( 6 Votes )

Like bluegrass? Enjoy fresh air and sunshine? Want a chance to hear nine local bluegrass bands – for free? Then come to the first-ever bluegrass festival at Pleasant Grove this Saturday (May 11).
Rain or shine, musicians will while away the hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the pole barn in Pleasant Grove. With free admission, concessions by Two J’s Smokehouse, prize raffles, displays by local music businesses, and non-stop bluegrass, the festival promises to be a pleasant place to stop a spell.
Put on by the Piedmont Virginia Fiddle and Banjo Association, the festival is an attempt to publicize and attract members to a dedicated bluegrass organization right here in Fluvanna. Although the association formed in 1991, member and event organizer Tommy Payne acknowledged that many Fluvanna residents remain unaware of the association’s existence.
But not for long. Payne hopes that after Saturday’s nine-band event, fellow bluegrass enthusiasts will realize that good music can be found right here in Fluvanna and gladly learn more about the association. “We’re doing this event to make people aware that there is an outlet for people to show others, learn, and have a place of fellowship for music,” Payne said.
Meeting on the first Monday evening of each month at Beaver Dam Baptist Church, the association attempts to “preserve and promote acoustic-strong music,” including bluegrass, folk, old-time, gospel, and old country. After a quick business meeting at 7:30 p.m., the members sit back and listen to a guest band perform for 45 minutes to an hour, then break into an open jam session. All are welcome, Payne declared, and the association never charges admission. The show is filmed by Charlottesville Public Access and airs, Payne stated specifically, on “Comcast channel 13 out of the Charlottesville district.”
One lucky music lover who attends the festival on Saturday will go home with a fiddle donated by Specialty Guitars Plus in Charlottesville. Another raffle winner will receive a banjo from Music & Arts in Charlottesville. Other prizes include a front-end alignment from Kenny’s Auto Repair of Zion Crossroads, and several gift certificates to Scottsville-area restaurants.
Some music businesses will have display tables at the festival, and Payne urged any businesses interested in promoting or displaying products to contact him at (434) 295-5449. There is no set-up fee. Due to the permit for the event, however, no sales may take place.
The main draw for the festival, of course, is the nine bands hailing from different regions of the Piedmont and central Virginia. One such band is The Grass & Eclectic Co. from right here in Fluvanna. Band member Bob McDermott, who performs mandolin and vocals, stated that Grass & Eclectic does “an eclectic mix of bluegrass, country, rockabilly and other new and traditional favorites.” Shows are humorous, “good clean fun,” and filled with crowd-pleasers such as “What’s the Matter with Me?,” a song by band member and Fluvanna resident Sam Babbitt that laments how hard men try “to please their wives to no avail.” Another song, “Awaken to the Glory” by McDermott, has played on radio stations across the country and is available on iTunes.
Also appearing at the bluegrass festival is local band Rockfish Gap. Band member Mitch Russell, who sings and plays mandolin, described Rockfish Gap’s repertoire as “traditional bluegrass songs and fiddle tunes, and also…a number of original songs.” Lake Monticello residents Maggie and Ralph Edwards sing and play bass and guitar, and other members from Charlottesville and Powhatan play rhythm guitar, banjo, and fiddle. The result is an “eclectic show with comfort and surprises.”
With so many bands playing so much good music, the festival is bound to entertain music lovers till dusk. With any luck, the Piedmont Virginia Fiddle and Banjo Association will net some new members eager to participate in Fluvanna’s bluegrass scene. If all goes well, fans on the sidelines will be back again next year, this time on stage.