10 Must-See Shows for Summer 2018

I’m writing this season’s update from the beach—”down the shore,” as we say in Philly—surrounded by lounging sunbathers. For many, summer is clearly a time to slow down. But for fans of bluegrass in Philly, it’s a different story. Summer is when things really heat up, with festivals providing anchor dates for touring acts to hit the road. Here are some of the best that will pass through our area this season. Of course, this says nothing of the great homegrown bluegrass music happening every week this summer, which you can find listed 24/7 on the Philly Bluegrass Calendar.

P.S. You can get outfitted to rep the Philly Bluegrass scene at your favorite festival this summer with the Official Philly Bluegrass t-shirt in our Square store. (Eagles green edition coming soon for football season!)

July 11: Fireside Collective at World Cafe Live

Fireside Collective is one of the hot emerging bands on the national bluegrass scene, winning an IBMA Momentum Band Award nomination in 2017. The Asheville, NC-based band was formed at East Tennessee State University by students in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program there, so it should be no surprise that this is one of the more technically skilled outfits on the circuit. A co-billing with Pennsylvania’s Serene Green makes this a lineup of young guns you won’t want to miss. Tickets available at the door for $10.

July 11: Meadow Mountain at Bourbon & Branch

Denver’s Meadow Mountain is another young, rising band on the national bluegrass scene, having won the coveted RockyGrass Band Competition one year ago in July 2017. July 2018 finds Meadow Mountain traveling out east to perform at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, another coveted milestone for emerging bluegrass bands. On Wednesday, July 11 Meadow Mountain visits Bourbon & Branch, where they’ll be hosted by Philly locals Man About a Horse and Rare Spirits. Tickets available at the door for $15.

July 23: Punch Brothers at Union Transfer

The Punch Brothers are without question one of acoustic music’s most prolific groups of musicians. It’s difficult to imagine how they would have time to put out their seventh album as a band, given all of their active side projects, and yet their latest effort, “All Ashore,” will be released July 20 on Nonesuch Records. The Brothers will visit Philadelphia just three days later. Tickets are on-sale now. VIP options with private pre-show performance available if you really love the Punch Brothers—and have money burning a hole in your pocket. With Madison Cunningham.

UPDATE, 7/20: “All Ashore” is out and available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and elsewhere.

July 24: Old Crow Medicine Show at Electric Factory

One would be hard pressed to argue with the New York Times when it called Old Crow Medicine Show the “nation’s foremost old-time string band” in a profile earlier this year. In that same interview with the Times, the band insists that their signing to Columbia Records last year won’t change their style. A listen to “Volunteer,” OCMS’s new record, bears out that loyalty to the band’s roots. Tickets are still available for this one, but don’t count on them lasting much longer. Coulter Wall and Philly’s Man About a Horse open. There’s also a pre-show, happy hour party happening at Roy Pitz Barrel House with music by River Bones Band.

August 10: Mountain Ride at Underground Arts

Chambersburg, PA’s Mountain Ride is having a breakout year on the festival circuit, performing at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Charm City Bluegrass Festival, Watermelon Park Festival, and more. Mountain Ride last appeared in Philly in the opening slot for Cabinet at the TLA on New Year’s Eve 2017. The Stonethrowers, fresh off their June album release at Boot & Saddle, add excellent musicianship and fresh material to the bill. The Cheddar Boys round out the lineup with their old-timey sound and clear-as-a-mountain-stream vocals. Advance tickets are $12 and are on sale now.

Ed. note: This show is being presented by Philly Bluegrass.

August 15: Whiskey Shivers at Boot & Saddle

This show has party written all over it. If you plan to push your way to front of the stage for Whiskey Shivers, better be prepared for a mosh pit. The Bluegrass Situation once called Whiskey Shivers bluegrass music “you can mosh to.” Philly’s River Bones Band opens and already demonstrated their ability to get the crowd dancing at June’s Philly Beer Week bluegrass festival at Heritage. To sum up, you should budget $12 for tickets for this one and ten bucks to shine up your dancing shoes.

August 16-19: Philadelphia Folk Festival

You can always count on the Philadelphia Folksong Society to bring a great lineup of national bluegrass acts to our area every summer. The 57th iteration of this august (pun intended) festival in 2018 will be no exception. This year’s crop of bluegrass includes Balsam Range, Molly Tuttle, The Seldom Scene, and Missy Raines. The Festival also showcases bluegrass bands from the local scene, with The Jersey Corn Pickers, Boulevard Express, Texas Rose Band, and other locals on the lineup this year. Weekend and single day tickets are on sale now.

August 31-September 2: 47th Annual Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival (Woodstown, NJ)

Area bluegrass fans circle Labor Day weekend on their calendars every year—not to squeeze in one more beach trip, but to celebrate the end of summer and festival season with all-night jamming around the campfire in Woodstown, NJ. Notwithstanding the arrival of the jamgrass-centric Philly Bluegrass Revival (see below), DelVal remains the one of the best opportunities to see many of traditional bluegrass music’s best. As always, DelVal’s also a great deal, with 4-day passes (including camping) weighing in at under $100. Highlights this year include Hot Rize, Earls of Leicester, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, and the Po’ Ramblin Boys.

Click here for a Spotify playlist of artists performing at the 47th DelVal Festival.

September 6: Alison Krauss at Xcite Center at Parx Casino

Parx Casino’s new, Xcite Center opened earlier this year to positive reviews. This 1,500 capacity venue gives an opportunity to see major names in an intimate space. Not surprisingly, tickets for this one aren’t cheap ($45-110). Still, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to see Ms. Krauss, who is in the midst of a 50-date solo tour that kicked off in May. Don’t expect to see Dan Tyminski, who is touring behind his new solo project, or Jerry Douglas, who is on tour with the Earls of Leicester, who you just saw at DelVal (remember?!). But do count on Union Station’s Barry Bales and Ron Block to join Krauss’ backing band, along with members of the Cox Family.

Ed. note: there are no recent live Alison Krauss videos on YouTube so going way Old School on this one.

September 30: Philly Bluegrass Revival at the Mann Center

In one of the more exciting developments for bluegrass in Philadelphia in recent years, The Mann Center for the Performing Arts announced last month that it will conclude its 2018 season with a one-day bluegrass festival on September 30 with an incredible lineup that features The Infamous Stringdusters, Del & Dawg, Jeff Austin Band, and other top bluegrass acts. The festival also features local music, with Midnight Flyer scoring a main stage slot. Read all about the new event on the blog.

Click here for a Spotify playlist of artists performing at this new festival.

The City of Philadelphia Gets Its Bluegrass Festival

Today, Philadelphia received news that The Mann Center for the Performing Arts will conclude its 2018 season with a one-day bluegrass festival on September 30 called Philly Bluegrass Revival, featuring The Infamous Stringdusters, Del & Dawg, Jeff Austin Band, and other top-tier bluegrass acts.

For decades, the Delaware Valley has been home to world-class outdoor acoustic music festivals such as the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, each of which will bring some of the best bluegrass in the world to our area once again in 2018.

Still, for the past six years, urbanite Philadelphians have watched their neighbors to the south in Baltimore create the Charm City Bluegrass Festival, which has quickly become the nation’s poster child for an urban bluegrass festival. Seeing this development, many in the Philly bluegrass community have wondered: could a similar event could take place here in urban Philadelphia?

Unlike the Charm City Bluegrass Festival, which started small in 2013 through an Indiegogo campaign run by founders Phil Chorney and Jordan August, Philly’s festival has the full weight of AEG Presents behind it, and comes out of the gate with an absolutely stacked lineup of the biggest names in the business.

The Infamous Stringdusters will headline the first bluegrass festival at the Mann Center.

The festival also features local bluegrass, with Midnight Flyer scoring a main stage slot. “Sharing a stage with folks like Del McCoury, David Grisman, and Larry Keel is a huge honor,” said Midnight Flyer banjoist Andy Davis, “Seems like there is going to be something for everyone at the Skyline Stage on September 30.”

Today’s news comes on the heels of this month’s first annual Philly Beer Week festival at Heritage jazz club*, at which Midnight Flyer also performed, another marker of the growing strength of the scene in Philadelphia. “Midnight Flyer is proud to be playing traditional bluegrass and to be part of a growing bluegrass scene in Philly,” said Davis.

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Midnight Flyer performs at the 1st annual Philly Beer Week bluegrass festival, June 10, 2018.

Tickets go on sale this Thursday, June 28 at noon at manncenter.org.

Stay tuned for more about this big development in the Philly bluegrass scene.

* Disclosure: this event was organized by Philly Bluegrass.