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Chestnut Ridge adds variety of acts to concert lineup

MORGANTOWN — If you’re familiar with Chestnut Ridge Park and Campground’s annual summer concert series, you know plenty of bluegrass and roots acts hit the outdoor stage. In recent years, organizers have also made an effort to expand the series’ sound, welcoming local and regional acts that incorporate genres such as rock and blues into their setlists.
A look at this year’s lineup reflects that mix. Concert series favorite The Hillbilly Gypsies kicked things off this year on May 26, with the quintet’s high-energy, old-fashioned tunes. Green Leaf Society’s brand of traditional music was showcased last weekend and Saturday, concert-goers can check out Americana group Square Thirteen, which hails from Ohio.
“Since it started, the concert series has always been focused on bluegrass and folk,” said park superintendent Cat Artis. “We’ve taken uber baby steps in recent summers to add more kinds of music.”
For instance, this year Appalachian jam rock band Fletcher’s Grove will perform as part of the series for the first time on July 14. And for the third year, Weary Space Wanderer will play July 21.
“I had known about and attended a show or two each year during the summer concert series, and a few years ago when Weary Space Wanderer started rolling, I responded to an open ask from them for an act to fill in for a cancellation,” said guitarist and lead singer Kevin Hamric. “I’d always wanted to play out there, but because we aren’t the typical bluegrass or folk act that they usually showcase, I thought it might be a long shot.
“After chatting with the organizer, Cat, and hearing that they might like a little variety, we came out to play, and I think all involved had a good time. That was three years ago, and we’ve made it onto the schedule each summer since.”
Hamric said he “sometimes struggles” to put a label on Weary Space Wanderer’s sound “because the last thing I want to do is limit how it could sound to someone else. That said, I do like to use the line: ‘modern (space) mountain music.’ ”
What started out as a solo, acoustic singer-songwriter project has morphed so that audiences may still just see Hamric perform or see the musician play with support from Chris Baker, Jim Bidwell, Mike Arbogast and Todd Stubblefield.
“I think the Weary Space Wanderer sound has a lot of fluidity, and hopefully that comes across as people listen to us,” he said. “And most people out there are just looking for a good time. I know I am.”
Growing up in Braxton County, Hamric said venues such as Chestnut Ridge have shaped his work, and he’s excited to be part of the series.
“I think — first of all — sitting outside, in that type of setting with the trees, pond, cabins and campsites in the background adds to what you are hearing from the music,” he said. “It all becomes part of the music. And it’s a relaxed atmosphere, with people laughing, kids running around, dogs barking. … It’s a very cool cross-section of the community coming together to relax, dance and shake off some troubles.
“It’s all these good vibes in one place and time. I hope that those things are in my music somewhere, because it’s been part of my experience growing up here in West Virginia and going to music venues like this one.”
Other acts on the schedule this season include The Plate Scrapers on June 23, Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers on June 30, Halftime String Band on July 7, Allegheny Reign on July 28, The Sheppard Brothers on Aug. 4, Whiskey Victor on Aug. 11, The Fly Birds on Aug. 18 and WV Hitchers on Sept. 1.
Artis said a variety of food vendors will be on hand at the shows. And attendees may sign up for door prizes from businesses such as Black Bear Burritos and Blue Moose Cafe.
Concert-goers may also drop off nonperishable food items and hygiene products for The Pantry Plus More program. The nonprofit fills school pantries in Monongalia County.
“It’s a great time for the family,” Artis said. “It’s cheap, and everyone has a good time. Kids love to play by the pond, catching newts and salamanders. And parents have a communal child watching thing happening. The first 30 feet in front of the stage are set up for dancing. It’s a nice little society that’s been created.”

  • Chestnut Ridge Park and Campground concert series runs through Sept. 1 at 346 Chestnut Ridge Camp Road. All shows are set for 6-8:30 p.m. Bands will take an intermission between sets. Tickets are $5 per person. Children 6 and younger get in free. Well-behaved pets are welcome. They must be leashed and cleaned up after. Various food vendors will be on hand. Info: