Taking place at Ruins Park in Glen Rock, PA, the 2nd Annual Great Folkgrasss Happenstance Festival highlighted some of the mid-Atlantic’s best and most exciting, upcoming bluegrass and folk bands in one of the most unique locations every chosen to host a festival. Ruins Park is the re-purposed ruins of the historic Enterprise Manufacturing Company’s warehouse. Over the years the historic warehouse deteriorated into a concrete shell. In 2013 in it was transformed into an art and music venue. The walls are continually transformed with every evolving art and murals that decorate the building’s wall. The space is unique in that portions of structure remain, providing a sheltered enclosure that is still open-air. The stages have been built from pieces of the walls that have crumbled down and been re-purposed to create two performances stages.
The Great Folkgrass Happenstance Festival uses this unique space to showcase some of the best regional acts throughout the day including Pennsylvania bands, Colebroook Road and Mountain Ride and Baltimore acts The Dirty Grass Players and the day’s headliner Caleb Stine. Both Colebrook Road and Mountain Ride have seen their profile’s grow dramatically over the past year with a series of increasingly more prestigious shows. Colebrook Road has been touring steadily and was selected to be part of the lineup for the International Bluegrass Music Association award winning Charm City Bluegrass Festival in April. Mountain Ride is a hard-hitting bluegrass band from western Pennsylvania who perfectly straddles that dynamic jamgrass sound while still staying true to the music’s roots. They have recently been tapped by current jamgrass darlings, Cabinet, to be part of their New Year’s Eve celebration at the TLA in Philadelphia. Baltimore based the Dirty Grass Players is another band who is starting to find their stride, and whose name will soon be a regular part of shows and festivals across the country. The debut album is slated for early next year and will be their coming out party to a much wider audience.
The festival headliner, Caleb Stine, is a longtime Baltimore stalwart, who is perhaps the most criminally overlooked, but most stunningly powerful songwriter around. His music lives in the realm of Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons, by way of a trip to the mountains to visit Ola Belle Reed. He is an engaging performer who pulls everyone in with his highly intense and personal sets that make even those in the back feel like they are having a personal conversation with him. This personal touch even included a repeating his song “Butter” at the request of six-year old who was dancing in front of the stage the whole set and wanted to hear the song again because it was his, “favorite!”
The unique personality of Ruins Park and the laid back feel fostered by the crowd created a welcoming, community, atmosphere in which the music truly never stopped. Ruins Park has two stages, both of which are built from re-purposed sections of the wall that have fallen down. The larger, main stage stands firmly at one end, while a smaller stage is just off the side. During the brief downtime while band’s changed on the main stage, open jams were held on the side stage. Anyone was welcome to join, and it was not uncommon to see band members who had just finished playing wander over and join in with the rollicking, open jam taking place.
It is great in this day and age, when there are seemingly mega festivals every day of the year, that find you camped miles from the stage and forced to endure long waits and walks between stages, to still be able to find festivals like the Great Folkgrass Happenstance, that is part of the fabric of its community, and lets that spirit of the community permeate the day, creating an event that allows you to discover new music, new art, and new friends.