MerleFest, the “traditional plus” music festival on the Wilkes Community College campus in Wilkesboro, NC, runs today through Sunday, April 25-28. Named in honor of Doc Watson’s son Merle, who died in 1985, the festival has been held the last weekend in April since 1988.
The festival hosts 90+ artists on 14 stages over the course of four days. Among this year’s headliners are the Avett Brothers, Sam Bush, the Charlie Daniels Band, John Cowan, Donna the Buffalo, Jerry Douglas, Government Mule, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Peter Rowan, Leon Russell and the Waybacks. Local favorites performing are Michelle Belanger, Chatham County Line and Durham’s Delta Rae.
One of the highlights is sure to be the Hillside Album Hour, from 3:15p to 5:30p Saturday on the Hillside stage. The event began in 2008 when the Waybacks used their set to play a rock album (Led Zeppelin II) in its entirety using bluegrass instrumentation. The idea stuck, and albums chosen in subsequent years are the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, the Beatles’ Abbey Road, the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. The identity of each year’s album remains a closely guarded secret until the show begins (although the band has dropped some hints). Among the many performers who have joined the Waybacks for the Album Hour in past years are Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris.
The forecast is sunny with temps near 70 Thursday & Friday, a bit cooler with a chance for some rain Saturday & Sunday. You can be sure that won’t dampen the enthusiasm of festival-goers.