Much like its hirsute cousin the black bear, the Whispering Beard Folk Festival, the heralded, campground-venue music fest, cycles every year through five primary stages: hibernation; walking hibernation; normal activity; hyperphagia—excessive hunger or increased appetite; and fall transition. Like its ursine brethren, the Beard begins hibernating in late August following its yearly festival and remains essentially dormant until April, when it throws a festival preview party.

Whiskey Bent Valley Boys

This year, the festival appropriately transitioned from hibernation to walking hibernation on Saturday, April 1st. The well-attended and bewhiskered show filled all three rooms of the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky, and featured performances from Willy Tea Taylor, The Harmed Brothers, Darrin Bradbury, Soda Gardocki, Maria Carrelli, Joe Fletcher, Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, Ona, and Qiet.

As with the black bear’s predictable annual behavior, this years’ preview party mirrored the antics of previous years, which is to say that lovers of Americana music, nearly all of whom are familiar with one another, happily convened for a night of fraternity, drinking, music appreciation, and the swapping of Beard-related memories involving all-night jam sessions, excessive bonfires, and midnight whiffle ball matches in the festival’s own custom-built ballpark.

The Harmed Brothers

The bands serenading the Whispering Beard preview at the Southgate House Revival were also regulars, which was to be expected. For as any Beardo, aka Whispering Beard regular, will tell you, the Beard has always been more of a family reunion than a commercial enterprise—a family reunion where most attendees are artists, if not musicians.

Longtime Beard favorites Ona, out of Huntington, West Virginia, opened the evening in the big room with a set of their unique pop- and jazz-inflected Americana: Think early R.E.M. in a bar fight with Steely Dan and Son Volt.

Ona turned the big stage over to Beard veterans Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, an old-time, three-piece Kentucky band, playing “hard driving traditional tunes that’ll tickle your innards.” They turned in a prodigious set of updated bluegrass and then were followed by California punkster Soda Gardocki playing the lounge, donating a jangling, dissonant, rabble-rousing, punk-inflected set much like his fine performance last summer in Friendship, Indiana.

Maria Carrelli

That’s not to say there weren’t surprises. Qiet, a five-piece, horn-powered band hailing from the mountains of West Virginia, made their festival debut, turning in a powerful set to a packed room upstairs. They offered up what they properly proclaim to be “a balance of high-energy chaos and perfect order.”

Beardo favorite Maria Carrelli followed in the lounge downstairs, where she and her band offered up traditional Americana music anchored by Maria’s beautiful vocals and splendid guitar playing.

The evening was a tremendous success, a presage of happenings to come August 24th to 27th when the Beard will celebrate its tenth birthday by taking over the small agrarian town of Friendship—population 49. Look for a complete lineup come May. Information regarding tickets and campsites can be found here.


The Taste of the Beard, a preview party for the annual Whispering Beard Folk Festival filled all three rooms of the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY on Saturday, April 1st.  Acts included The Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, Soda Gordacki, The Harmed Brothers, Maria Carrelli, and more.