Festival Fix: The Dancing Bear Music & Food Festival

Somewhere in the middle of the Appalachian Lunchable, the Lemon Lime Mile High Pie, and the amazing musical lineup we fell in love with Dancing Bear Lodge’s Music and Food Festival.

With their second premier festival this year, Townsend’s Dancing Bear Lodge did it again. Through a blend of savvy planning and great –sunny, albeit sweaty—weather, six hours of Blues, Americana, and Country/Bluegrass, Dancing Bear Lodge’s Music and Food Festival brought in a maelstrom of exciting new music from its artists as well as crowds that far exceeded expectations.  

“Planning for this festival was so different than our first festival, Sweathearts of the Smokies,” said Dancing Bear Lodge’s Marketing Coordinators Kristen Camden and Jackie Errico.

“We knew there was an interest. We had big names and a surprisingly high turnout. This festival has been well received and we couldn’t be more excited.” 

This intimate, seated music and food extravaganza took place on the same outdoor pavilion stage, this time emceed by The Voice’s very own, Emily Ann Roberts.

Although he may have been the youngest performer there, Eli Fox & Band was never wet behind the ears. He started the festival with his signature fusion style of bluegrass and Americana music past, present, and future while coming-of-age inspired group, A Boy Named Banjo took us on a musical journey and played songs straight from their new EP. 

A crowd favorite was a song called “Long Story Short” with well-spaced, soaring runs on the banjo and a sharp harmonica solo that coolly cut above the rest of the ensemble.

Another of their songs mentioned the hills of Tennessee and was welcomed with a gigantic well of cheers from the audience.

Boy Named Banjo ended their musical journey with a number called Bird Man a piece from their new EP ‘Lost on Main’ that truly showcased their stylistic Nashville music roots.  

A seasoned group that’s been making music since the 70s, The Lonesome Coyotes took stage to play their own happy marriage of honky-tonk and Blues that included a song called ‘Bootleg’—aptly named, because you can’t find that stuff anymore.  Their energy was vivacious and the solo from steal pedal player, Brock Henderson got the crowd on their feet when he played while tilting his behemoth instrument off its stand. 

Wildlife ecologist and full-time musician Jay Clarke & the Tennessee Tree Beavers brought home their familiar sound with song-and-message pieces like ‘Mountain in the Sky’, a piece that detailed the destruction of our native trees through soulful lyrics and bowed upright bass. They finished with a rousing cover of ‘In the Pines’, most known and performed by Lead Belly.

But it was Emily Roberts, who soothed the crowd just as the sun was going down, with her original sweet country melodies. She debuted a never before heard piece called "Heaven Help Me."  Ready fans will have to keep an eye out for her upcoming record coming very soon.

Night had fully set in when headliner, Darrell Scott began, head down into the music in his signature finger-picking guitar flow. His runs were delicate and virtuosic while his lyrics were heavy with appealingly sensual insinuation in pieces like Helen of Troy, Pennsylvania.

Most widely known from performances by Travis Tritt, Scott played his original piece "Great Day to be Alive" from album Aloha from Nashville with an exuberant audience that sing-shouted the lyrics to his famed song.

The remainder of his set came from his new, home-recorded EP Houseville Sessions. A highlight to the festival-goers’ night was when Roberts sang with her idol, Scott, in an acoustic-duet of "You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive."


Saturday brought near-ideal festival conditions: clear skies, a large turnout, and gourmet fare, complements of Executive Chef Shelley Cooper.

Stifling heat stood no chance compared to a hot line-up of the region’s best. 

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