This past Saturday I went to the Wide Open Bluegrass Street Fest in Raleigh with a friend. I really like folk music, especially Irish and Welsh folk music—which is where Bluegrass originated. Because my right hand, which is my dominant hand by the way, is still functionally useless—keep that in mind while reading this lest you come across any ridiculous spelling errors—I had Saturday off from my usual work at the Center so this was a great opportunity to get out of the house and have an adventure in Raleigh, where I rarely go.
I was expecting an open field with a hand full of stages set up about the periphery and the middle open for booths and food vendors. This was not the case.
Wide Open was set up as a street fair, with bazaar-style stalls set up between six stages on the cross streets of Fayetteville Street next to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and the Red Hat Amphitheater. In theory, this is a brilliant use of space. In application, it felt like a clusterfuck. Aside form being too little space for as many people as were there, the set up had the very unfortunate side effect of making it difficult—in some cases, impossible—to hear any of the bands that were playing unless you were standing directly in front of their stage.
The one band that we got to see, and hear, was Special Consensus, who were very good. I’m sure there were other groups who were also very good, but we didn’t get to hear them. I was struck by the lack of violins or flutes at the festival, usually these are pretty staple instruments for the traditional folk music genre(s), especially those from which bluegrass stems. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any in the crowd, only that I didn’t see or hear any. I also didn’t see any bodhrán, which made me a little sad.
A few blocks away from the official street fair there was what felt like a different party all together. Across the street from Tír na nÓg is a park which was also hosting a music festival, only this one had a strictly Irish theme. There was one stage with plenty of open space to sit and stretch out, and few little booths and tables for different “Irish-themed” businesses and groups. This little party, also a part of the International Bluegrass Music Association‘s World of Bluegrass celebration I’ve recently learned, was a lot more fun because there was some room to breathe. It also gave me the idea to count how many fellow red-heads I saw throughout the afternoon at the festival. If you’re curious, the final count was 18 out of a crowd of several hundreds.
Despite being a bit light on the enjoying music side of the music festival spectrum, I had a lot of fun. I’ve never been to that part of Raleigh and I got to spend time with a friend I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to anymore. I, obviously, would have liked to have been able to hear more music, but for an afternoon adventure it was still fun.