Prospects were dim and getting dimmer Saturday evening at Hagerstown’s City Park. Showtime for one of my favorite Bluegrass bands—Dead Men’s Hollow--was 7pm. I arrived about 5pm, and eased my truck into a soggy, muddy spot next to the park’s early-20th Century band shell. I was alone. Hail and torrents of rain swept across the park. I expected that the weather might clear within an hour, but would anyone show up? You’ll understand a little why I was nervous; the concert series is paid for by the City of Hagerstown with the support of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. We need to deliver.
The band, Dead Men’s Hollow, arrived on schedule (in a variety of hybrids and SUVS and minivans, all from different spots of metro DC). The sound crew arrived. The sun came out. And soon came a few hundred people who love Bluegrass music, rain or shine. As the evening progressed, hundreds more arrived to hear the magic.
It turned out to be a lovely evening in the park. There’s no sound quite like Dead Men’s Hollow. Excellent vocal harmonies, warm and precise instrumentals, good humor. Plus a repertoire of traditions blended with fresh and fun and poignant new compositions. This is living music. It reassures, it inspires, and it soars.
The Washington County Arts Council first booked Dead Men’s Hollow early in their years together. They started as a backyard pick-n-sing group in 2001. I was brand-new in my job, trying to figure out what the direction of this concert series was going to be. Somehow, and I don’t remember how, we connected in the summer of 2004 and have been together ever since. They’ve gone on to play all sorts of venues, from neighborhood parties to the Kennedy Center and the Strathmore. They’ve recorded CDs, and have been nominated for ten Wammies (Washington Area Music Association Awards) and won three of them, including Best Bluegrass Group and Bluegrass Album of the Year. Here in Hagerstown, we’re probably not in the upper echelon of the venues they play. But they love coming here. I really don’t remember how I found them in the first place, but once I heard them and met them, I decided they were an essential part of our series every summer. As long as I’m here, they’ll be here.