Cavefest Exceeded Expectations

The first Cavefest at The Caverns is in the books and the Nashville.com team is so happy we were there. It’s short drive from Nashville to Pelham TN, so getting there on Friday was breeze.

It seems most first-time festivals have a few bugs to work out, and sometimes it even takes a few years to get a festival running like a well-oiled machine. That was not the case with Cavefest. If there were any issues we did not see them. Traffic was pretty heavy during check in but the Cavefest team was polite and prepared. The weather could not have been more perfect and the golden yellows and rich reds of the Tennessee fall foliage made for a beautiful backdrop.

It was an incredibly diverse crowd of around 4000 Bluegrass fans of all ages from 48 states. Setting up camp went pretty quickly and we had a campfire going in no time. Not many festivals allow campfires so this was a nice touch, especially on Saturday night when it got a little chilly.

The Nashville.com Team made friends almost immediately with our camping neighbors Kendall Blasi of Huntsville AL and Cory Knisley of Knoxville TN., two siblings who thought Cavefest would be a good place to spend some quality time together. They invited us to watch the U.T game with them early Saturday and we were inseparable for the rest of the festival. They were just two of the many fine people we met at Cavefest.

We were at the cave for the late-night jams but spent most of our time at the main stage. The sound was excellent in the natural amphitheater setting, but you’d expect nothing less from a Todd Mayo (Caverns owner) event. He’s had a little practice with Music City Roots and Bluegrass Underground. The lighting was fantastic as well, with a little help from the full moon and Jupiter just above the stage.

Lindsay Lou is the Caverns’ “Artist in Residence” and besides her own energetic show, she made guest appearances in many other shows throughout the weekend. There were many memorable moments onstage throughout the weekend. Sierra Hull is probably one of the most underrated Bluegrass musicians in the genre. Her performance was impressive and flawless. Jim Lauderdale delivered his Americana, Bakersfield-ish sound in a flashy suit as you would expect along with a few stories and the King of Newgrass, Sam Bush, ended Saturday night with an eclectic, energetic show.

We unfortunately missed most of Pressing Strings on Sunday morning but were there in time for Kendall Street Company. The guitarist somehow lost his capo and asked if anyone in the crowd had an extra. A capo was thrown up to the stage in short order by a generous fan.

The next show, Sicard Hollow, we all agreed was the best surprise of the weekend. They traveled 12 hours straight from Wisconsin and were genuinely excited to be there. “This is definitely the largest stage we’ve ever played” exclaimed lead singer Alex King. The band really got the crowd up on their feet. He also mentioned how the fall setting with the amphitheater looked like a Bob Ross painting which was a pretty accurate description.

The Lil Smokies had a great set and later came back out on stage to sing Toby Keith’s “Shoulda Been A Cowboy” with The Kitchen Dwellers and it turned into a big sing-along. Rising Appalachia was on next with a smooth melodic sound as just a duo before bringing the rest of the band up and then it was the Infamous Stringdusters. The Stringdusters really got the crowd up and dancing to their jam-band style of Bluegrass. Sunday night ended with Leftover Salmon who had a big following at the festival evident from stickers, signs and window paintings throughout the campground.

“We look forward to building on this year’s success and the lessons we learned to solidify CaveFest as a premiere destination music festival for years to come.” said Jeff Meltesen, Marketing Director.

The next Cavefest is already on the calendar and we plan on being there October 6-8, 2023. We’d like to thank Cavefest for having us. Well done! We’d also like to thank Jay Parr for his amazing photography. Check his gallery of photos.
–Jerry Holthouse

About Jerry Holthouse

Music editor for Nashville.com. Jerry Holthouse is a content writer, songwriter and a graphic designer. He owns and runs Holthouse Creative, a full service creative agency. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of everything music. You can contact him at JerryHolthouse@Nashville.com

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