals". Last year the Grascals made an unscheduled appearance at JoeVal when festival organizers needed to fill a last minute Sunday afternoon slot due to illness within the scheduled band. Clearly, the Grascals were a crowd pleaser that afternoon. Also appearing is the Claire Lynch Band who is returning to the stage after a break; expect some new music from the Band's new CD to be released in March.
The line up also includes favorites such as the host band Dry Branch Firesquad, Mountain Heart, James King Band, Dan Paisley and the Southern Grass, Bluegrass Gospel Project, The Kruger Brothers, Dale Ann Bradley, The Stringdusters, Spinney Brothers, Wildfire and more.
The bluegrass community is committed to educating kids. The Joe Val Festival takes its role in that process seriously by offering Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Jam Camp (Wednesday evening through Friday), The Bluegrass Master Class Day – all day Friday, and BBU's Joe Val Academy for Kids all weekend. The JV Academy is offered for free throughout the weekend to kids 5 – 17 and culminates with a performance by the kids on Sunday. In addition, adults can participate in any number of workshops from the music's history and culture, to songwriting, to vocal techniques, instrument techniques etc. all for the price of the admission ticket.
This year Joe Val begins a new tradition by awarding its first Heritage Award to Benjamin "Tex" Logan. Logan brought the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover to Boston in 1952 forming the Confederate Mountaineers and establishing the Bluegrass foothold in New England. It was through this exposure that Joe Val picked up the Mandolin and became a legend in his own right.
This year, the rooms at the Sheraton sold out in early December. The promoters acted quickly and cut a deal with the nearby Marriott Residence Inn and the Natick Courtyard By Marriott to provide rooms at the same reasonable price as the Sheraton Framingham.
Why don't you come to the Folk Music forum and share your favorite festival moment.