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Festival Envy

Here it comes again. Clifftop. The Appalachian String Band Festival, Aug. 1-5, at Camp Washington-Carver in Fayette County, W.Va. Ever since becoming enraptured by old-time music I've wanted to make the pilgrimage to this festival, but once again it'll have to wait until another year.

Living in Northeast Ohio, I'm lucky in that there are local jams and a few annual events where I can go play and hear the music, but there's nothing on the scale of Clifftop. It has become almost mythological in mind. The white whale of fiddles, banjos, guitars, basses and a variety of other instruments and the fellow fogies who make them sing.

While I've never been to the festival, videos posted on YouTube from various years are legion. If I'm trying ot learn a new tune and want to watch a video, there's almost always an example from Clifftop.

When I was trying to learn "Half Past Four," I watched this video over and over and over again. Athens, Ohio-based banjo player Hilarie Burhans just kills it.

Then there is this 2008 documentary of the festival, featuring fiddler Keith McManus. I've watched the video numerous times as well, with the anticipation of some day joining in the fun.

I'm not much of a camper, but I'd be willing to suffer for a few nights of banjo bliss. One day, sigh ...

So, dear readers, who among you are going?


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I have now been playing banjo for eight years and fiddle for four years. My focus remains on the fiddle, as I try to learn general technique and tunes. Time spent playing banjo was mostly to keep up with a handful of tunes I like most.

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