News Column

Performers appreciate crowds at Larryfest

August 11, 2013


Aug. 11--Darrin Vincent can hardly contain his excitement about performing again at the 16th annual Larryfest bluegrass hoe-down Aug. 16-17 near La Farge.

"I've been looking forward to this all year," said Vincent, half of the Dailey & Vincent duo that is one of the hottest attractions in bluegrass and a returning act from last year. "It's a really, really good time.

"Ohmygosh -- all the young folks really get into it there," Vincent said during a telephone interview.

"They dance and sing and holler. Ohmygosh, I love 'em," he said with his signature hearty guffaw.

The sold-out crowd of 800 is sure to love the 43-year-old Vincent and his singing soulmate, 37-year-old Jamie Dailey, who have garnered a slew of awards and plaudits since their partnership began in 2007.

They met in 2001 at an awards ceremony of the International Bluegrass Music Association, after Dailey performed the gospel song of the year with Doyle Lawson and "hit a real high note in the chorus," Vincent recalled.

Vincent, who was sitting next to fellow recording artist Ricky Skaggs, said, "Ricky and I jumped right out of our seats. I was a fan right there."

Running backstage after the show to meet Dailey, Vincent said, "I told him, 'I'm Darrin Vincent, and I want to be your friend.'"

They spent most of the night talking about music and had breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, Vincent said.

"He played songs he wrote, and we sang. It seemed like we were brothers because our voices blended so well," he said.

That fits the old saw about "sibling harmony" in which advocates insist that siblings may have a genetic inclination to create more perfect harmony.

Fitting, then, that one of their albums is titled "Brothers From Different Mothers."

In 2004, they recorded a Christmas song, "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem," that was No. 1 on worldwide bluegrass charts for four months, Vincent said, adding, "We were stunned."

Equally stunned was the sell-out crowd of 2,300 for Dailey & Vincent's recent performance at the Nashville cathedral of the Ryman Auditorium.

The July 18 show was the first live broadcast of "Bluegrass Nights at The Ryman" on the Sirius Bluegrass Junction Channel, and it prompted reviewer Chuck Dauphin to write for Billboard: "If you look up the definition of sonic perfection, there just might be a picture of bluegrass super duo Dailey & Vincent.

"Simply put, there are no other acts in the format who do what they do with as much energy, zeal and precision," Dauphin wrote.

The praise brought another guffaw and a "Wow" from Vincent, who added, "I was thankful. That was really nice.

"It's very humbling to play that venue because of all the history," Vincent said. "When I walk in and see all the artists' pictures on the wall, I get butterflies, and I'm in awe. It's one of the best venues in the world."

Although the duo performs country and gospel music as well as bluegrass, Vincent said he and Dailey appreciate all genres.

"I like all types of music, but what really touches my heart and soul personally is gospel," he said.

Vincent said he has written a few songs, but Dailey is the songwriter of the pair, having penned 60 or so.

"What comes from my heart is producing in the studio," he said. "That's what I love."

The duo gets plenty of love from fans and the industry, having been named the IBMA's entertainer of the year three times, the IBMA's vocal group of the year thrice, a Grammy nominee twice and a Dove Award winner. Other accolades include a slew of awards and nominations from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, as well as individual plaudits.

Dailey and Vincent both come from musical families and began singing at the tender ages of 3 and 2, respectively. Both had stellar careers before they linked up, Dailey playing bass and singing lead, baritone and tenor for Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Vincent performing with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, as well as backing up the likes of Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.

But they insist on sharing the limelight, stepping to the side to let their band take center stage during their shows.

"We feel like we've got some of the best musicians on the planet," Vincent said. "They work hard at their craft. They play to a high level, and they deserve the spotlight."

Despite Vincent's love of music and entertaining, he confesses to the downside of playing 115 tour dates a year and another 15 shows at the Grand Ol Opry in Nashville.

"I've got a wife and three kids, and it's hard to go on the road and miss a ballgame or something that's important to them," he said.

Larry Sebranek, the namesake of Larryfest, is glad Vincent's family is willing to share him as the event's headliner.

"Dailey & Vincent are one of the top -- if not the top -- bluegrass bands in the country," Sebranek said.

Larryfest stemmed from hubris and bravado, acknowledged Sebranek, who is in charge of ticket sales and grounds maintenance for the event on the family farm.

The festival idea arose after he and his brother Doug went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

"We didn't like it and decided we could do it better," he said. "It wasn't that good when we started, but it's come around."

Larryfest started as a family affair, with Larry and his four brothers, but they have since formed a board, organized as The Kickapoo Valley Acoustic Music Association and have a passel of volunteers who help put on the show.

The event is named Larryfest "because they didn't like the name I suggested -- the Bohemian Glen Music Festival, the name of our farm -- so they named it Larryfest without telling me," Sebranek said.

Another returning act is The Freight Hoppers, a four-member band that plays fiddle-based music dating to the 1920s.

"We live in the Appalachian Mountains, and we like to present music that is indigenous to this part of the country," said Frank Lee, the band's banjo player and manager.

In the 1920s, record companies went to remote areas and recorded what they referred to as "hillbilly music," Lee said.

That became country music, which morphed to country western and now is so commercialized that it has lost its rural flavor, he said.

"Today's music is geared to make money, so it's here and gone in just a few days," Lee said. "People are desperately trying to write music that will make money. It's commercial music for the masses."

In days of yore, he said, "People wrote ballads and songs that talked about their lives and told stories."

Asked for his impression of TV shows such as "American Idol," he said, "It's been 30-odd years since I've lived in a house with a TV, so I haven't seen it."

From what he has heard about the popular show, though, he said he's not fond of it.

"This music we play, there's an ocean of people -- especially in their 20s -- getting involved with this music, and I suspect they're not into 'American Idol,'" he said.

Like Darrin Vincent, Lee is looking forward to playing at Larryfest for the fourth time.

"The best part of the country where we perform is in Wisconsin and Michigan. The people in Wisconsin are good to us," he said. "They lose their inhibitions and aren't afraid to let you know they like what you're doing."

Larryfest routinely sells out, as it has this year, with attendance limited to 800 because of limited parking on the family farm.

The festival also includes a songwriting contest, in which local entrants will be able to sing their pieces on a secondary stage, and the winner will perform on the main stage, Sebranek said.


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