Down a dirt road in Franklinton, N.C. lies the festival grounds of "PreddyFest," an annual three-day bluegrass event that's been running since 1997. The festival is small, with one modestly constructed stage. In front of it sit lawn chairs, with a plethora of golf carts and ATVs parked within viewing distance of the stage under the long-leaf pines. The largely elderly crowd seemed to all know each other; they lined up row by row in their lawn chairs, delicately tapping their toes along to the driving bluegrass rhythms.
After sets by the Grasscats and Sideline, 9-time IBMA Fiddle Performer of the Year Michael Cleveland and his band, Flamekeeper, were set to take the stage. Touring on their new release On Down the Line,
the group took the stage for the first of two sets, with the clouds overhead darkening. There are few bands I'd stand in the rain to watch, and yet that's what many at PreddyFest did. Each member brings an instrumental prowess with both speed and clean picking, and Cleveland leads the way.
And while Cleveland's afternoon set at PreddyFest was short, he'll be back with Flamekeeper in September for IBMA's World of Bluegrass. In early balloting, he and the group are nominated in three separate categories: Entertainer of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year and Fiddle Performer of the Year.
Below are a few songs from their afternoon performance at PreddyFest 2014.
Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, "Come Along Jody"
Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, "Fiddlin' Joe"