Blue Ox Festival: Day One

Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, started off small in size but not in spirit yesterday. Now in its third year, the predominantly bluegrass festival (with roots, old time, Americana, and other facets of the do-it-yourself musical attitude thrown in for seasoning) only boasted six bands on its first day, but those who played made sure to kick things off with verve. Jeff Austin Band took the stage first, opening in the late afternoon just as the sun gave the warm June day a bit more bite. In between covers of the roving “Reuben’s Train” and the jaunty “Red Haired Boy,” Austin told the crowd, “I can’t stop dancing.” They echoed his sentiment in kind. The main stage also saw sets from The Travelin’ McCourys—who covered Junior Parker and Roger Creager before closing with “Old Bud”—and then a superjam from Grateful Ball, the band composed of Jeff Austin Band and Travelin’ McCourys. Bringing the first two mainstage sets together for a packed performance at dusk gave the mellifluous festival a rock edge, even though there were no electric instruments to be heard. Sam Bush Band concluded the schedule’s primary performances with a rousing set, including a rendition of “Transcendental Meditation Blues.” “We did not bring the rain this year,” he laughed. [Original photos by Amanda Wicks; full review/gallery available at Paste.]

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