Daniel Foulks (left), Mark Phillips (middle) and Michael Morrison (right) of Mark Phillips and the IIIrd Generation entertain the crowd on Friday night at the 29th Mount St. Helens Bluegrass Festival at Toledo High School.
General Cotheren was still sweating the financial side of the 29th Mount St. Helens Bluegrass Festival on Friday. The event was held on the grounds of Toledo High School over the weekend, but the rest of the audience was more than satisfied with the product and experience on stage and among the oaks.
"I am still hoping for a big crowd on Saturday night," Cotheren said as he gazed at Friday night's audience numbering in the early hundreds.
This from a man who swore he was going to step aside in organizing local bluegrass events a year ago.
Some of the regional bands brought in for the show included "Great Northern Plains" from the Portland area, the" Oly Mountain Boys" from (West) Olympia, "The Money Creek Mining Co." from Everett and "North Country" from Lynwood, WA.
On a more national caliber, things got a little uncertain. This year like most, the festival provided national entertainment ultimately picked by Cotheren. While his original signee became unavailable due to health reasons, all the elements for a top-notch replacement fell into place when he contacted an agent in Nashville for a list of possible performers to play in Toledo.
"He was reading off a list of available acts and he mentioned Don Rigsby and I said, ‘You don't have to look any further,’" stated Cotheren. "‘This is the band I want and I have been lookin' for these guys for a long time.’"
Cotheren also managed to lure Mark Phillips and the IIIrd Generation Band hails from Norman, Oklahoma in addition to Rigsby.
Actually, the event resembles more of a party where organizers chip in to cut costs. Many of the musicians stayed with local hosts, enjoying home cooked meals and unique hospitality.
That was the case for Phillips and his band who stayed with Cotheren and took in local haunts like the local Mt. St. Helens tap room where they were spotted playing pool on Thursday evening. Don Rigsby and Midnight Call stayed with local Clarence Elliot. For national acts, organizers of the event were often tasked with picking up the musicians at the Sea-Tac Airport and keeping them nourished and healthy.
That was a bit of a task this weekend as Rigsby himself was still fighting a bit of a cold in between his performances.
"This is a wonderful place and these are wonderful people," said Rigsby who most recently flew in with his band from Indianapolis.
Like himself, most of his current band Midnight Call is from Kentucky. Rigsby works in the Nashville bluegrass community and has performed with the likes of John Fogerty, Ricky Scaggs (his cousin) and the late Keith Whitley among legions of traditional bluegrass performers.
Rigsby's set included a beautiful solo acapella version of "Old Ship of Zion" requested by audience member Elliott. Immediately following, the entire band stepped back on stage for a wonderful vocal only serenade complete with multiple part harmonies.
Mark Phillips and the IIIrd Generation band also presented a variety of talent during their high energy show. While bandleader Phillips entertained the audience with humorous quips between tunes, his band featured the talents of Daniel Foulks (his vegetarian fiddle player) who has been playing with Phillips for 14 years. Young guitar player and vocalist Michael Morrison also adds a unique element to what qualifies as a near-multi-cultural band.
"We love this area," said Phillips. "There is good people and good fishin'."
Apparently it is good people and the love of bluegrass that have filled beautiful August weekends with the sounds of traditional bluegrass that have filled beautiful August weekends with the sounds of traditional bluegrass for 29 years.
Don Rigsby & Midnight Call play in front of the audience at the 29th Mount St. Helens Bluegrass Festival at Toledo High School on Friday evening.