The Aiken Bluegrass Festival: A Truly Special Tradition May 14, 2018 22:57

Words + Photos by Nicholas Lintz: Live & Listen

The Aiken Bluegrass Festival is located down in the Sandhills of South Carolina, nestled on the edge of Georgia. This is prime Equestrian country and home to some incredible music culture. What better way to kick off festival season? This was the 14th annual festival, but you would never even know it because of how well the loving members and volunteers have maintained the grassroots feel. Augusta's Friends With Benefits Productions would also play a hand in this year's festival, which seems like a recipe for continued growth.

It felt like a family reunion, with campground pickings, local vendors, and a variety of local food. This year's festival mainly benefited the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, and it was a pet-friendly occasion. Beautiful dogs large and small roamed the grounds all weekend. We've included a few of our favorite pups in the photo gallery below. 

This year's Aiken Bluegrass Festival also added a new inside beer hall and stage on the grounds; where you could get out of the mid-day heat, grab a cold drink, and listen to some music. After every show outside, there was immediately a show inside, so you were never forced to miss any bands or be in the heat too long. With massive groups like Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, The Larry Keel Experience, Jon Stickley Trio, Billy Strings, and many more playing the festival it still felt homey. While Bluegrass was the focus, many of these groups can't help but push the envelope on this genre. We heard classic rock, Dead tunes, and even 90's covers.

Friday night was headlined by Leftover Salmon while the late-night show on Friday involved Vince Herman's Leftover Jam where as many as 12 + members from both the Friday and Saturday shows joined Vince up on stage at one time until 1:30 in the morning. Saturday drew in some last minute heavy rainstorms, but nothing stopped the music or dancing. There were great tunes all day then Greensky managed to draw a massive crowd at night as they blew our minds with their "rock-n-roll" bluegrass mentality. Then late-night Billy Strings took us home with a 'Psychedelic Circus' that left many speechless.

To be completely honest, it was extremely difficult for me to pinpoint what made Aiken Bluegrass Festival so beautiful and special this weekend. I am not sure if it was the intimate shows with some of the biggest acts in bluegrass, the incredible layout and land, the home-grown volunteers and vendors, or all the beautiful dogs and people. All I know for sure is that I "Love ABF" and will be sure to never miss it again.

Watch a clip of Billy Strings' performance here:

Watch a clip of Love Canon performing "Solsbury Hill" here: