Strings & Sol 2019: Counting Down Our Favorite Moments - Festy GoNuts!

Strings & Sol 2019: Counting Down Our Favorite Moments

by Jan 3, 2020

The 8th Annual Strings & Sol took place December 12 – 15, 2019 at Now Sapphire in Puerto Morelos, Riviera Maya, Mexico.  Annual headliners included Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Infamous Stringdusters. The special guests this year were The Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and The Sweet Lillies, along with Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman as artists-at-large. 

The Best Moments of Strings & Sol 2019

Strings & Sol returned to Mexico for the 8th year this past December, and as usual, it seemed to leave a huge impression on everyone that attended. 

This was Festy GoNuts’ 5th Strings & Sol, and we returned to the states feeling blessed to have had another mind-blowing reunion with so many amazing people at a beautiful resort, spending our days sipping Piña Coladas by the pool and our evenings spinning around on the beach while our favorite musicians entertained us. 

With so many amazing moments throughout the weekend, we decided to reach out to our readers to help us narrow them down for this recap article.  These are the results based on what YOU had to say!


So, without further ado, we bring you “The Best Moments of Strings & Sol 2019”:

Strings and Sol 2019 Best Moments

10. The Elements

The best part about Strings and Sol is the location, because there are few things better than a music festival on the beach.  Floating in the ocean during sunset while watching some of your favorite bands rock out the Main Stage is an experience of a lifetime.  But this year, we were treated to an incredible full moon, a zillion shooting stars and some of the best sunrises

The last full moon of the decade reached its peak fullness at 12:12 AM on the 12th day of the 12th month.  Now, that’s the way you kick off a music festival in Mexico!  We watched that beautiful moon rise above the ocean every night at the Main Stage, creating a dramatic backdrop to the already amazing festival location.  

The Geminid Meteor Shower brought us hundreds of shooting stars, with Friday the 13th being the night of most activity.  Stretched out on a lounge chair, listening to the waves crashing on the beach, hearing the oohs and ahhs as stars glided through the sky, all while being serenaded by incredible musicans picking tunes under the moonlight:  this has to be one of the best moments of the festival. 

Of course, catching a sunrise (or two) is always a Strings and Sol goal.  It’s a powerful experience that seems to get shared with more and more friends every year – guess word is getting out!

Strings and Sol 2019 Best Moments

9. Artist Interactions

There is something pretty incredible about spending 4 nights at an all-inclusive resort with so many of your favorite musicians.  From conversations at the buffet to late-night picks on the beach, you never know who you might have the opportunity to meet. 

Raine Lesher shared one of her favorite memories with Festy GoNuts: Hanging out for a bit with two really cool mandolin players on the beach, John Skehan (RRE) and Drew Emmit (LOS) chatting about mandolins, flutes, Jethro Tull and Marshall Tucker! With shooting stars and a magic moon hanging over the ocean, one moment in time I will never forget!

We especially love seeing the musicians let loose and enjoy their Mexican vacation.  Andy Thorn could take home an award this year for his Feelin’ Thorny costume, which ended up being auctioned off at the Positive Legacy fundraiser! 

©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions | Strings & Sol 2019 | Feelin' Thorny

©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions | Strings & Sol 2019 | Feelin’ Thorny

8. Splash Mob

Splash Mob made their first appearance ever at the Buford’s pool during the first sunset show on Friday the 13th.  What started out a vision quickly became a reality – and a complete success.  

As Jason Law so eloquently put it, “We had to only trust in our hearts that the endless days of preparation, the agonizing nights of working on our moves, the conflicts of clockwise vs. counterclockwise – that these would all pay off.  All the worries, all the stress, the fear, it all disappeared the moment we hit the water with a SPLASH… and became a SPLASH MOB!”

In all seriousness, this entry is slightly biased – but it seemed like so many festival-goers found as much humor in our mock synchronized swim team that we had to give it a nod and a wink.   Special thanks to all the members of Splash Mob:  Pat Nunn, Lyndsay Nunn, Michelle Brooke, Amy Young, Jason Law, Kelly Law and “Neil” (Cornelius the Unicorn). 

Splash Mob at Strings and Sol 2019

7. Sockeye Closes Out the Festival 

Hopefully you all made it to the last official set of Strings & Sol: Sockeye‘s late-night set in the palapa.

Sockeye, a side-project of the rhythm section of Leftover Salmon, includes Greg Garrison (bass), Alwyn Robinson (drums) and Erik Deutsch (keys).   Their funky, jazzy beats are the perfect way to close out a bluegrass-heavy festival.   The boys also had some of the most incredible sit-ins of the weekend, which left us picking our jaws off the ground.  Andy Falco (Infamous Stringdusters), Jacob Jolliff (formerly Yonder Mountain String Band), and Mike Robinson (Railroad Earth) all seemed to come out of their shell during this fantastic final set. 

6. Greensky Bluegrass Poolside Set

The Greensky Bluegrass gazebo set is always one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend.  They were this year’s first daytime set on Friday, as floats of all shapes and sizes paddled through the pool to get up close. (Yes, rail-riding can even exist in the water.)  

Whether lounging by the pool or hanging out with your favorite floating animal (or toilet!), the Greensky poolside set always makes one of the top memories from Strings & Sol.   It’s not often these days you get to see this band in such an intimate setting, and they seem to just let loose and get goofy.   They closed out their set with Dancing in the Dark > Two Tickets to Paradise, which had the whole crowd singing and dancing! 

The perfect way to kick-off music on Day 2! 

©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions | Greensky Bluegrass | Strings & Sol 2019

©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions | Strings & Sol 2019 | Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass Poolside Setlist

(Many thanks to Lucas White.  Easily one of our favorite Strings and Sol moments each year is watching Lucas meticulously recording the setlist from in the pool!  You have to see it to believe it.)

On the Road Again(1)
Small Axe
Light up or Leave Me Alone >
Why Don’t We Do It In the Road (2) >
Light Up or Leave Me Alone
Working on a Building
Wheel Hoss
Road to Nowhere
One Way Out
Please Don’t Bury Me
Don’t Lie >
Feels Like the First Time >
Don’t Lie
Dancing in the Dark (3) >
Two Tickets to Paradise (3) >
Dancing in the Dark

(1) – Lyric change “In the pool again”
(2) – Lyric change “Why don’t we do it in the pool”
(3) – Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath quotes

5.  Five Mandolins 

Yonder Mountain String Band had several stand-out moments throughout the weekend, such as Allie Kral crushing “Misty Mountain Hop”;  a super fun cover of Violent Femme’s “Blister in the Sun”; Willa Emmitt singing “Walkin’ on Sunshine” with Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick playing horns – just to name a few. 

But the one moment that got many of your votes was when Jacob Jolliff joined forces with fellow mandolinists Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon), John Skehan (Railroad Earth), Ronnie McCoury (The Del McCoury Band) and Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass) during Kentucky Mandolin.

Thanks to David Roth for capturing the moment on video:

4: Infamous Stringdusters’ Epic Covers

When we asked our readers to tell us their favorite Strings and Sol moments, Infamous Stringdusters got a lot of mentions. Both of their Main Stage sets got rave reviews, but the two moments that got the most votes were Travis Book belting out Stairway to Heaven (Led Zepplin) and the band’s fantastic cover of “BollyMunster” (String Cheese Incident).  

Steph Anai shared, “While floating in the ocean earlier that day, my buddy and I had a lengthy conversation about how very few bands cover Cheese. Is it because they think they can’t do it justice? Who knows?! Dusters could’ve easily played one of sooo many Cheese bluegrass songs but no, they chose Bolly and absolutely nailed it!!!  Strong work, fellas!”

Infamous Stringdusters | Strings & Sol 2019

3.  Release of the Man Bun

During Railroad Earth‘s sunset show on Sunday, they invited Jacob Jolliff to join them on stage.  He was in the middle of a mind-blowing mandolin solo when John Skehan takes off his hat to show the audience (and Jacob) his new hairdo – a man bun. 

Clearly impressed, Jacob broke into laughter while the crowd began to cheer.  Skehan took over on mandolin, showing Jolliff he could match his playing and his hairstyle. 

But before John could pass the playing back off, Jake did the unimaginable – he let down his hair, smiling from ear to ear.  Then he ripped another killer mandolin solo, while John followed suit and let his locks down. 

Topping off the Man-Bun-Off,  Matt Slocum (on keys) followed suit.  He comes to the front of the stage, takes off his hat to release his bun, then lets down his hair to rock out with Jake and John.   

It was a short, but sweet, moment that brought lots of laughter and smiles during a beautiful Railroad Earth set. 

Railroad Earth - Strings & Sol 12/15/19 - Now Sapphire Resort, Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Photo © Dave Vann 2019

Railroad Earth – Strings & Sol 12/15/19 – Now Sapphire Resort, Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Photo © Dave Vann 2019

2. Del McCoury Moments

Honestly, we could have probably wrote a separate Top 10 Del McCoury Moments article. (Any volunteers?)  Having Del and what seemed like the entire McCoury family at the beach truly made this year’s Strings &  Sol one of the best years ever.

We tallied your votes, and narrowed it down to your favorite two Del moments from Strings & Sol. 

The McCoury Story Hour:  On Friday afternoon, Del McCoury was joined by his son Ronnie to answer questions from a panel of musicians, which included Vince Herman, John Skehan, Paul Hoffman, and Anders Beck.   The bluegrass legend shared stories about  Jerry Garcia and Phish, along with anecdotes of his experience being a bus driver.   Simply getting the opportunity to hear him laugh and share stories was part of what makes Strings & Sol such a special, intimate festival. 

Del on the Washboard:  Leftover Salmon is known for inviting pretty much everyone on stage, but they definitely made the crowd happy when they brought up Del McCoury for his first festival appearance during their Friday set.  It was beautiful to see Del and Drew Emmitt belting out Midnight Blues and Blue and Lonesome.  But the part that stood out the most was when Vince Herman draped his washboard over Del McCoury’s shoulders.  Del took the spoons and jokingly played a couple licks, grinning from ear to ear.   

Mike Maryanov said it best when he shared, “Del after Vince put that washboard on him was one of the singular greatest musical moments ever. Del tapping the board awkwardly, giggling, and then keeping it on while he hit those high notes with Drew. Guarantee we’ll never see anything so fantastic like that ever again.”

Del McCoury with Leftover Salmon - Strings & Sol 2019

1.  Bass Party with Leftover Salmon

We tallied all of your votes, and the one moment that clearly stood out as your favorite from Strings & Sol 2019 was when Vince Herman invited all of the bass players to come out on stage during the Leftover Salmon sunset show.

Ben Kaufmann (Yonder Mountain String Band), Andrew Altman (Railroad Earth), and Mike Devol (Greensky Bluegrass) joined Greg Garrison in a Bass-Off, as free-styling Vince Herman taunted the boys about the bass being the low-end of the bands at Strings & Sol.  Greg then passed his bass to Vince, who took the challenge.  He walked right up to the front and center of the stage, and showed them how it’s done.

In our opinion, the Leftover Salmon sunset show takes home the prize for the best set of the weekend.  They kicked off their set with Boatman and a nod to Jeff Austin, joined by Ronnie McCoury, Paul Hoffman, Adam Aijala & Dave Johnston. They then took us on a 2-hour musical journey that included “Liza”, “Lovely Day”, “Better Day”, a super trippy “Bird Call”, “(Strings &) Sol Shakedown Party”, “Get No Better”, and they even threw two new songs into the lineup.  They wrapped it up with “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” – and I think everyone was left with a grin on their face as the sun set on Day 3. 

Honorable Mentions: The Strings & Sol First-Timers

One of the best things about Strings & Sol is the addition of artists that have not yet had the pleasure of joining us at this epic party.

Seeing their excited reactions to the amazingness of it all is almost as good as the epic performances they inevitably bring.

Strings & Sol 2019 was no exception.

The lineup this year included Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, The Sweet Lillies, and Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman. In addition, The Travelin’ McCourys returned for their second visit to Strings & Sol.


The Sweet Lillies | Strings & Sol 2019

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades were seemingly made for Strings & Sol.  The energy from this high-octane quintet out of Wisconsin was infectious.  Aside from a memorable poolside gazebo set and an impressive late-night in the Palapa, these guys embodied the spirit of Strings & Sol.  Several members could be seen pickin’ till the sun came up, and guitarist/singer Adam Greuel spent every other possible moment in the pool!

The Sweet Lillies took full advantage of the new audience they got to play for with an impressive late-night in the Palapa that had everyone dancing and singing, especially during their covers of Michael Jackson’s Thriller” and Allyiah’s “Dirty South”.  They also popped up on the main-stage with Leftover Salmon to help them wrap up their sunset show, and treated us to a ‘secret’ set in the Adult Pool on the last day of the festival.

Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band, among other projects) were a welcomed change of pace at Strings & Sol.  Let’s face it – that many days with that many strings, and we NEED some brass!  These incredible ladies sat in with just about everyone at some point.  One of the much-talked-about highlights of the festival was Natalie Cressman’s unexpected belting out of Ana Tijoux’s “1977″ with Greensky Bluegrass.

The Travelin’ McCourys closed out the very first night of the festival with their late-night Palapa show, and set the tone of what was expected from everyone throughout the festival.  It’s always a pleasure to have this band at Strings & Sol – it means lots of special sit-ins and lots of Lisa McCoury dancing around the resort!

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades - Strings & Sol 12/15/19 - Now Sapphire Resort, Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Photo © Dave Vann 2019

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades – Strings & Sol 12/15/19 – Now Sapphire Resort, Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Photo © Dave Vann 2019

Travelin' McCourys | Strings & Sol 2019

It’s difficult to put something as incredible as Strings & Sol into words.  Pictures don’t quite do it justice either.

There’s a feeling to Strings & Sol that can only be experienced by being there – dancing with your feet in the ocean, surrounded by friends and family, listening to the most amazing music in the most incredible environment.   

Thank you to everyone who contributed their favorite Strings & Sol moments.  Thank you to Now Sapphire and Cloud 9.  Thank you to the amazing artists who poured their hearts out on and off the stage. 

Most importantly, thank you to all of the beautifully weird Sol-mates who continue to make Strings & Sol the most special festival of the year! 

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