Bluegrass festival makes City of Oaks, City of Twang

"A Prairie Home Companion" favorite and Raleighite Joe Newberry.
"A Prairie Home Companion" favorite and Raleighite Joe Newberry. David Bragger

So those involved in hanging the banjo-replica clocks counting down to Raleigh’s Wide Open Bluegrass festival this weekend reckon those clocks, 10 feet high and four feet wide and hanging in a couple of spots downtown, will last 100 years. That sounds about right. This is the fifth year of the festival, in conjunction with a meeting dealing with official business of the International Bluegrass Music Association, and Raleigh has become a bluegrass Mecca, which used to be a verbal metaphor used for effect, but now is just plain true.

Even when rain threatened the Red Hat Amphitheatre shows, everything was moved inside and carried on.

Big name acts such as Steve Martin, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush, along with the Kruger Brothers, are playing, but locally-connected musicians who’ve made it big – such as Joe Newberry, who was a regular on “Prairie Home Companion” and played the Merlefest gathering with some guy named James Taylor – will be in several shows over the weekend.

It looks like the weekend’s going to be a little hotter than normal, instead of that fall-like crispness most would prefer, but the festival is shaping up as another national triumph for Raleigh. And perhaps the Capital City will get what it deserves, namely a spot as the permanent home of this festival.

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