Strings and Sol 2021: MVPs and Favorite Moments - Festy GoNuts!

Strings and Sol 2021: MVPs and Favorite Moments

Jan 2, 2022

Strings & Sol 2021 MVPs and Favorite Moments

The 9th Strings & Sol music festival returned in 2021 after a Covid-forced hiatus in 2020.  The festival took place at Now Sapphire Resort in Puerto Morelos, MX, from December 9-12.

Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and The Infamous Stringdusters all returned to the festival.  They were joined this year by Trampled By Turtles, The Lil Smokies, Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band, Lindsay Lou, and Mimi Naja.

Strings & Sol 2021


Strings and Sol 2021 MVPs

The thing with Strings and Sol is that EVERYONE is an MVP. 

From top to bottom, each and every person involved with Strings and Sol brings their A-Game.  From Cloud 9 and the Strings and Sol artists to the guy making your 12th BBC of the day, it’s all top-notch.

So this list is in no way meant to imply that anyone didn’t crush it – we all did.  We just wanted to pick out a few folks that stood out in their crushing.  Folks that might have crushed just a tiny bit harder, or who went above and beyond in their crushing.  But make no mistake – everyone deserves an award!


That being said, here are our 2021 Strings and Sol MVPs:

Strings & Sol 2021

Kyle Tuttle

The Lil Smokies announced in April that Kyle Tuttle would be joining the band, right around the same time that Strings and Sol announced the 2021 lineup.  It only took a little bit of deductive reasoning to figure that the “Bobcat” would be coming to Mexico!

The Smokies were fire, and deserving of an MVP of their own, but we’re singling out Tuttle here not only for his work with The Lil Smokies but also for his pure enthusiasm and excitement as a Strings and Sol first-timer.

Tuttle could be seen crushing champagne all day while crushing the banjo on stage with literally everyone all night.  His energy was infectious, and he brought the level to 11 every time he was called up.  Plus, he nailed the waterslide (although maybe not on the first try!).  And possibly changed his hair color halfway through the festival.

Strings & Sol 2021: Kyle Tuttle

Kyle Tuttle relaxing at the Phoffman cabana.

“…at the Phoffman, Phoffman cabana…” 🎶

Strings & Sol 2021

Kyle Tuttle and The Lil Smokies perform under the late-night Palapa at Strings and Sol 2021.

Jon Stickley

For a first in the history of Strings and Sol, we have a repeat winner of the overall ‘Best in Strings’ award. 

Jon Stickley first attended Strings and Sol in 2017 with the Jon Stickley Trio, and we noted then that he was an MVP not only for his actions on stage, but also for his performances all week throughout the resort.  It seemed he never put his guitar down. 

When the news came in that Vince Herman was unable to join Leftover Salmon in Mexico this year due to a medical emergency, Salmon called on Stickley – who was scheduled as an artist at large and as part of Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band – to help fill those incredibly large shoes.  Jon Stickley performed with Leftover Salmon for the entirety of both their main stage shows, learning at least 20 new songs along the way.

Along with the amazing Broke Mountain Bluegrass performance, Stickley was also a huge part of the Lindsay Lou Electric Review, closing out the entire festival with a rocking performance under the palapa.

Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

Jon Stickley with Leftover Salmon and Jake Simpson at Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Strings & Sol 2021

And to top it all off, Jon and his wife Julianne were attending Strings and Sol with the newest addition to the Stickley clan, their son Callum.  Which, in retrospect, makes Julianne the true MVP of the festival!

Making us realize that we should recognize all of…

The Moms and Dads of Strings and Sol

Y’all were busy during Covid!  While many of us had to scramble for pet-sitters for the first time this year, a huge bunch of first-time parents were facing an entirely different festival challenge – bringing kids to Mexico.

It was notable how many families were in attendance, especially amongst many of the artists.  And while these artists were practicing their sets, then playing often well into the morning, the moms and dads were busy caring for the kids, while still managing to dance and sing and enjoy everything (almost everything) that Strings and Sol has to offer.

Kudos to you, the musical parents, for balancing the party with family and for helping your musician spouses to continue to rock through the night while you handled the diapers!

And to those of you that weren’t performing – we still know what a balancing act Strings and Sol must be with kids in tow.  Great job for introducing those young festivarians to the best party in the world, and for continuing to be your fest self even with a toddler tagging along!


(New parents?  Check out our article on Bringing Kids to Music Festivals!)


Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography
Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography
Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

The parents of Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Nick Piccininni

Since we all last gathered in Mexico, Yonder Mountain String Band has gone through some changes, most notably adding multi-instrumentalist Nick Piccininni to the permanent lineup.  If you aren’t yet familiar with Nick, you can get to know Nick Piccininni a bit in this brief interview.

Fans seem to agree that this new era of Yonder Mountain String Band is marked by a renewed energy and passion amongst all of the band members, and Piccininni certainly seems to be contributing to that.

As a first-timer at Strings and Sol, Piccininni let it all hang out.  And, yes, we are talking about those guns!  But, let’s face it, if you have the chops to back it up, you can get away with ripping your sleeves off!  (Or did he simply bust out of them, a la Lou Ferrigno?)

Nick brought the fire on stage at Strings and Sol, whether it was on the mandolin, fiddle, or banjo, and he certainly seemed to enjoy every moment. 

Sun’s out, Guns out!

Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

Nick Piccininni of Yonder Mountain String Band at Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Strings & Sol 2021

Is that the Incredible Hulk, or Nick Piccininni? 

The Waterslide

We would be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to the newest addition to the resort – the waterslide! 

Actually 3 slides, this was a game-changer.  Not a morning passed where we didn’t hit the slide as a wake-up and attitude adjustment. 

The middle slide (Dark and Scary) was the highlight, although the straight and fast shoot was great if you were also looking for a slap in the face.

Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

The new waterslide at Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

Lindsay Lou at Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Lindsay Lou

Returning to Strings and Sol for her second time, Lindsay Lou absolutely crushed it.

She had not one, but two amazing late-night palapa performances. 

The first was a Friday night performance with Mimi Naja and friends, which would have been legendary in its own right had it not been for the Sunday night set.

When Lindsay Lou’s Electric Review made the schedule we got goosebumps.  When the lineup of Alwyn Robinson, Greg Garrison, Mimi Naja, and Jon Stickley was shared, we knew it would be hot, but we had no idea just how much fire Lindsay had packed!

Lindsay put together an amazing set of songs and guests to join the crew on stage, including Allie Kral, Jay Starling, Todd Schaefer, Kyle Tuttle, Willa Emmitt, and many others!

Lindsay Lou’s Electric Revue was the cherry on the delicious sundae that was Strings and Sol 2021,” said Strings & Sol veteran Miguel Franciso.

Strings & Sol 2021

Lindsay Lou with Leftover Salmon at Strings and Sol 2021

Strings & Sol 2021: Lindsay Lou's Electric Revue

Lindsay Lou’s Electric Revue at Strings and Sol 2021

Vince Herman

When the news broke that Vince Herman would not be joining us in Mexico due to a medical emergency, we were all heartbroken.  Vince could easily be named the Mayor of Strings and Sol (If that distinction didn’t already belong to the actual Mayor…McCheese).  But we were all relieved that he was safe and recovering. 

When Leftover Salmon first took the stage on Saturday evening, we didn’t know what to expect.  How do you replace a man like Vince Herman?  The answer is you don’t.  But you do call on your amazingly talented friends to help try.

Jon Stickley held down the guitar for both of Salmon’s sets, and vocals were shared by a rotating cast of characters.  Travis Book set the bar with his lounge-rock rendition of “Up On the Hill Where They Do The Boogie,” perhaps the sexiest John Hartford cover ever

Throughout the weekend we also saw Lindsay Lou, Mimi Naja, Dave Bruzza and Paul Hoffman take the mic with Salmon, offering up amazing versions of songs normally sung by Vince.  Willa Emmitt – Drew Emmitt’s daughter – also sat in,  absolutely crushing vocals on the Gnarls Barkley cover “Crazy,” reminding us that we all are.  Probably

We also were treated to an appearance by Vinnie Farsetta – an old friend of Herman’s who actually wrote several Leftover Salmon tunes, including “Mama Boulet,” which he played and sang with Leftover at Strings and Sol!

We can’t, however, say enough about Leftover Salmon and how they handled this adversity.  Greg Garrison was the glue holding things together, along with Alwyn Robinson, as artist after artist came in and out of the jams.  Andy Thorn went head-to-head with each of them, while newest member (?) Jay Starling shined on the keys and dobro.  And then there is Drew Emmitt, who took the reigns and reminded everyone why he has been the best at what he does for 30+ years!

It was this incredible group effort by everyone involved that made these Leftover Salmon shows uniquely amazing experiences throughout, while also reinforcing the fact that Vince Herman is one-of-a-kind, and a pillar of our entire music and festival community.

Strings & Sol 2021: Vincent Farsetta

Vincent Farsetta with Leftover Salmon at Strings and Sol 2021. Farsetta performed Mama Boulet, one of the Leftover Salmon songs which he wrote.

Strings & Sol 2021: Tara Gracer Photography

Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters) with Leftover Salmon at Strings and Sol 2021 | Tara Gracer Photography for Cloud 9 Adventures

Strings & Sol 2021

Willa Emmitt with Leftover Salmon at Strings and Sol 2021

The Half-Moon Rising

Ok, we’ll be honest, we didn’t have a compass with us. 

But it sure seemed to us like there was a “half-moon rising in southeastern skies” each night of the festival, reminding us that Jeff Austin is with us, always.

Strings & Sol 2021

Strings & Sol 2021 Favorite Moments

Every Strings & Sol seems to be defined by moments that are just so incredible they can be hard to believe.  These moments are what make Strings & Sol so special.  These are the memories that stay with us, that we sit on the beach in Mexico and reminisce about, year after year.

In the past, there have been incredible highlight-reel performances like Vince Herman’s Bass-Off in 2019, or Greensky Bluegrass playing through an incredible deluge, or Del McCoury under the Palapa!

And 2021 was full of more of these memories.

We reached out on social media to ask the fans for their favorite memories of Strings and Sol 2021.


The Strings & Sol 2021 Favorite Memories


Strings & Sol 2021

Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band

Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band is a bluegrass supergroup, whose members all went on to bigger things after the band’s short run, which included winning the RockyGrass Band Competition in 2003.

When Strings & Sol announced a Broke Mountain Bluegrass Reunion with Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters), Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Jon Stickley (Jon Stickley Trio), and Robin Davis (Robin Davis Duo), we knew instantly that their set could go down in Strings & Sol history.  Spoiler alert – it did.

Strings & Sol 2021: Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band

Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band: Anders Beck, Robin Davis, Travis Book, Jon Stickley and Andy Thorn at Strings and Sol 2021

Mandolin Swim

Strings and Sol isn’t just about the performances on the stage – if you read between the lines in the “Activities” calendar, there are some special gems.

In 2021, one of those was the “Mandolin Swim” with Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass), Nick Piccininni (Yonder Mountain String Band), John Skehan (Railroad Earth), Mimi Naja (Fruition) and Erik Berry (Trampled By Turtles).

Strings & Sol 2021: Josh Timmermans Photography

The Mandolin Swim at Strings and Sol 2021 | Josh Timmermans for Cloud 9 Adventures


The theme night is always a highlight of Strings & Sol, and for 2021 we all got to Jamercise!

Strings & Sol 2021: Josh Timmermans Photography

Jamercise! at Strings and Sol 2021 | Josh Timmermans for Cloud 9 Adventures

The Fiddles

There’s always a good amount of fiddlin’ at Strings & Sol, but one moment that stands out was during Yonder Mountain String Band’s set, when Allie Kral and Nick Piccininni were joined by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth.


Strings & Sol 2021 Yonder Mountain String Band

Greensky Bluegrass in the Gazebo

This is a highlight every year. As some of our favorite bands have grown bigger and bigger over the years, selling out larger and larger venues, we can come to appreciate the rare and special moments that Strings & Sol provides, and seeing Greensky Bluegrass in a pool is certainly one!

There’s just something about listening to this band while floating in a pool with hundreds of friends!

Strings & Sol 2021: Dylan Langille -On the DL Photography

Greensky Bluegrass in the Gazebo at Strings and Sol 2021 | Dylan Langille for Cloud 9 Adventures

The Infamous Andys Getting Down

The Infamous Stringdusters absolutely crushed every moment of every set at Strings & Sol 2021, but one particular moment stood out for many fans.

Andy Hall and Andy Falco* met in the middle of the stage and both fell to their knees while jamming their asses off.

*Correction: We originally posted this story with Andy Frasco (instead of Falco).  Several people contacted us to point out the error.  We would like to thank Andy Frasco anyway, and point out that had he stuck around an extra week (after Holidaze) he certainly would have made this list!

Strings & Sol 2021: Josh Timmermans Photography

The Infamous Stringdusters at Strings and Sol 2021 | Josh Timmermans for Cloud 9 Adventures

We’re going crazy.  Probably.

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” says the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

We sometimes feel that way about Strings & Sol, but in a terribly good way!

Put another way,

“I remember when
I remember when I lost my mind”

When Willa Emmitt sat in with Leftover Salmon to sing Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, it certainly resonated.

Does that make us crazy?


Strings & Sol 2021

Railroad Earth’s Sunset Show

Railroad Earth always impresses the hell out of us at Strings & Sol, and there is just something incredibly magical about their sunset shows.

Dancing in the sand surrounded by friends while the beautiful music of Railroad Earth surrounds us – it doesn’t get much better!


Strings & Sol 2021: Josh Timmermans Photography

Railroad Earth at Strings and Sol 2021 | Josh Timmermans for Cloud 9 Adventures

That is just a tiny handful of the dozens and dozens of magical moments that happen every year at Strings & Sol.

These moments make the memories that keep us coming back year after year.

Thanks to Cloud 9 and Strings & Sol for putting on such an amazing event, but, most importantly, THANK YOU, everyone who attends this ridiculously awesome festival, flies the freak flag, and takes it to 11 and beyond every single year!

We love you, SolMates!

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About The Author


Jason has been in love with the festy lifestyle ever since his first festival experience, The Great Went in August of 1997. Whew. That was a while ago. Jason loves the way festivals free us from the constraints of the outside world, and let us be our true "fest" selves!

Festy GoNuts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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