May 23 – 26 2024 Cumberland, MD Words by Dan Rozman Photos by Mark Raker

DelFest 2024 was a triumph of music, community, and the enduring spirit of bluegrass and Americana. This year’s festival once again brought together an incredible lineup of established and emerging artists, creating an atmosphere of collaboration, celebration, and pure musical bliss.

At the heart of the festivities was the McCoury family, with Del McCoury serving as the ambassador of bluegrass, just as Joe Craven eloquently described him: “As Louis Armstrong was America’s ambassador to jazz, Del McCoury is America’s ambassador to bluegrass.” Craven, a frequent collaborator with the McCourys and others, expressed his deep admiration for the family, saying, “The McCoury family is the best boss I could ever ask for, and I feel really honored to be working for them.” His introductions of acts were mostly fun, always informative, and deeply meaningful, setting the tone for the performances.

The musical highlights were numerous and diverse, with standout sets from established acts and exciting newcomers alike. Greensky Bluegrass, making their eighth appearance at DelFest, kicked off their headlining set on Friday evening with a high-energy “Demons” → “What You Need” opener before delving into tracks from their upcoming album, including “Entirely Mine.” A highlight came when Ronnie McCoury joined them for a fiery mandolin duel on “Burn Them,” and Del McCoury joined in for an inspiring rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

Leftover Salmon’s late-night performance in the Music Hall was a true collaboration, with guests including Jason Carter on fiddle, Darol Anger on fiddle, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, and Heaven McCoury on guitar. Their Saturday evening set on the Grandstand stage was equally impressive, with appearances by Lukas Nelson, Sierra Ferrell, Oliver Craven, and the horn section from Shinyribs.

One of the most talked-about performances came from first-time DelFest attendees Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country, who made their debut fresh off their appearance on CBS Sunday Morning. Donato and his band lived up to the hype, earning their “Nashville’s New Guitar Hero” moniker from Rolling Stone. They were joined by Del, Robbie, Ronnie, and Heaven McCoury for renditions of “Banks Of The Ohio” and “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” showcasing the collaborative spirit that permeated the festival.

Check out the full gallery of photos from this weekend by Mark Raker here.

Another highlight came from Megan Jean’s Secret Family, who played in the Music Hall on Megan’s 41st birthday. Megan expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to perform at DelFest, saying, “It was a great experience to play and be a part of this amazing festival. I love the musicians, the fans, and the whole atmosphere.”

DelFest is a true family affair, with a dedicated Kidzone and family camping area creating a welcoming environment for attendees of all ages. The majority of festival-goers stayed on-site, camping or RVing, fostering a close-knit community atmosphere. The nearly continuous jams in the campground were a highlight, with not only Academy folks but also the festival’s performers joining in the impromptu sessions.

The festivities kicked off on Wednesday night with the unofficial Beer Share hosted by Scott Samborn, a great opportunity for attendees to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones before the music began. The Frederick, Maryland McClintock Distillery once again hosted the Bloody Mary bar on Friday and Saturday mornings in the Music Hall, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting DelFest charities.

DelFest 2024 also showcased the next generation of bluegrass talent through the DelFest Academy, an immersive experience where aspiring musicians had the opportunity to learn from and jam with seasoned professionals. Local DC area musician and first-time attendee Noah Booz, a member of the DelFest Academy winning band said, “The Ramen Noodlers were very un-serious and just out to have fun.  I think the name Ramen Noodlers confirms it. They played “The Tower” by Cabinet. Booz commented, “With all of the other great bands competing, we just got lucky. I recommend the Academy to anyone who wants to improve their playing and have fun. 

 As the festival came to a close, the Travelin’ McCourys took the stage for the traditional final late-night show, a multigenerational celebration of music, family, and the enduring spirit of Appalachia. With family members of all ages packed onto the Music Hall stage, including Heaven, Jacob, and Del’s youngest grandson, Vassar, the McCourys treated the crowd to a mesmerizing performance that encapsulated the very essence of DelFest.

DelFest is more than just a music festival; it’s a celebration of the rich tapestry of American roots music and the communities that sustain it. From the collaborative spirit of the performers to the sense of camaraderie among attendees, DelFest 2024 was a resounding success, a testament to the enduring power of music to bring people together and create lasting memories. Fans are already counting down the days for next year. DelYeah !!!

Bands that played at DelFest 2024:

The Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCourys, Lukas Nelson With The Travelin’ McCourys, Greensky Bluegrass, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sierra Ferrell, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Leftover Salmon, Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country, Don Was And The Pan-Detroit Ensemble, Yonder Mountain String Band, Shinyribs, John Craigie, The Brothers Comatose, Sam Grisman Project, Davisson Brothers Band, Larry Keel Experience, Sister Sadie, Mountain Grass Unit, Mr Sun, East Nash Grass, The Sweet Lillies, Big Richard Band, Dre Anders Music, Jigjam, Joe Mullins And The Radio Ramblers, Kenny And Amanda Smith, The Broomstix, The Dirty Grass Players, Sweet Sally, Armchair Boogie, Megan Jean’s Secret Family, The Wilson Springs Hotel, Colebrook Road, Wood Belly.

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