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A journey to the creek: Acoustic act rocks with blazing speed

Festival-goers would have been hard-pressed to find a more energetic, fun and entertaining set than Nickel Creek’s performance Friday afternoon at That Tent. In a weekend packed with talented musicians, Nickel Creek was surely the cream of the crop.

Lead singer/mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile seemed genuinely surprised by how many people came out for Nickel Creek’s set, and I must admit it was amazing to see people with dreadlocks singing along to the bluegrass songs.

“The love goes from the picks through the strings through these hollow wooden boxes to you,” Thile told the crowd, trying to find words for his excitement.

Thile, vocalist/fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist/vocalist Sean Watkins were all on their game for the afternoon set, nailing three-part harmonies, playing their instruments to perfection and having a blast the entire time.

Along with mind-blowing instrumental numbers like “Ode to a Butterfly” and “Smoothie Song,” the trio unleashed a handful of cover songs for the crowd. During “House of Tom Bombadil” the trio broke into Randy Newman’s hilarious hate anthem “Short People.” The group also did a fantastic rendition of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” and even provided a bluegrass version of the Radiohead song “Nice Dream.”

And, saving the absolute best for last, during the insanely up-tempo closer “The Fox,” the group slowed it down to a near standstill for a cover of The Band’s “The Weight.” Once everyone in the crowd realized what song it was, it was one of those moments where girls hugged each other and guys slapped each other on the shoulder, all with shouts of joy.

During the closing number was a moment that shows how truly talented this band is. For the “Crazy Chester” verse of “The Weight,” the band brought out their guitar tech Keith to lay down the vocals, and near the end of “The Fox,” upright-bassist Mark Schatz moved to the front of the stage and began clogging to the swift rhythm.

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