One of the last festivals of the summer season in the BC Interior is the Nimblefingers Festival, held on the last weekend in August in the small town of Sorrento, BC. Nimblefingers focuses mostly on traditional bluegrass. It centers around a week long workshop schedule for musicians, held by the veteran performers invited to the festival, who cap the entire week off with a one-day music festival held in the Sorrento Centre.
The festival is a small one, with just one main stage, and a small afternoon side stage. Most of the action can be seen with just a short two minute walk in between the stages. There was also a farmer’s market going on, with squash, carrots, pumpkins and more on sale. The weekend was still suffering from the lingering forest fire season, so there was some haze during the day, but nothing too serious.
We got there in the late afternoon, in time for the 3 PM concert, The Bucking Mules, a four-piece band from the Carolinas. They played a high-energy style of bluegrass, mostly focused around the fiddle, but also featuring some spirited banjo during their set.
Eli West, from Portland, Oregon was featured next. He played the guitar and the banjo, plus sang, and used a rotating cast to duet with throughout the set. Guests included John Reischman, the Romeros, Chris Coole, and members of the Bucking Mules. West’s vocal style was clean and perfect for dueting.
Every year, the festival puts together a band filled with some of the best musicians of the festival called the Nimblefingers All-Stars. Canadian Craig Young was the leader of the band, combined with Keith Yoder (mandolin), Todd Livingston (dobro), John Mailander (fiddle) and Danny Booth (bass). The band took the crowd though a number of old favourites, giving every member a chance to solo and play.
After a dinner break during the Special Consensus concert, we were back for the Lonesome Ace Stringband, a modern bluegrass trio from Toronto. Led by Chris Coole, a fantastic banjo player, they ran through a set of old time folk music with a modern feel, with just a few traditional tunes. They focused a lot on innovation and modern styles, with a strong background in the old-time folk tradition.
By this time, the smoke had cleared up and a clear blue sky began to peek out from behind the clouds.
The headliners were the Greg Blake Band. Greg Blake, like Lonesome Ace, were fresh off of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, where they played, then took off down the road to Sorrento for the Nimblefingers Festival. Greg Blake is a wonderful guitar player and vocalist, equally good at traditional country tunes as in traditional bluegrass. He had a six-piece band that played very traditional bluegrass. They were amazingly tight, stringing together solo bridges and vocal harmony with almost no breaks. The band members played off of each other expertly. They were very good at three-part vocal harmony, with Greg Blake leading the vocals, into Blake stepping aside for banjo player Patrick Sauber and Danny Booth joining him on the same mic for harmony. The band also featured some fantastic fiddling from Katrina Nicolayeff and another appearance from mandolin player John Reischman.