Merlefest: Superlatives

Best Artist: Gaaaa I can’t pick one.  Peter Rowan? The John Cowan/Patrick Simmons/Darrell Scott/Luke Bulla ensemble?  Maybe just Luke Bulla? The Kruger Brothers, whom I’d follow anywhere?

Best Set: The Waybacks, Hillside Album Hour, Purple Haze.

Best Fashion: Peter Rowan’s lime green bandana.  Rock on, cowboy. You, sir, are a handsome devil.

Best Food: Grits for dinner from the breakfast-all-day tent. Thank you.

Best Surprise Band I Did Not Know I’d Love:  Johnson’s Crossroads.

Best Performance I Did Not Even Enjoy A Little Bit Because I Do Not Like Jazz Even If It’s Good Jazz:  Bela Fleck.

Best Stage: Hillside Stage.  Worth getting a foothold and hanging on.

Best Song That Made Me Cry: “Appalchian Mist,” The Kruger Brothers.

Best Neighbors: Mel and Julia, father and daughter, in the RV next door.  Without Scout Leader Julia, we’d still be trying to start that Friday night fire.  Also, Mel tells great jokes.

Best Five Pounds: Audrey’s chocolate-on-chocolate trail mix.  Good lord.

Best Spot: The R&R tent, in the shade under a giant hat, midday.

Best Band From Canada: The Deep Dark Woods.  I love it when they say “Saskatoon.”

Five Six Seven New Band Crushes in No Particular Order: lead singer of Deep Dark Woods, fiddle player for the Waybacks, fiddle player for Steep Canyon Rangers, fiddle player for Lost Bayou Ramblers, fiddle player Luke Bulla, anyone see a recurring motif here, Peter Rowan in the “dashing gentleman” category, mandolin player from Johnson’s Crossroads.  You boys call me.

Best Version of Orange Blossom Special Ever:  Steep Canyon Rangers.  That’s some fiddlin’.

Best Fascinating Performance:  Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks:  the saw?  Crazy.  Crazy cool.

Best Invention:  Fire Paste.  Thank you, William.  Seriously, without you, we’d still be trying to start the Saturday fire, too.

Best Performer I Might Hesitate to Put Out if Accidentally Aflame:  Anyone who subjects me to Michael Jackson’s “Billye Jean” on the fiddle.  It almost ruined the fiddle for me.  No, music.   It almost ruined music. It is that disturbing.

Best Small Tragedy: I got kicked out of James Nash’s “How to Make the Acoustic Guitar Rock” workshop, because I was three people too late to get a seat.  Next year I am showing up at dawn.

Best Workshop: Wylie Gustavson, “How to Yodel.”  Try it.  Yodel like a cowboy. You’ll feel like a million damn dollars.

Best New Hobby I Can’t Do Yet:  Slide Guitar

Best Purchase: Guitar Slide. It is beautiful.  It might be magical. See above.

Best Tragic Fashion: Head-to-toe tie dye pajamas. Shout out to the sixty year old man in the kilt with the bellybutton ring, though.  A solid effort.

Best Fashion News: The Maxi Dress Has Jumped The Shark.  Repeat.  The Maxi Dress Has Jumped The Shark.  Finally.  There were still a few.  But they’re dwindling, people.  Hold tight.  They’ll go the way of the jelly shoes soon.

Best Line: “I like a girl with a few tattoos, it shows she’ll do things she’ll later regret.”

Best Hour of Awkward:  Dance tent.  We walked up as they were playing “Tennessee Waltz,” and I went apoplectic trying to get Audrey and Julia to waltz with me, before they’d even set down their bags.  It did not go well, as none of us actually know how to waltz.  Some nice man came and showed us, and he danced the last half of it with me.  He was less excited about square dancing with us, as we are even less skilled at that than at waltzing.  I got a two-handed shove from someone.  I had to be the guy in our dance.  I also had to follow someone in an endless loop, half-crouched to duck under everyone’s arms, whose shorts were falling off.  But it all turned out fine.

Best Lone Dancer:  You, sir, at the Steel Wheels doing jazz hands in the crowd while shaking everything you’ve got.  Go AFTER it.  I love it.

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