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Interview with Larry Keel at the Festy

by Diane Farineau

Author, Diane Farineau, is  researching & co-writing The Festival Project, a photo book project which features the combined works of photographers Chester SimpsonMilo Farineau
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One of the highlights at the Infamous Stringduster’s new Festival “The Festy” was a Sunday appearance by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. The trio quickly became a quartet as they were joined on stage by guitarist and Larry’s brother, Gary. When asked if they played together a lot, Larry responded “It’s rare. But when we do festivals in the area, he comes out and does some picking with us, it’s always so fun! ”

After their rousing set, the band spoke with members of the press and then settled in to just hang out for a little bit. “Everyone’s just here to want to hang out for a bit, which we don’t get to do much” said Mark Shimick. “The Stringdusters will play a lot of traditional bluegrass festivals, where we play some jam band festivals, so we don’t get together that much so it’s nice to see
them.”

The band is known to end up picking in the parking lot on occasion, which they enjoy, and Larry explained; “when I started going to festivals/fiddlers conventions, that’s what it was all about, before being a performer at them it was about all our friends getting together, making a big ol’ pot of soup or something, playing a bunch of music all night and then all day, then playing all night again. That’s where you get your chops down, where you learn to play. It’s very special.” Jenny agreed “That’s a great place to go when you’re just learning, listening and absorbing and getting in to the pulse of it all, watching others, the old-timers, new-timers and everything in between, and then slowly you start picking yourself, it’s a great way to absorb it and take it further, if you want to or just enjoy it for what it’s worth. “

The band has had a busy but fun year, listing some of their highlights “we’ve had a wonderful season this year, Telluride, Grand Targhee, Music on the Mountaintop, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco was really awesome too, French Broad, Watermelon Park.”

I couldn’t resist asking for a fishing update as well, “I haven’t done as much of that as I’ve wanted to,” said Larry, “I did some out in Idaho, fly fishing. I fish every kind of way I can, I do a lot of bass fishing, I did some fishing in the Outer Banks this summer, some saltwater fishing. I caught a lot of bass in Georgia. Every chance I get, I go!”

I wondered what it was like to be on the road as a musical couple, Mark pointed out (and Larry agreed) “Jenny is the bedrock of the band, seriously, she takes care of a lot of stuff to let Larry have his creativity and she’ll let me know if I have something I need to do.” “We wouldn’t want it any other way,” explained Jenny, “we knew, one way or another, we wanted to work together
and be together, so here it is!”

When asked about the noticeable absence of a banjo in the group, Larry explained: “We had our banjo player for a while, he’s out in Colorado now, he’s restarted up his old band and we’re back to our trio that we’ve had for 10 years, and that’s our core part of the band but we have a few very special guests we like to bring in to make it a quartet. Today it was Nate Leath on the fiddle, which, he’s as great fiddler player as there is, really. We have quite a few special guests we like to get out, like Will Lee on the 5 string banjo, he’s a master and a wonderful singer too. We sort of switch it up, have trios, have a banjo or a fiddle, we like to mix it up. And I think our audience likes that. It keeps it fresh for them and it keeps it fresh for us.

When asked where their evening was headed, Larry smiled “I’m looking forward to picking with as many of these folks as I can, we don’t always get to hang out, so it’s sure nice when we do!”

Also, check out this article by Diane about the Festy itself: https://dreamspider.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/introducing-the-festy-experience/

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