A Look Back at Del Fest | Part 1
Late Night Show with Fruition and the Infamous Stringdusters
By Jeff Marsala & Brady Cooling Photography
DelFest boasts an incredible vibe on the Allegany County Fairgrounds, which is nestled where the border of West Virginia meets Maryland. This scenic lush landscape enhances the already promising atmosphere the artists and fans bring. At first glance it was clear this was a family friend event that is one many have been coming to as a tradition since the festival first started 9 years ago. When you have a host like Del McCoury, a true bluegrass legend, you’re only going to get the finest pickers in the land. This was all about strings all weekend. No laptops onstage. Just organic music.
We arrived Thursday night to catch Portland based act, Fruition as they opened for the Infamous Stringdusters late night set. The room itself is a “multipurpose building” on the grounds that is hosts to tractors and other farmer equipment during other times of the year. This makeshift room comes to life for the late night shows, which can last well past 3:30am on any given night. Fruition is an act that has been on my radar since high school as Kellen’s old roommate used to send us tapes of them in pizza parlors and the like in their early days.
This band has gone from busking on the street to playing at Red Rocks. The vocal harmonies are a notable attribute of this ensemble. What you have now is a band that tells great stories, makes great records, and a live string band with incredible stage presence and instrumental panache. They were truly a highlight of the festival for me, walking in to them performing “Labor of Love,” the title track off their most recent album.
The Infamous Stringdusters last time playing Delfest was 2013, (shocking I know) and their late night set that year was really the first time I knew this band was something super special. The band played through the sunrise. They continued their tour with Nicki Bluhm and hit on songs off their newest release, “Ladies and Gentlemen” with starting it off with “Run to Heaven,” “Ladders in the Sky,” the classic Emmylou Harris tune “Amarillo” and then for the first time the Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers hit song, “Little Too Late To Die Young.”
The traditional late night set wouldn’t be complete without sit-ins, and the band did a beautiful medley of covers featuring Tyler Thompson on drums, and Mimi Naja on mandolin from Fruition with: “Sittin’ On Top of the World” followed by “Cripple Creek.” The band continued this energy and cover selection with Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” which Andy Hall of the Dusters has been crushing for a while on vocals. This whole set was one of the best of the weekend and much of the Duster faithful and it ended with “Not Fade Away,” which was a nod at the festival and vibe of the weekend to simply “not end” and continue the party rolling along which is exactly what they did!