The following piece was originally published in the April 2019 issue of Raleigh Magazine:
For the uninitiated, MerleFest wasn’t named for Merle Haggard, although the country legend has performed at the top-rated Americana roots festival over the years. MerleFest, now synonymous with its mix of traditional, roots-oriented music from the Appalachian region, was named for another musician, Eddy Merle Watson, son of the late, great guitarist, singer and songwriter Doc Watson.
A 2.5-hour drive from Raleigh, MerleFest’s 2019 headliners—The Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Wynonna & the Big Noise, Dailey & Vincent, Tyler Childers, Keb’ Mo’, Sam Bush, The Earls of Leicester, Peter Rowan, Amos Lee, The Milk Carton Kids, Steep Canyon Rangers, Scythian and The Del McCoury Band—will no doubt draw music fans to the campus of Wilkes Community College in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
One of the best things about attending MerleFest, whether you’re there for the first time or the 15th, is all of the “new” acts just waiting to be discovered as you wander among the festival’s 13 stages. In between the headliners’ sets on the main Watson Stage are myriad opportunities to check out lesser-known acts among the 80-plus artists set to perform.
Here are six reasons why you should make the short trip to the annual musical homecoming event, which marks the unofficial kickoff to the region’s outdoor music festival season.