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Dusten has been a member of the Chautauqua Star staff since March, 2010. He is a native of California, graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 2007.

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Great Blue Heron Festival - Musician Preview
Published Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 in Dusten Rader

SHERMAN, NY — The 20th Annual Great Blue Heron Music Festival will be returning to Sherman, NY on July 1 though 3. The festival will include a roster of about 30 bands. Many of the bands are locals that are known and loved. Whilst others have come from far and wide to share their sound. In three weeks they will gather along with people from all over the country for one wild weekend.

With the festival right around the corner it might be a good idea take a moment to get to know the musicians. One band who is sure to be there is Donna the Buffalo. The band has been playing at the Great Blue Heron every year since its start.

Donna The Buffalo

Donna the Buffalo has been playing at the Great Blue Heron Festival since its inception. According to vocalist and songwriter Jeb Puryear, the first thing David Tidquist ever said to him about the festival was that he was going to have a picnic and that he'd like the band to play.

Donna the Buffalo

“From there it grew,” said Puryear. “But, not that much has changed. It's been pretty rippin since the first one. Essentially the energy, the way it makes you feel is the same as it was on the first day.”

Puryear feels blessed that he has been able to perform every year at the festival. It has allowed him to work on new material and then perform it during the summer time. He is currently working on a new album with Donna the Buffalo and they will be performing tracks off the new album during the festival.

“As you might imagine the Great Blue Heron festival has been a huge part of our lives,” said Puryear. “It's been a great thing for the band to be able to play every year. And, it's all thanks to David and Julie. They started a very cool and good scene that so many people have enjoyed for so much time.”

The music is the engine, but, camping and the people you meet is a huge part of it too, says Puryear. “Plus, the crowd has always been lively and respectful in the same way. Sometimes the crowd will be so intense that they will teach the new members of the band the vibe of a song.”

Being a festival goer himself, Puryear has seen the festival from both the musician and audiences perspective. One thing he has noticed is that like Donna the Buffalo, there are families who have been going since day one. “As a young person going you learn about the festival and then pass what you've learned onto your children,” said Puryear.

Tara Nevins, singer and song writer, also believes festivals foster community and inspire people. “Festivals create that which is good for society,” she said.

According to Nevins, while at the Blue Heron, festival goers get a Great Lakes, rural Eastern New York and Pennsylvania vibe. There is a focus on the music, but, it's also about the energy that the folks who come there.

“You may go to Blue Heron after working all week to be greeted by friendly faces,” said Nevins. “Then you will make camp, take a swim in the pond, eat some great food, listen to music, meet people and share some incredible positive energy. Then, after that weekend you will inspired, renewed and really positive about humanity.”

One of Nevins' favorite parts of the festival is the Zydeco tent. The tent will feature many of the musicians who played on stage. However, they will be performing dance music. “It's not that often that we do an all night Zydeco set. It's something we bring to our fans at the Heron that's different from our normal performance.”

The stage performance is also bound to be a unique one. Drummer Vic Stafford recently decided to step away from the band. So, Mark Raudabaugh will be replacing him at a number of shows throughout the summer.

The celebration at the Great Blue Heron is very important to Nevins because while there she gets to spend time with her close friend David Tidquist. He is one of the founders of the fest. “It's really the one time of the year that I get to spend with David. For me, the time spent with him is a very special part of the festival.”

Nevins recently released a new solo album titled Wood and Stone. It was produced by Larry Campbell at Levon Helm Studios. “He is a phenomenal muliti-instrumentalist who has done a lot of great things including his eight year tour with Bob Dylan,” she said.

Nevins and Larry are both proud of the project. “It's only been out three weeks and it's been receiving great reviews. It's definitely been a labor of love,” she said.

Mix the 20th Anniversary of an already amazing event, with bands who have plenty of new work to show off, and you have an celebration of majestic proportions. For both new and returning festival goers this Great Blue Heron should not be missed.

Big Leg Emma

After Big Leg Emma's (BLE) triumphant return to the stage at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena's Club on Friday, May 7, Steve Johnson, Charity Nuse and a number of the band's original members decided to continue making music together. Now, after having a whole year to practice they will gather to perform for their fans at the Great Blue Heron Festival.

Big Leg Emma

There are quite a few things that make being invited back to the festival this year very exciting for BLE. “First, we're officially back together again,” said Johnson. “Secondly, they gave us the spot to play right before Donna the Buffalo. We've been working for that for many years.”

Last but surely not the least importantly, the Great Blue Heron has been a back bone of BLE's career. “The Heron is the reason I make music in this realm,” said Johnson. “All we sent David Tidquist was a tape but he decided to have us play last minute. And, ever since then it has been a home for us. It is the only festival that we actually camp at and not stay at a hotel. Plus, no one treats us the same way anywhere else. The people at the Heron are our family.”

According to Johnson, the emotion and feeling at the Great Blue Heron changes lives. “My first time at the festival I stood there staring at the stage taking everything in. And, it was at that point that I changed. What I bring home with me and carry with me always is the family, brotherhood and the spirit of it all,” he said.

With the band back together again the inspiration has been flowing. Since their reunion they have worked on a ton of new material. Mix the new stuff with their classics and the show is sure to be a winner. “Things have finally worked out and come together the way we envisioned it. And, I think with the new songs we're going to have enough to play an entirely new set for our fans,” said Johnson.

The new song “Back to New York” is one that they will be performing during the festival. “A lot of people may not have heard this song unless you come to our acoustic show. So, we're really excited about getting it recorded to release as a single.”

The Horse Flies

“We're so honored to be included in this milestone year,” said Judy Hyman. “We've been able to be at a number of Blue Heron festivals and it's always the high-energy crowd of music lovers who make it so much fun for us.”

The Horse Flies

She first met Blue Heron organizer David Tidquist at a small festival in western Pa., back before he started to promote music. Ever since, he's been extremely supportive in many ways. He introduced the band to the 10,000 Maniacs, “We got to open for a number of their shows and two of us continue to perform and record with Natalie Merchant,” said Hyman. This brought us over to Jamestown for performances. And, of course, including he included them in the festival.

DR: Being that you're originally from the East Coast, Ithaca, the Great Blue Heron must mean a lot to you. How would you say it has influenced you?

JH: There's always been a strong connection between the GrassRoots Festival in Trumansburg, near Ithaca, where we live, and the Blue Heron Festival, with Donna the Buffalo at the core of both. Both Donna the Buffalo and The Horse Flies have their roots in old-time fiddle music. Many other bands that have played at Blue Heron also come out of this same tradition the Hicks, (the Chicken Chokers, Jimmyjohnnyjoe Man Alive...).

DR: Describe the Blue Heron Tradition for you and your band?

JH: One of my favorite Blue Heron memories was the year that David had a whole bunch of us play casual fiddle music together in the dance tent, just the way we do at the southern fiddle festivals ... people who even at that point had been musical friends for 20 years. That was transcendent.

DR: If you could only take one thing away from the Great Blue Heron what would it be?

JH: I always look forward to the circle of energy that's created between the band and the audience. We put it out, they send it back, and it grows and grows.

DR: Lingering thoughts?

JH: I'm so looking forward to hearing lots of great music and connecting with people at Blue Heron.


“We're really very happy to be here,” said Mike 'Slo-Mo' Brenner. “This is our 9th year, so this band has really grown up while performing at the Heron over almost a decade. When we first played here, the band was still in its infancy, our front-man Mic Wrecka, at the time, only jumped up on a couple tunes, as opposed to really leading the set, like he does now. It was much different.”

Slo-Mo - credit Mark Schreiber

They've evolved into a great live band and knowing that they would be playing in front of Heron audiences every summer would only make them work harder to be tight and together. “We play a lot of clubs, but there's nothing like the Heron vibe,” he said.

“On another note, my old band, The Low Road, played the Heron back in the early '90s,” said Brenner. “And, I (and Slo-Mo/Low Road drummer Mark Schreiber) have always felt a strong connection to this area every since then. We still fondly remember playing Joyce's Keg Room.”

DR: How would you say it has influenced you?

MB: It's important to have a feel for what festivals audiences respond to. In the beginning, there were some songs that might be good for a club setting but would fall flat during a mid-day Heron set. Playing the Heron taught me a lot about pacing sets, keeping the energy and the groove going. Slo-Mo sets tend to be pretty 'up' because there's nothing like seeing a big audience start jumping around and dancing. That fires the band up.

Playing the Heron over the years also makes you feel part of a community of musicians and it's inspiring to see these folks come back year after year and bring it--constant lifelong creativity---and we all feel a part of that.

DR: Describe the Blue Heron Tradition for you and your band?

MB: Well, we're all city-based folks (Philadelphia), so, for us, the Heron is our chance to camp out, sit by the fire, relax, play music. It's our one opportunity every year to all go out to a beautiful patch of country with great people and soak it up. It's a working vacation and we wouldn't have it any other way.

DR: If you could only take one thing away from the Great Blue Heron what would it be?

MB: The overall spirit, everyone so psyched to be there, saying “Happy Heron”, etc. Also, Slo-Mo is a pretty different type of band and the way that the crowds at Heron have embraced us over these 9 years just plain warms our hearts and brings tears to our eyes. It's an open-minded crowd that wants to hear good music of all genres and we really appreciate that.

DR: Lingering thoughts?

MB: Camp Slo-Mo in effect!!! Happy Heron!!

The brainchild of Philadelphia steel guitarist Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, Slo-Mo is something totally different. Brenner’s steel guitar grooves mixed with front man Mic Wrecka's rhymes and hip hop poetry, is winning over fans with a slamming live show and uniquely funky tunes backed by a tight 8-piece band.

The Sim Redmond Band

Since their inception 10 years ago, the Sim Redmond Band has been quickly on the rise, forging new ground in roots music. They are based in Ithaca, NY but their magnetic pole is Africa, particularly the sounds emanating from West & South Africa. Featuring straight rock grooves and pumping reggae the vocal teamwork of Sim Redmond, Jen Middaugh and Nate Silas Richardson creates some rich harmonies.

Sim Redmond Band

The Sim Redmond Band has always felt very lucky to be included in the Blue Heron family. The GBH fest has a really special community vibe, and has always done a great job of representing Ithaca music.

Performing at Blue Heron is always a pleasure. They have great crowds at each stage. The staff are professional and very friendly. They've always treated us like family.

Great Blue Heron has always featured great roots music. They've had reggae bands, rock bands, African musicians, old-time, Cajun, and much more. All of these amazing bands have influenced the Sim Redmond Band. We just naturally end up playing a mixture of the many kinds of music we've heard over the years at Blue Heron and Grassroots Festivals.

Every 4th of July weekend we find ourselves heading out those back roads to Sherman, NY. We always have a blast hanging our with the other bands, and playing bocce on the hill behind the main stage. It's just such a mellow, family-friendly atmosphere, we always look forward to a relaxing weekend, celebrating life with friends and family.

The most important thing to us about Blue Heron weekend is the chance to get out of the cities, back to nature, and to celebrate life, community, and love with so many of our friends, fans, families.

The Amazing Dr. Zarcon's Breathing Machine

“It has continued a tradition of fine roots and acoustic music for generation,” said John Merino. “For those of us performing this genre of music, it is a standout among national festivals.”

DR: Describe the Blue Heron Tradition for you and your band?

JM: Considering we were all at the “original” WOODSTOCK back in 1969, it is a throwback to the reason people gather to hear fine music.

DR: If you could only take one thing away from the Great Blue Heron what would it be?

JM: Meeting new musicians, learning from them and enjoying their music. Hopefully, we'll be thought of the same way.

Ken Hardley

Ken Hardley

“I have played the Tiger Maple Stage at the Cafe-in-the-Woods almost since its inception a few years ago and have become very attached to the intimate ambiance. There is an immediate opportunity for a much closer interaction between musicians and audience than one can find anywhere else. I find it very peaceful and relaxed. The artists that David selects for that stage are always sweet - and always appreciative of the uniqueness of this setting.”

Hardley has been performing in public for more than three decades. For a good share of that time he has traveled Western and Central New York – playing in bands, playing solo, playing guitar, banjo, and harp. When he performs, the music is important but something bigger than that abides. The atmosphere becomes warm yet edgy, kind yet wry, familiar yet unpredictable, cerebral yet intuitive. Ken’s ability to engage an audience and his lust for life transform each performance into a potential friendship. When Ken plays, somehow he will get to know you.


“To play the Blue Heron again is a great honor in itself,” said Jeff Glatz. But, to be able to come back on the 20th Anniversary makes it even sweeter. We knew when we played the 4th Blue Heron it was going to be huge and only grow from there. We were right.”


DR: How would you say the Great Blue Heron has influenced you as a musician?

JG: I think it really taught us not be afraid to experiment and express ourselves through our lyrics and music. We don't have to hold back and be afraid to be ourselves.

DR: Describe the Blue Heron Tradition for you and your band?

JG: The all night campfires and playing any instrument that ends up in our hands until we drop.

DR: If you could only take one thing away from the Great Blue Heron what would it be?

JG: Bonding and making memories with new friends and music.

DR: Lingering thoughts?

JG: We are truly excited to get back to The Blue Heron and our roots. It's like a homecoming for us. We have new music that we can't wait to share with old friends!

Tiger Maple String Band

DR: This is the 20th Anniversary, a milestone for the Blue Heron: What does it feel like to be able to perform?

FP: We are pleased and honored to be performing at such an incredible event. When we are performing on those stages we know we are playing to an audience that represents the heart and soul of roots music. Also, an audience that feels the effects of the spirit of music in their lives not only at that moment but throughout the year. Wow, for the past 20 years My family has been at the festival on waits corner road. We came the first year when our friend David Tidquist invited us up for some good bands and generally a big picnic. Since then it has evolved into one of the best music festivals on the east coast.

DR: How would you say the Great Blue Heron has influenced you as a musician?

FP: I have to say that this festival has influenced me, my family and several friends more than anything else as musicians. I didn’t start playing music seriously until I discovered old time music at the Heron. When that happened my two daughters (Justine and Alison) were just two and four years old. The music became our lives for several years and the spirit of love and general well being came with it. We immersed ourselves with old time music traveling all over to fiddlers conventions and Appalachian fiddle schools. Just to name a few, we went to Mt. Airy, Clifftop and Telluride. We were able to learn from a lot of the old masters. So, as you can see the music actually became our lives. Which then turned into the people we are and it kinda rubs off whenever we play.

DR: Describe the Blue Heron Tradition for you and your band?

FP: Well, we keep in touch year round with a lot of the Heron family. When spring turns the corner we get up to the site a couple times and you can feel the happiness of what the festival brings to you. It's then that you realize how lucky we all are to know so many good people and to able to came together to share the love and to try to make the world a better place. We go up early in the week to set up camp, then we spend the next 4 days in a paradise away from the daily grind, away from the cell phones and computers, just people mingling and talking and laughing and getting something that we desperately need these days. The world is so different with the technology and all. Up at the heron, kids are playing Frisbee, learning fiddle tunes, dancing, playing and everyone is smiling too.

DR: If you could only take one thing away from the Great Blue Heron what would it be?

FP: The spirit of love and friendship.

General Information

To purchase tickets visit greatblueheron.com/gbh_details.html. Weekend Passes are $70. Weekend gate price is $80. One-day gate passes (at gate only): Friday - $30 - Saturday - $35 - Sunday - $30. Youth Tickets (ages 12-15) are $40 Anytime. Children under 12 are free

Vehicle camping payable at gate only: Upper lot: $55 per vehicle / weekend. Lower Lot, Quiet Area, & Across The Road: $45 per vehicle / weekend. Off Road Parking: $10 per vehicle / day - $15 weekend. No Charge For Tent Camping.

For a more information visit greatblueheron.com, email gbhfest@netsync.net or call 716-487-1781.

(Design by Amanda McClean)
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