Concert Review: MerleFest

BY MARK DOLEJS I’ve always been under the impression that MerleFest was all about bluegrass music. Boy was I wrong! I had the opportunity ...


I’ve always been under the impression that MerleFest was all about bluegrass music. Boy was I wrong! I had the opportunity to attend on Friday, the second day of this year’s event, held April 27-30 on the campus of Wilkes Community College.

Miko Marks

This amazing event, in its 35th year, celebrates quite a few genres of music, including Americana, country, blues, and rock, to name a few.

Pickin' Tent

With eleven stages hosting close to 50 artists/bands throughout the day on Friday, I put together a wish list of folks that I wanted to try to see and hear. While it looked good on paper, the task proved to be a bit of challenge getting from stage to stage. I ended up catching performances by 13 different artists.

Dancing in the mud to Scythian

Rain on Thursday created quite a muddy situation in all of the heavily traveled pathways near and around most of the stages. I was able to catch parts of eight sets before an afternoon rain delay. I was photographing Scythian on the Watson stage during their afternoon performance when lightning was seen and their set cut short. The rain delay lasted for about two hours, which proved to be a nice break.

Lightnin' Wells

Before the rain, I was able to take in the music of Alison Brown, Wayne Henderson, Wyatt Ellis, The Waybacks, Miko Marks, Lightnin’ Wells, and the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. I had caught Scythian for a couple of songs on the Dance Stage early in the day and I was really looking forward to their full set that afternoon.

Wyatt Ellis

Fourteen-year-old Wyatt Ellis was the other highlight of the pre-rain listening. I can’t wait to see where this guy goes to from here. I photographed him in a solo set, but later in the festival he shared the stage, on mandolin, with several legends including Sam Bush, Tony Williamson and Peter Rowan.

Bee Taylor

Friday evening, as performers returned to the stages, I was able to take in Bee Taylor, Dom Flemons, Donna the Buffalo, Marcus King, and The Avett Brothers. The energy and stage presence of The Avett Brothers was impressive. This was a set that I was really looking forward to and they did not disappoint. Marcus King and Bee Taylor were both great surprises as they also took command and kept the audience rocking throughout their sets.

Marcus King

All in all, MerleFest was a great experience, even after I clocked 14,927 steps through the mud. The family oriented atmosphere was great and everyone looked like they were having a blast, I know I did. I look forward to going back!
Photography is an avenue that Mark Dolejs uses to learn about the people and places that cross his path. After more than 30 years as a photojournalist, Mark enjoys concert, macro, and roadside photography.

Follow Mark on Instagram at @solidrockpix.

The Avett Brothers

Alison Brown

Dom Flemons

Marcus King

Henry and Luella Hiller dance to Donna The Buffalo


Music 784727821454211022

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Strange Carolinas is the Travelogue Of The Offbeat, a wry look at the interesting, unique, and offbeat roadside attractions, people, music, art, food, and festivals in North and South Carolina.


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