Monday, April 7, 2014

Shakori Spotlight: Dr. Bacon

Dr. Bacon is a Boone-based band that will perform
at Shakori Hills this Spring (April 17-20)
It's truly hard to believe that one of the most glorious events of the year is just over a week away. Shakori Hills is a festival that revels in immediacy, the second you step onto the festival grounds you're swept away by the beauty, the second you soak in the first act you wash away the woes of the real world, and the second you see that one band that sticks with you for the rest of the weekend you usually know it.

Those that are familiar with the festival have grown quite fond of these moments, every spring and fall there's one band that gathers a huge buzz throughout the 75-acre farm and it seems like the Fall's buzz came a bit late into the weekend. At every Shakori there's a band contest, usually kicking things off on Saturday, it's filled with amateur artists from across the region vying for a primetime slot on the Sunday schedule. Ranging from grizzled old men slaying on the fiddle to young children playing out for the first time, you're guaranteed to get a little bit of everything as you plop down on your blanket.

But for those that attended the contest last fall seemed to walk away with one band stuck firmly in their mind, Dr. Bacon. The farcical name gives little indication of the serious jams brought about by this Boone-based outfit. Dr. Bacon first found themselves in the band competition last Spring, placing second amidst an impressive array of musicians. But that finish fueled the spark for this self described Appalachian soul-grass crew to buckle down and "push [themselves] to the next level."

"Winning the competition in the fall was pretty surreal and didn't fully sink in until the show the next Sunday afternoon," the band claims, it even led to invitations to other festivals around the area. That "magical Shakori buzz" as they put it can lead to some pretty exciting opportunities. Much like getting thrust into a late night set on the opening night of this Spring's festival. When I heard rumblings of Dr. Bacon last year it was a fairly continuous string of applause, "they're nuts" they said,  "it's like a jammy Holy Ghost Tent Revival" said others, it was a non-stop flow of positive reviews that led me to delving deeper into this band once this Spring's lineup was released. Surely enough I was transfixed, Dr. Bacon sheds the expectations you'd have from a Boone-based band and serves up an amalgamation of funk, soul and bluegrass to make for a raucous live show.

"Traditional bluegrass is a constant influence on our approach," they sate "but we aren’t interested in imitating anything that has been done before in the genre." They describe their sound as "undeniably Appalachian, but not strictly bluegrass," somewhere in between "James Brown and The Punch Brothers." They're a band that seems to be steeped in Shakori tradition, they're largely inclusive while producing a sound that's all their own, opening up the realms for listeners from all walks of life to stumble upon their late-night Thursday set and have a guaranteed hell of a time. But surprisingly enough, the band's excitement doesn't just stem from their first big-time Shakori set, but instead from the undeniable sense of community.

"We definitely feel at home at Shakori, it is an indescribably good feeling to simply perform in front of people who are actively engaged and appreciate our music." And it's not just the crowds that Dr. Bacon is excited for, it's the people. The festivalgoers that roam around the campsites spreading positivity, high-fiving strangers and building the strong community all keep people hooked on this diverse festival. That's why Dr. Bacon is just as excited for their fireside jams as they are for their Thursday night Cabaret Tent set. the jams that happen out in the woods at the campsites are some of the best music of the festival.

"There aren't many other festivals where as a musician you can have your mind blown by an amazing on-stage artist, get inspired, run out into the woods, find an ad-hoc jam, and create something new and remarkable."

So whether you're kicking off your festival with their set at that Cabaret Tent, or if you stumble upon the soul-grass crew while meandering through the dimly lit woods, they're sure to get your feet movin' and your heart pumping with some wildly inventive tunes.

Dr. Bacon performs at the Cabaret Tent on Thursday night at 10:00 pm
Recommended Artists: Big Something, Bulltime Strutters, Big Fat Gap, Preston Frank, Clockwork Kids, Indigo Girls

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Your description captured the intensity of Dr. Bacon well; although, the Pancakes example is pretty mild. Go to to hear what they sounded like back when they came in second-place at Shakori (recorded live a few weeks later). Since then, they've only gotten better. The problem with the Pancakes recording is that it isn't live (they feed off the audience) and just three members of the band entered the studio that day. So, Pancakes has just two guitars and a mandolin contributing, versus guitars, mandolin, sax, trumpet, bass, drums, and harmonica. Importantly, they started as a college party band, which is why their shows are so intense (raucous). Personally, I was at the tent show last fall, and it was amazing. It was the last day of the festival and most people were packing up and leaving. At the start of their show, there were no more than 20 in the audience (under an enormous big-top tent). Most of the 20 had seen them at the Coffee Barn two nights earlier (the smallest of the stages at Shakori, with maybe 50 or 75 seeing them), and, before the show started, we were talking about how they were best band of the festival. So, they started with 20, and the sound was so magnetic that the tent started to fill with those who were leaving Shakori but couldn't make it past the tent to reach the parking lots. Eventually, the tent was completely filled with, maybe, 400, as was the surrounding area outside of the tent (another 150 or more). There was dancing inside the tent and dancing in the grass and mud outside, as well. At one point, the band left the stage and, still playing, circled the tent, letting those who couldn't get in the tent hear them better. So, the college scene may have been their start, but they proved addictive to the full diversity of Shakori ... for a show that was advertised as nothing more "Band Competition Winners." Old hippies and little kids were going nuts, man! In fact, the only problem with their schedule this Shakori is the Thursday night time slot -- before the bulk of the crowd arrives Friday and Saturday. For me, I'd rather see them in one of the tents than on either of the two main stages (more intimate), because, as you noted, they are nuts ... bonkers ... insane ..., and, on a main stage, the EMS requirements would go through the roof, because they are a full-body experience for the audience. But it is unfortunate that some may miss them as a Thursday night show. Of course, I'll be there Thursday night -- taking a day of vacation on Friday, in fact. They are just that good. Thanks for the review. You nailed it -- including the camp-fire jams. One night of the festival, I was at a circle jam, and a fellow sat down behind the players, pulled out a harmonica from his case, and started playing along side. At the end of the song, he was invited to sit in the main circle, when another musician said, "Aren't you with Dr. Bacon?" He said, "Hi, I'm Mike, and, yes, I'm in the band. Hope you don't mind if I sit in. What do you want to do next and in what key?" The next hour was magic before he move on to the next jam session. After 3 am, I was stumbling back to my tent and passed two others from the band, who were leaving another camp-fire jam and heard one say to other, "Damn, that was fun!" I'm telling you, they are the real deal when it comes to Shakori. They get it, in a big way.