Editorial: Get out of the house and go hear some live music

Published 2:03 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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Get out of the house this weekend and go hear some live music.

MerleFest is going on.

From just about anywhere in Davie County, you can drive to Wilkesboro, park and be inside the gate in just over an hour. Take NC 901 and drive through Union Grove. Reminisce about the great bluegrass festivals held there – the rowdy ones, and the more subdued ones put on by the family of Mocksville’s Hank Van Hoy.  Give a nod to the Cook Shack when you drive by, and think about the top-notch musicians who played inside that country store. Hearing Verlon Thompson singing as he sneaked in through the back door there is a musical memory I won’t forget.

MerleFest brings in some of the best musicians from around the world, but still showcases local talent. Last year, His & Hers from Davie County were among the performers.

This year, Trap Hill’s Presley Barker will kick the festival off at 3 p.m. Thursday. He’s young. He’s good looking. He has a great stage presence. And, oh yeah, he can sing. You’ll hear him on the radio someday. But first, go see him at MerleFest.

It gets better. Thursday’s lineup also includes Tommy Emmanuel, one of the best guitarists out there, followed by Little Feat. Think “Dixie Chicken.” Pretty cool southern song for a bunch of guys from LA (The California LA, not Davie’s Lower Advance.).

The night ends with brothers Chris and Rich Robinson. Be ready to rock.

The music only gets better from there. All day and into the night on Friday and Saturday, wrapping up late Sunday afternoon. Expect to see many of the living legends in bluegrass and acoustic music, country music, rock music, Americana, dance music. You get the picture.

This year, the festival will take on another milestone, as 2023 marks what would have been Doc Watson’s 100th birthday. Doc helped start the festival in memory of his son, Merle, who died in a tractor accident. The goal was to start a garden at Wilkes Community College accessible to the handicapped, especially the blind. Doc Watson was blind for all but the first few months of his life. His music lives on.

That garden thrives. And so do the students at the college and the people of Wilkes County, all thanks, in part, to MerleFest.

It’s all about the music there. And it really is family friendly. Alcoholic beverages aren’t sold, and there’s plenty of open spaces for the kids to get rid of some energy. People who love music take care of each other, so shenanigans aren’t tolerated. But you can be yourself. You can dance. It’s all a judgment free zone. Just be kind to one another.

Did I mention the music?

The Avett Brothers close the show on Friday night. It’s Maren Morris on Saturday. Sunday’s finale includes Tanya Tucker, followed by Nickle Creek.

The Waybacks, usually with a special guest or two, will play an entire album on Saturday afternoon. It’s usually a famous rock album, rendered by the progressive bluegrass band. It’s popular, so get to the Hillside Stage early for that one.

There are several activities specifically relating to Doc Watson, including a documentary about the festival. The all-star tributes to Doc should be something special, as well.

So do yourself a favor.

Dust off those foldable chairs, hop in the car and head to Wilkesboro.

Come home inspired.

– Mike Barnhardt