A couple of weeks ago I had a fabulous weekend away at Orwell Bluegrass Festival near Ipswich. It was the festival debut for my own new bluegrass band The Reckless Abandoners, and we had a fantastic time opening up the main stage on Saturday afternoon. I’m very fortunate to have put together a collective of some great British musicians from across the UK, and we’ve been busy working up our set for our festival performances this summer season. We hit it lucky with that short run of hot sunny weather on the first weekend of May, before spring decided to retreat again! Here’s a little excerpt of our set for you.
Orwell Bluegrass Festival is the first big event of festival season on the UK calendar, and is held on a scenic campsite next to the River Orwell estuary. It was a wonderfully varied event with an extensive programme of bands (mostly British, but with some American & mainland European bands too) playing in two performance marquees. There were also instrument workshops and lots and lots of jam sessions of all kinds. It was a very social occasion with hundreds of bluegrass musicians and fans travelling from across the country to watch, listen and participate – as well as many locals enjoying an entertaining and friendly day out.
This is just one of a huge programme of bluegrass festivals which take place across the British Isles, mostly during the summer season. They often feature a varied mix of bluegrass, Americana and related music. If you’re not in the know, you may not be aware of most of these wonderful events, which don’t get the media attention of some of the big folk festivals, but are their equal in terms of music quality, and often far superior in terms of the actual festival experience, in my opinion!
The vast majority of bluegrass festivals are very reasonably priced, normally include camping in the weekend ticket options, and offer an extremely enjoyable mix of on-stage bands, entertaining sessions, friendly folks and modestly priced food and drink concessions. Quite a few regularly host excellent bands from the USA (as does True North Music!) alongside some of the hugely impressive talent we see on the UK scene – some excellent British bands I’d recommend include The Hot Rock Pilgrims, Cup O’Joe, Jaywalkers, The Kentucky Cow Tippers, Tilter Wheel and The Grass Snakes. Check out this list of the season’s events and give one of your local festivals a try!