The Lynchburg Music Fest has landed a legend.
Sam Bush, known as the “Father of Newgrass,” has been confirmed to play the event August in Lynchburg. He will play during Saturday night’s show, Aug. 24.
A two-time cancer survivor, Bush underwent a bowel resection in May and missed a handful of concerts, so Lynchburg is very lucky to land him.
“We’re super-excited to get such an iconic figure in bluegrass history,” said Jonny Hill of Igniter Productions, the event’s promoter. “It adds so much depth to the bluegrass aspect of the event when you get Sam Bush. It just gives huge visibility and credibility and adds to the other bluegrass groups we’ve got.”
Bush, a multi-Grammy Award winner, has been voted the Mandolinist of the Year many times over and by multiple music outlets. He’s a distinctive fiddler as well. He first came to some acclaim as a teenager when he won the junior division of the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest three times – but his style has long evolved. Also an accomplished guitar player, he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Americana Music Association.
He broke through first with his playing ability, but he’s even more noted as an innovator, breaking rules and breaking ground.
Progressive bluegrass - or “Newgrass,” as it was dubbed back in the day - seems like it’s been around forever. But when Bush started out combining elements of bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz and rock, the staid country music and bluegrass communities shunned him.
Himself inspired by a band called the New Deal String Band, the Kentucky native joined a Louisville band, Bluegrass Alliance. When it disbanded not long after in 1971, Bush took the remaining pieces and put together the New Grass Revival. Through some 17 years, with Bush as the anchor, the band went through lineup changes but always bucked traditional bluegrass rules.
With members such as Bela Fleck, Pat Flynn, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, John Cowan and others, the band played non-traditional songs (with a repertoire that included songs by Bob Marley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan) in non-traditional dress for bluegrass bands of the time (long hair, jeans) and sometimes stretching the music out in Grateful Dead-like jams.
There were other progressive and alt-bluegrass groups making their mark – the Dillards, for example – but none were doing it quite like Bush and his cohorts.
Bush was the subject of a 2015 documentary, “Revival: The Sam Bush Story.”
In it, Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile sums up Bush this way: He could have followed the natural path as Bill Monroe’s heir. But, “he had the guys and the vision to say, ‘No. I’m going to be the first Sam Bush.’”
The two-day multistage event, with 40 bands now lined up, will be hosted in downtown Lynchburg and Wiseman Park Aug. 23-24.
The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. There will be music on the stage in the Historic Square with some of the newer artists, for free.
Friday’s lineup will be headlined by Easton Corbin. Others on the Friday main stage are Joe Diffie, Cassadee Pope, Craig Campbell, Keith Anderson, Taylor Phillips, Zach Donegan, Logan Wheat, Vending Machine Bandits and Macy Tabor. One more act for that night is still expected to be added.
Saturday’s lineup will be headlined by Jamey Johnson. Others on the main stage Saturday are Montgomery Gentry, RaeLynn, Bush, David Lee Murphy, Lee Gibson, Michael Allen, Matt Dillon and Becky Buller Band.
Sponsors for the event include Lynchburg Winery, Flex Up Fitness, American Craft Distillers, CrossFit 931, Lynchburg Cigar Co., Adventurous Soul Travel Agency, Barrel House BBQ, Henry & McCord Law Offices and Miltec Rapid Manufacturing Systems.
Price is $120 for a general admission two-day ticket. There are discounts for military and first responders. Two-day VIP tickets are available. Single-day tickets are also available now both online and at the Lynchburg Winery and Distillery.
For more information, visit www.lynchburgmusicfest.com.