Live Review: MerleFest 2018, Friday

One of the largest music festivals in the world, MerleFest, recently took place here in North Carolina…

MerleFest 2018 began on a rainy Thursday evening but Friday’s weather could not have been more perfect. A more festival feeling took over the grounds of Wilkes Community College as attendees filled their seats early in the day and were set up for the long haul. Performances taking place across 11 different stages at various times throughout the day helped to break up the crowd while the valley in front of the Watson Stage remained near capacity.

Artists were in and out of their various appearances as fans were entertained and individuals had more than a fair share of opportunities to see and hear whatever they wanted. Throughout the day, a few of the sets stood out above the rest as we made our way through what would unfortunately be our final day of the festival.

Brandy Clark

The Washington native singer/songwriter took to the Watson Stage on Friday afternoon a bit behind schedule but well worth the wait. Clark got the attention of everyone with her story telling capabilities and detailed lyrics behind many of her songs from her most recent album, “Big Day in a Small Town.”

Never one to mince words, Clark wowed those on hand with hits like, “Girl Next Door“, the title track “Big Day in a Small Town” and “Daughter” – a revenge song of which Clark is particularly proud. Looking around during her set, there were many on hand who were familiar with her work but it is also a safe assumption that Clark gained many new fans by putting together a well rehearsed set and connecting to the audience via her small town stories to which many on hand could relate.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer with Sam Gleaves

Earlier in the afternoon, the duo of Fink and Marxer with special guest Sam Gleaves entertained the main stage crowd from the front porch of the Cabin Stage. One of our favorite pre-festival interviews, Fink and Marxer are prevelant members in the folk music community having won multiple GRAMMY Awards while creating original music for fans of all ages.

Rosie and the Riveters

Making their North Carolina and MerleFest debut, Rosie and the Riveters brought their unapologetic approach to many of today’s controversial issues through song to the crowd – also from the Cabin Stage. The female trio recently released their second album, “Ms. Behave” and included the title track into their unfortunately brief 25-minute set.

Jamey Johnson

Country music icon Jamey Johnson concluded the main stage lineup to end night two of MerleFest. Johnson beckons the memory of many past entertainers who can captivate an audience with simply a guitar and his voice. There is no need for flashing lights, background tracks, computerized sounds or anything not man made live when Johnson is on stage.

The simplicity of his set, where Johnson shines as he doesn’t work from a list but instead plays anything he pleases, is anything but … while his entertainment value reaches peak perfection. Earlier in the afternoon, Johnson shared his thoughts on a number of subjects via an interview with many of the media members on hand.

When asked about his favorite writer, Johnson said, “Nobody turns a phrase like [Kris] Kristofferson.” The Texas legend who had graced the Watson Stage just one night prior. It was an epic ending to the second day of MerleFest here in North Carolina.

The weekend continued as many more artists and entertainers graced numerous stages throughout the complex over Saturday and Sunday. The MerleFest experience is unique in a variety of ways and should definitely be attended, regardless of the lineup – which is annually too good to pass up.

Taking place over the last weekend of April every year, go ahead and prepare for the thirty-second installment set to occur next year.

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