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Delfest 2016: 8 Best Things We Saw

From the legendary host’s family to a bluegrass ingenue

Del McCoury

The Del McCoury Band leads an eclectic lineup at Delfest 2016.

Mark Raker Photography

Now in its ninth year, Delfest was founded by the patriarch of bluegrass, Del McCoury, to showcase the talents of his brood and to cultivate an all-ages atmosphere that revolves around a distinct, down-home vibe and unparalleled musicianship. Set in Cumberland, Maryland, along the Potomac River in the rolling hills of Appalachia, the four-day event was marked by rain and intense heat, as well as one of the best string-based lineups of the summer.

McCoury is not only a headliner and the festival's main draw, but he also has a integral role when it comes to curating the rest of the lineup. This year's included a lot of world-class bluegrass, from Jerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester to Sam Bush Band to the Infamous Stringdusters, as well as Americana trio the Wood Brothers, singer-songwriter Aoife O'Donovan and 10-piece funk and soul band The Broomestix, featuring McCoury's grandson Evan (and driving home Delfest's family vibes).

A major theme of the festival is its attendee's knack for Del-ifying everything, from the DELuxe camping, to the DELbows — a knocking of the elbows — that serve as a common greeting, to the altering of band names (our favorite: DELephant Revival). Thus, the phrase "Delyeah" is as ubiquitous as moonshine at the three-day event, serving as an enthusiastic form of approval that speaks to anything worthy of the McCourys, whether it be the generosity of a camp that's feeding you, or a one-of-a-kind sit-in you'll be talking about through July. Here's a small selection of the artists that really stood out over the weekend, inspiring multiple "Delyeahs."

All photographs courtesy of Brady Wayne Cooling, Victoria Pittarelli and Mark Raker.


Mark Raker Photography

Greensky Bluegrass

Pick a handful of 2016 summer festivals at random, and Greensky Bluegrass are likely playing the majority of them. The constant touring, however, didn't effect the band's two sets, which were filled with classics ("Old Barns," "Just to Lie"), newer tunes ("Living Over," "Fixin' to Ruin"), and covers, including "Road to Nowhere" (Talking Heads), "Dancing in the Dark" (Bruce Springsteen), and the standout "Yellow Eyes" (Rayland Baxter). In the course of six years, Greensky has gone from a small name on the Delfest poster to the headliner chosen to close out the festival.


Victoria Pittarelli/The Mischief Collective


Cabinet's swampy, cosmic sound made for two of the best Delfest sets, combining an Appalachian upbringing with a penchant for experimentation. The group played a late night, memorable cover of JJ Cale's "Cocaine," before taking to the mainstage the following afternoon. Most memorable, however, was the pickin' that happened in between the two, Cabinet playing as the sun rose over the campground – embodying the down home feeling of Delfest.

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