Spring is in the air, and the wildflowers are preparing to burst into bloom along the Blue Ridge in NC mountain communities, where stars shine brightly overhead. But those twinkling sentinels in North Carolina’s clear night skies aren’t the only stars to make an appearance this time of year. Soon the streets of Wilkesboro will be teeming with stars of the music industry, ready to light up the city’s most famous Bluegrass festival NC. Authentic home town music is one of the important attributes found in the best retirement places in North Carolina.
If you haven’t been to MerleFest, you haven’t experienced true Americana roots music. MerleFest is the highly anticipated four-day event known as Wilkesboro’s “annual homecoming of musicians and music fans” and has been the crown jewel of this culturally rich city since 1988. Originally produced as a benefit concert dedicated to the memory of Merle Watson, son of legendary guitarist Doc Watson, the festival has been going strong for nearly three decades. The 2016 festival runs from April 28 to May 1, and takes place on the campus of Wilkes Community College.
In addition to music, music, music, MerleFest includes a schedule chock-full of activities, including Jam Camp, Songwriters Coffee House, Acoustic Kids Showcase, Little Pickers, Pickin’ Place stage, vendor shops, and nature walks.
This year, MerleFest is also offering songwriters a chance to play their songs before a panel of Nashville music industry professionals when they participate in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Net proceeds from this contest will support the WCC Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship, named for the charismatic young rising star of bluegrass whose life was tragically cut short in a 1991 plane crash.
With a promise to serve up “music, moments, and memories” to last a lifetime, MerleFest has put together a star-packed lineup for MerleFest 2016. Musical artists include:
April 28 – Thursday
John Prine – Known as “a songwriter’s songwriter,” this two-time Grammy-winning country/folk artist is making his first appearance in a decade.
Steep Canyon Rangers – Returning for their eighth festival appearance, the Rangers are a crowd favorite when it comes to sophisticated modern bluegrass with downhome flair.
Jim Lauderdale – This Grammy-winning Nashville A-lister has had his songs recorded by Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, The Dixie Chicks and George Strait. He’s one of the most respected artists in bluegrass/country and Americana.
Shannon Whitworth – MerleFest fans love the swoon-inducing southern charm of this American singer/songwriter with roots in Appalachian bluegrass.
Tellico – Firmly planted in Asheville NC’s thriving roots music scene, this band is well schooled in bluegrass, but with an unbridled organic “Appalachiacana” sound.
April 29 Friday
Jerry Douglas – A MerleFest fan favorite, this multi-award-winning master of the resonator guitar and lap steel has played at every MerleFest since 1988.
The Kruger Brothers – The incomparable sounds of this trio has been called “unpretentious, cultivated and delightfully fresh.” They may have roots in Europe, but their blend of banjo, bass, and guitar with harmony vocals is Americana all the way.
April Verch – This fiddler/singer/stepdancer says she grew up “surrounded by living, breathing roots music.” Her lively style has been compared to Canadian fiddler/dancer Natalie MacMaster.
Foghorn String Band – Credited with igniting the Old Time Renaissance in the Northwest, this down-home, foot-stomping quartet continues to stand out as the gold standard for American stringband music.
Kristy Cox – A new voice in Australian bluegrass, she brings her acoustic country/bluegrass music infused with a youthful energy to Merlefest 2016.
April 30 Saturday
Dave Rawlings Machine – Get ready to experience the rousing live performance style that’s earned this band a reputation as “one of the hottest string bands on the planet” (SF Weekly).
The Wood Brothers – Dubbed the “masters of soulful funk” by Paste magazine, the band will play off their new album, Paradise, which they consider their most sophisticated work to date… and also the most rocking.
Becky Buller – This multi-award-winning acoustic fiddler is known for her southern flavor and, according to Fiddler Magazine, “has become one of the most sought after performers in the bluegrass music industry today.”
Sam Bush – Considered an original of the Newgrass style, this Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist fuses bluegrass with jazz, rock, blues, and funk.
The Waybacks – More than just a bluegrass band, these guys are “purveyors of acoustic mayhem,” and their high-spirited melodies are sure to keep fans on their feet.
May 1 Sunday
Scythian – This MerleFest fan favorite with roots in Ukrainian, Celtic and bluegrass traditions delivers a high-spirited barn-dance rock concert experience.
Donna the Buffalo – A perfect bluesy blend of music styles, this band exemplifies MerleFest’s hallmark “traditional plus” style, serving up a combination of old-time fiddle and soulful electric Americana infused with rock, folk, reggae, and country.
Brandi Carlile – Inspired by early country artists like Patsy Cline, this alternative country and folk rock singer-songwriter has sold out shows at Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall, and makes her first appearance at MerleFest in 2016.
Tim O-Brien – This eclectic musician blends bluegrass, deep-roots Appalachian, old-school rock, jazz, and funk for a distinctive sound the Wall Street Journal calls “classic-sounding material stamped with his own perceptive personality.”
Sierra Hull – Singer, songrwriter, mandolin player, this musical artist is known for bringing a refined elegance to her beloved bluegrass.
And that’s just a sample of the more than 100 artists performing at this year’s MerleFest. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-343-7857 or online where you’ll find a full lineup and event schedule. The web site includes directions to the festival from all nearby NC mountain communities, with options for shuttle service, RV parking, and handicap access.
What the site won’t tell you is the secret to making your Bluegrass festival NC experience even more memorable. So we’re going to let you in on it …
When you’re in Wilkesboro for MerleFest, you’re just a quick jaunt from some of the best retirement places in North Carolina. In fact, Wilkesboro is about a 30-minute drive to Lenoir. And with gorgeous wildflower-lined mountains spanning your route, you’ll enjoy every vibrant mile of the scenic drive.
Once you reach Lenoir, you’ll want to explore one of the area’s most picturesque NC mountain communities. We call it The Coves Mountain River Club, where cool mountain breezes whistle their own brand of bluegrass as they waft across the five miles of river footage that surround this nature-rich gated mountain community.
While you’re exploring our community and admiring the custom-built homes, be sure to visit Pisgah Mountain Lodge at the summit of the neighborhood. But be prepared. The views might steal your breath away. With expansive windows on all sides and a wrap-around deck porch lined with rocking chairs, this cozy mountain lodge offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, with clear views of the majestic Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain. There’s also a full kitchen, infinity-view swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center. Here is where you’re likely to find residents retreating to unwind after MerleFest, reflecting on the day’s festivities as they watch the sun set behind Round Mountain – the perfect end to a perfect Bluegrass festival NC kind of day. Just like MerleFest, this is where memories are made.
Why not keep the “music, moments, and memories” theme going, and join us for some porch sittin’ at The Pisgah Mountain Lodge where you can shoot the breeze and get to know your future neighbors at The Coves Mountain River Club. They’ll be the first to tell you that NC mountain communities don’t get much better than this.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 84 page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide which provides more information about living in the foothills.