At the Aiken Bluegrass Festival, things are done just a little bit differently than you might be used to. While there will be conventional headliners, such as the Infamous Stringdusters and Fruition, the meat of this festival comes with the unique mix of special guests and super jams. Now in it’s 13th year and second location, the Aiken Bluegrass Festival is an organic, collaborative pickin’ party that has become the stuff of legend to those in the know.
Headliners for the festival, happening May 12-13 in Aiken, South Carolina, will be the Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, The Larry Keel Experience, The Herman Clan, Billy Strings, Gypsy Moon and Brad Parsons. The pool of musicians coming down to add to the collaborative potential is jarring, including Allie Kral, Andy Thorn, Vince Herman, Larry Keel, Billy Strings, Lindsay Lou, Andy Falco, Mimi Naja, Travis Book, Jay Starling, Silas Herman and Mackenzie Page. The Poke Around chatted with Aiken’s director Christian Schaumann about how all of this comes together.
“It works out well, a lot of these guys really enjoy getting to play outside their bands with other musicians,” said Schaumann, “Backstage at every other festival, you’ll catch them all goofing off together, and this is their chance to take that goofing off and put it up on stage, cause everyone else wants to see it.”
There will be an “ABF Super Jam” each night, the first one with Andy Thorn, Billy Strings, Jay Starling, Allie Kral, Travis Book and more, and the Saturday night version hosting “as many artists as we can fit on stage.”
One rarity on the lineup is The Herman Clan, a band made up jovial Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman and his sons Collin Herman and Silas Herman, and Mackenzie Page, the latter two being part of Gypsy Moon.
“Vince and I kind of got together, and thought why don’t we get the whole family down.” Schaumann said, attributing to the organic feel that surrounds this festival.
There’s also Guitacolypse Now, a super group consisting of a who’s who when it comes to acoustic picking, including Billy Strings, Larry Keel, Vince Herman, Andy Falco and Brad Parsons. This is sure to be a barn burner.
Another one to watch out for Saturday afternoon is Lindsay Lou and the Ladies, featuring Jenny Keel, Mimi Naja, Allie Kral, Lindsay Lou and Mackenzie Page.
All proceeds from the Aiken Bluegrass Festival benefit Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities improve their quality of life through safe interaction with horses.
Tickets and more information can be found at https://www.aikenbluegrassfestival.org/
Written by Richard Oakley
Photographs by Eric Rayburn (Aiken Bluegrass Festival 2016)