Sunrise at Byrd’s Creek Music Festival brought with it the promise of a day packed with Americana, bluegrass, and traditional country music. At the risk of a spoiler: it didn’t disappoint!
As the sound of bacon sizzling in the campsites gave way to the distant hum of the festival’s stages coming to life, there was a distinct feeling of anticipation throughout the grounds.
The Hill Country Devil
At the main stage inside the festival village, the crowd had already gathered to take in the enjoyably depressive sounds of The Hill Country Devil. The project of singer-songwriter Hayden Allen Karchmer, The Hill Country Devil is a self-described “scumbag troubadour.” The crowd soaked in the honest song crafting on his hits including, “Rats Get Fat,” and, “New Kind of Lonely,” and met him with a roar of applause following his cover of, “Greengrass,” from Tom Waits. His painfully exposed lyrics were powerful enough to create a delightfully dreary musical cloud to fight back the sun’s rays.
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Adeem the Artist
Over at the festival’s Dogwood Stage, Knoxville’s Adeem the Artist had just finished tuning and was ready for a set in the sun. Playing several songs from the recently released album Cast Iron Pansexual, Adeem didn’t miss any opportunity to share some cynical wit—both between and in each song. The set also included the best (maybe only) song about Weigel’s convenience stores, a reference true to Adeem’s Marble City home.
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One of the best parts about the Byrd’s Creek Music Festival is the intimacy of the sets. It feels like you’re surrounded by old friends sitting around a campfire or watching an artist play a house show. This was highlighted during the early afternoon set by Matt Heckler. There’s something special about seeing an artist who has toured with bands such as Devil Makes Three, Lost Dog Street Band, and Flogging Molly in a setting where people felt comfortable making requests—and the artist responded. Heckler’s set featured his brand of dark Appalachian bluegrass but included several extended fiddle interludes which merged classic violin influences into the mix. He was met with a roar of applause when he played crowd-favorite, “Blue Eyes Dancing,” and several of his songs inspired people to clap along—with a few even dancing through a brief mid-set downpour.
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Jennifer Jane Nicely
Classic country & western honky-tonk vibes returned to Byrd’s Creek Music Festival when Jennifer Jane Nicely took the Dogwood Stage. With a setlist exploring most of her tracks from her Depending on the Light EP, Angels, Demons, Red-Tail Hawks and many of her prior singles, Nicely pulled the crowd into her songs, thanks to the slightly twangy, aching inflection of her vocals.
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Back at the festival’s main stage, Nashville’s Chelsea Lovitt gathered an all-star band to give her meaning-loaded rocking country a lighter honky-tonk feel. Songs like, “If I Had A Dollar,” and, “Beanstalk,” from her recent album, You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It, still didn’t pull any punches, but thanks to the fiddle playing of Nate Leath, the harmony/background vocals from Audrey MacAlpine, and the pedal steel from Will Ellis, the set had a buoyancy that was perfect for the end of a hot afternoon.
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Over nine hours of music had already come and gone on Saturday of Byrd’s Creek Music Festival, and they weren’t done giving us classic country songs just yet. With the sun set and the stage lights coming to life, Nashville’s Hannah Juanita shared several of her songs from her recent album Hardliner—a record full of traditional country sounds and strong lyrical narratives. With her own Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn influenced honky-tonk numbers filling the air with two-step vibes, it felt like we were right at home in our favorite western bar.
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Lost Dog Street Band
It was now time for the evening’s headliner and the start of the late-night party. The festival crowd made their way to the Byrd’s Creek mainstage for the emotionally hard-hitting roots music of the Lost Dog Street Band. The audience bathed in the band’s painfully honest lyrics, nimbly strummed acoustic guitar riffs, and intimate fiddle accompaniment. Dark, brooding melodies like, “Terrible and True,” were balanced by still-pensive, yet more jaunty numbers like their hit, “September Doves,” during their thoughtfully curated set.
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West King String Band
Once again, the festival knew we would need some high-energy music to keep us going strong into the late-night sets. They didn’t have to look further than the fast-picking stylings of Nashville by way of St. Augustine, West King String Band. Not quite newgrass—more folk grass—WKSB put on a set that was high in classic bluegrass influences, but felt modern and relaxed. Featuring well-picked mandolin solos merged with rambling acoustic guitar and plucked bass, the band performed several songs fans knew well from both Staring At The Sun and Achin’.
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End of Day 2 at Byrd’s Creek Music Festival
Eight bands and twelve hours of music later, it was time to call an end (at least for us) to the second day of the 2021 Byrd’s Creek Music Festival. As we walked back to our campsite, we could tell that there was still music and a heck of a good time going on at the Dogwood Stage. However, we needed to be ready for another great day of Americana music still coming our way.
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