Lazybirds flock to MerleFest
They're not exactly lazy, and their music shakes tail feathers aplenty.
So, it's no coincidence the Lazybirds are flying east for MerleFest, held in Wilkesboro April 28 to May 1.
The Boone-bred group describes its music as old-time blues and jazz, but its versatility practically flips predictability the bird.
"It's hard to define and put into a category," bassist Mitch Johnston said, "but we tend to lean toward early blues and jazz, about the first 50 years of recorded music."
That includes old-time country swing that begs for dancing. Fittingly, the Lazybirds will first perform on MerleFest's Dance Stage Friday, followed by a Saturday performance with Brian Yerman on the Traditional Stage, under the name Brian Yerman and the Bloomin' Yermaniums - revisiting a 2009 album collaboration.
MerleFest 2011 marks the Lazybirds' fourth outing to the ever-growing music festival.
"It's definitely a good opportunity to get some exposure," said Johnston, who last performed there in 2004. "Any opportunity to play in front of a festival crowd, we view it as a milestone for sure."
But it's not so much the crowd that keeps them pickin' and grinnin'.
"It's good old-fashioned chemistry," Johnston said. "We're all best friends, started hanging out together well before we started a band."
The Lazybirds were established in 1996, with Jay Brown and Andy Christopher on guitar, Johnston on bass and James Browne on drums.
"We've met quite a few people who've steered us musically, who got us listening to old blues, jazz, fiddle music, Carter Family-type stuff, Riley Puckett," Johnston said, mentioning Yerman as one of those musical guides. "We really fell in love with that kind of music. It's been a slow thing, but over the years we've been able to come up with our own sound, just by staying true to those different traditions."
The lineup is slightly different these days, now with Alfred Michels on fiddle on minus Christopher, who left due to illness. The band's latest album, "Broken Wing," is a tribute to Christopher and his family.
It's also a tribute to the 'birds unflinching camaraderie, a quality evident in both recorded and live performances.
"We've always socialized well," Johnston said. "We're all family guys and have a lot in common, but there just seems to be a clicking energy there that we recognize. We definitely feel like it's a special thing."
It's something audiences recognize, and Johnston's hoping for the best at MerleFest.
"We'll just put out what we're working on, and, hopefully, they'll dig it," he said. "We're hoping we'll have the same kind of vibe that we do when we play at the Boone Saloon or some of these other places. I know we'll have some people out there familiar with us - a lot of festival-goers are from right around here."
What can listeners expect from the Lazybirds' MerleFest sets?
"We'll know after our sets there," Johnston joked. "These are dance sets, so we'll be playing some high-energy music to get folks dancing. You'll probably get good variety of what we do - anything from swing to classic, old-time country."
But there's something that separates the Lazybirds from other groups.
"A lot of groups are old-time fiddle enthusiasts, bluegrass enthusiasts, or one form or another," Johnston said. "We're kind of into anything that has integrity and sounds good. We haven't really put any limits on ourselves as far as styles go, so they've meshed pretty well over the years, I do believe."
Hearing is believing, and the Lazybirds offer several opportunities at MerleFest 2011. On Friday, April 29, they'll perform from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. on the Dance Stage. On Saturday, April 30, they'll perform as the Bloomin' Yermaniums from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. on the Traditional Stage, followed by a Lazybird return to the Dance Stage from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m.
For MerleFest ticket information, visit http://www.merlefest.org. To give the Lazybirds a listen, visit http://www.lazybirds.net.