B’more Bluegrass

Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival co-founders Philip Chorney (left) and Jordan August (right) pose with multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien at last year’s festival. (provided)

Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival co-founders Philip Chorney (left) and Jordan August (right) pose with multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien at last year’s festival.
(Austin Green Weinstein)

With a new location and an almost entirely new lineup of artists, the founders of the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival are ready to make this year’s event even bigger than last year’s sold-out show.

The second annual festival, on April 26, will move from last year’s location, Union Craft Brewing near Hampden, to the area surrounding the Conservatory and botanical gardens in Druid Hill Park, a change City Councilman Nick Mosby helped to facilitate. The change in location will allow for more people to attend, said co-founders Phil Chorney and Jordan August. Last year, all 1,600 tickets sold out a month before the event.

“I am humbled by the response the community has shown to folk, roots and bluegrass music,” said Chorney, a Reisterstown native. “This festival was founded on the idea that songwriting and timeless melodies can bring people together to celebrate our culture, heritage and great city.”

Like last year, the festival will feature a mix of local and national talent. Highlights include Grammy Award-winning dobro player Jerry Douglas, who will close the event, along with Punch Brothers banjo player Noam Pikelny & Friends, young mandolin player Sierra Hull, bluegrass guitarist Audie Blaylock and Redline, father-and-son banjo-dulcimer duo Ken and Brad Kolodner and guitar duo Chris Eldridge (of Punch Brothers) and Julian Lage.

“Jerry Douglas, he’s something else,” said August, whose band Trace Friends Mucho will take the stage as part of the festival. “He is the best at what he does — 13 Grammy [awards], the most recorded musician of all time, he’s been on over 14,000 different [recordings], he’s a session player in Nashville — he is the best of best in the bluegrass world.”

The event will also feature an open bluegrass jam, reminiscent of how the festival came to be in the first place.

Years ago, August and Chorney, who lived three blocks from one another in Hampden, used to get together in the evenings after work and play bluegrass. In time, more friends joined, and the pair realized there was a market for folksy music in Charm City.

“We realized there was a niche for bluegrass in at least our community here, so we came up with the idea of doing a show,” said August. “Then one concert turned into a one-day event.”

Baltimore’s bluegrass roots trace back decades to the 1940s and 1950s, August said, when Nashville and Baltimore were the only hotbeds for the string-heavy style of music.

“Baltimore is an old city where we were the hub for Western Maryland, kind of the Appalachians, before a lot of the other cities popped up,” said August, noting that the audience for folk and bluegrass is still strong in the Mid-Atlantic, as evident by the success of DelFest (over Memorial Day weekend) in Cumberland.

With no shortage of bluegrass festivals just a road trip away later in the spring and summer, August hopes Charm City is beginning to re-establish itself as a bluegrass breeding ground. The late April date is scheduled as a kickoff to the festival season.

“My slogan that I always say is, ‘Get your bluegrass shoes out, get them dusted off and warmed up with us and then go blow them out at DelFest,’” August said.

Tickets are now on sale for $65. Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., when the entertainment heads downtown with a show at The 8×10 featuring The Everyone Orchestra.

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