The Charleston Bluegrass Festival takes place March 24 & 25, 2023 on the pristine 6,000-acre grounds of the Woodlands Nature Reserve, a hidden gem in one of the world's top destinations, Charleston, South Carolina.
Patrons can expect a weekend of boot stompin' revelry complete with some of the finest names in bluegrass. The event offers plush camping options, local food / craft vendors, and outdoor activities.
Line up includes the 2023 Grammy Award Winner Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway!!!!!
Charleston Bluegrass Festival brings together the best of Grammy-winning national acts and regional string bands at Woodlands Nature Preserve
The vision behind Awendaw Green has never faltered since the Barn Jam’s organic origins in the mid-‘00s: provide up-and-coming local musicians an audience while building Charleston as a destination for touring bands.
It’s easy to take Charleston’s packed concert schedule for granted, but it wasn’t long ago that your favorite band might route through Savannah, Columbia and Charlotte without ever considering an out-of-the-way jog to the end of I-26. Awendaw Green’s humble stage in Charleston County’s far north helped to change that, giving four or five bands a stage every Wednesday night, rain or shine.
The community ethos behind Awendaw Green reaches a new apex at the 2023 Charleston Bluegrass Festival at Woodlands Nature Preserve.
Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway take the stage as Grammy winners for Bluegrass Album of the Year. Leftover Salmon, perpetual innovators and patron saints of improvisational bluegrass, share the bill. And Keller Williams, the ten-string acoustic guitarist who took a Michael Hedges level of virtuosity and made it fun, joins Larry and Jenny Keel, who earned their stripes playing the Pour House when it was still a strip mall joint in West Ashley.
It’s a real-deal lineup, complemented by bands that built their audience, in part, at the Sewee Outpost’s iconic outdoor stage in Awendaw.
“Bands like Swamptooth and the Reedy River String Band played a Barn Jam and blew me away,” says Awendaw Green founder and Charleston Bluegrass Festival co-organizer Eddie White. Asheville’s Fireside Collective are also long-time Barn Jam veterans.
Despite the festival’s growth into featuring national headliners like Molly Tuttle and Leftover Salmon, “it’s all still pretty organic,” says White.
Shelby Means, bassist in Tuttle’s Golden Highway, met her husband, Joel Timmons, at a Barn Jam.
“I remember playing the Barn Jam for the first time ten years ago,” says Means, who first visited as part of bluegrass quintet Della Mae. “After my set, I walked backstage to find two little goats standing on my heavily stickered bass case, eating the decals.”
Means sat in with Timmons’ duo that evening for a John Prine cover, and soon fell in love. They’ve each performed at prior Charleston Bluegrass Festivals with their bands, Lovers Leap and Sally & George.
“Awendaw Green’s passion for supporting new and upcoming artists has opened the door for many of my friends to tour through Charleston,” says Means. “There may not be baby goats eating the setlists or stickers this year, but the spirit of the Barn Jam will be represented, and the infectious energy of banjos and bluegrass will radiate the festival grounds.”
2023 marks the 9th--ish Charleston Bluegrass Festival, including an early iteration at Awendaw Green and accounting for 2020, when a lineup that included Del McCoury and Sam Bush was canceled one week out due to Covid. Pandemic hesitations also curbed a 2021 event, but the festival returned bigger and better in 2022 with headliners Greensky Bluegrass.
“It went from a hyperlocal regional event to taking a big bite last year,” says White.
The venue, Woodlands Nature Reserve, was also an uncertainty until late 2022. After working through logistics with Charleston County, the Charleston Bluegrass Festival’s emphasis on family fun, camping and exploration of the lakes and forests on the Woodlands property led to approval of the event. The overlap between the audience for acoustic, bluegrass music and those seeking an eco-tourism destination helped secure continued use of the property for well-polished events like the bluegrass festival.
Looking ahead, White calls out the Majors Family Band, a traditional string band composed of five siblings, as the type of act he hopes the Charleston Bluegrass Festival helps to build. The quintet earned their spot on the lineup after a recent Awendaw Green performance, but they’ve been long-time attendees who grew up jamming on the “Fire Ant Fiddle Stage” the venue hosts at larger events. “We added them on the last day we could, and they’re on top of the moon,” says White.
As Awendaw Green and the Charleston Bluegrass Festival grow, White’s goal is to keep building young musicians to larger stages. “Our hope is always to see those eyes get big, and let them know that it’s possible to do this.”
No pressure friends! Let's work on words and music and have fun! It doesn't matter if you play an instrument or not. Songs and instrumentation will happen!
All my best,