the uninitiated, ELLNORA: The Guitar Festival is a three-day celebration of all
things guitar, which takes place September 4 through 6 in a gorgeous setting
with an astoundingly diverse line-up. The festival takes place at the Krannert
Center for the Performing Arts in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, a gorgeous venue
that boasts several music spaces, all with state-of-the-art acoustics.
previous festival was so much fun,” he says. “There are a lot of great
guitarists and so many different styles and cool collaborations. I played with
my friend Alvin Youngblood Hart. I got to play with Ali Farka Toure’s son Vieux,
and that was off the hook. Cindy Cashdollar is the Artist-in-Residence this
year and she’s going to play with us, which we’re really looking forward to.”
addition to the various jam sessions, Dickinson played solo and duo sets at the
last ELLNORA, but this year he’ll be accompanied by the Wandering, for an
entirely different repertoire than last time around. “This is an acoustic folk
group,” he explains. “We have acoustic guitar, upright bass, and bamboo cane
fife. We do what we call ‘traditional’ music, and it’s interesting to see what
everybody’s idea of traditional is. We do a beautiful Kris Kristofferson tune, ’60s
folk-rock, and music we learned from our grandparents.”
setlist is certainly in keeping with the festival’s ethos of celebrating
diversity, and he’s not worried about his band’s material being too eclectic. “I
just love how an acoustic group can break each song down to the lowest common
denominator. It doesn’t matter what style the song was originally written in,
it’s easy for us to bring them all into the same vein.”
such a massive list of talent at ELLNORA, it might seem overwhelming to plan
out who you want to see, but Dickinson welcomes the challenge. “I can’t wait to
see John Scofield,” he says. “He is such a great dude and it’s always a pleasure
to be around him. He’s a legend.” On the subject of living legends, Dickinson
was quick to pay homage to the heaviest cat on the bill. “Buddy Guy—wow. He is the blues. He’s the last man
standing, along with B.B. King. What really gets me about Buddy Guy is his voice.
He’s an amazing singer. So powerful and versatile. He can do anything.”
is unquestionably a great opportunity to see established stars such as Buddy
Guy, but Dickinson seems perhaps most excited about discovering players he
wasn’t aware of.
fun thing about ELLNORA for me is getting turned on to new people,” he says. “I
saw Kaki King and she was great. I’m glad she’ll be there this year. I’ve
learned so much and gotten really inspired by the people pushing the boundaries
of solo guitar. People using loopers and other technology to take solo guitar
further—I love that because I’m so traditional. I’m old-fashioned to a fault.
I’ve been slowly starting to explore some of that stuff because I was inspired
by what I saw at ELLNORA last time. There was a band from Brooklyn called Red
Hook that played soundscape-type of music. That was really fun. Adrian Belew
blew my mind, man! He did a solo set that was incredible.”
fact is, the ELLNORA festival is one of the best gatherings of great, varied
guitar talent anywhere in the world. It appears that this year’s festival will
go a long way toward keeping the guitar vibrant and powerful as an art form and
a force of nature, a concept that is near and dear to Dickinson’s heart.
ELLNORA you’re exposed to so many different types of guitar playing, it’ll
expand anybody’s idea of what the guitar’s about. I sure hope that people will
want to pick up a guitar after going to ELLNORA, but they’ll come away bigger
fans of the instrument at the very least. That’s for sure.”
more information, tickets, artist lineups, and schedules go to ellnoraguitarfestival.com
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