The 2022 Festy Awards: The Best in Live Music and Fesivals - Festy GoNuts!
The 2022 Festy Awards: The Best in Live Music and Fesivals


It’s officially award season, and that means it’s time for the 2022 Festy Awards!


Forget the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, (and whatever the “T” in “EGOT” is), the most prestigious award of the season is the coveted FESTY AWARDS!  (FEGOT?)

Chosen by YOU, our readers and followers, The Festies represent the best of the best in live music and festivals.  

2022 was filled with live music.  After several years of cancellations, postponements, and uncertainty, things seemed to get back to a semblance of normalcy last year, as we transitioned from #MakingUpForLostTime to #PickingUpWhereWeLeftOff.

We welcomed several brand-new festivals in 2022, and said goodbye to several cherished favorites.  We saw new artists take the scene by storm, and veterans continue to crush it. Along the way, there were late-night throw-downs, collaborations and sit-ins, new venues, and new albums.

We took it to the people, to get your votes on who should be honored with a 2022 Festy.

Using a secret ballot and a patented technique involving space-aged polymers and state-of-the-art technology, we carefully and meticulously calculated the results. 

So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2022 FESTY AWARDS:





Let’s start the 2022 FESTIES with something NEW!

We LOVE new music festivals.  The more the merrier.

As we got back into the swing of things in our post-pandemic world, it seemed like new music festivals were popping up faster than Hershal Walker paternity suits.  (HIYO!)

WINNER: CaveFest at The Caverns

It was no contest here – your Favorite New Music Festival in 2022 is CaveFest!  With Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, Infamous Stringdusters and Yonder Mountain String Band,  set in a gorgeous location in Tennesee, CaveFest was all the rage in 2022.

Honorable Mention: The Ramble Festival

Set in the middle of nowhere, MD, The Ramble Festival packed a punch with their inaugural lineup, featuring Leftover Salmon, Travelin’ McCourys and Keller Williams. 



Ok, it is obvious that many of you don’t know what ‘small’ means. 

Sure, we didn’t set any hard parameters for this one, but the top votes went to DelFest which tops 30,000, which we have to say disqualifies it from this category.   (Judges?)

We will give props, however, and forgiveness to you for voting for DelFest, as it manages to maintain a ‘small fest feel’ despite its size.

WINNER: Hillberry Music Festival

The real winner of Best Small Festival goes to Hillberry Harvest Moon Music Festival, which tops out at 3000 people, for a truly intimate experience in the Ozarks of Arkansas.

RUNNERS-UP: Northwest String Summit, Rhythms on the Rio, Strings & Sol

Northwest String Summit held its 20th and final festival this year.  We’ll honor them a bit more later in the ceremonies.

Rhythms on the Rio is one of our favorite small festivals, and the new location in Del Norte, CO gave us even more space to spread out.

String & Sol goes beyond a small festival, giving everyone their own toilet.  (although the carefree days of Yay Bidet are sadly gone.)



Speaking of…

WINNER: Strings & Sol

This category was no contest.  Strings & Sol got more votes than all others combined.  


Somehow several respondents think that Cumberland, MD is International.  It does feel like another world.



While 2022 was a year that seemed to take us past the era of mass festival cancellations, that doesn’t mean we didn’t still see a few.

The difference in 2022 was that it wasn’t the pandemic spoiling the party, it was Mother Nature changing our plans.  So, good news on the COVID front, we’re back to worrying about hurricanes again!

WINNER: Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival

The 2022 winner of Best Festival That Never Happened goes to one that may have been in the Best New Festival running, had Hurricane Ian not had something to say about it.

Promising “the finest progressive bluegrass music with a gorgeous beachfront venue and a core mission to protect the Chesapeake Bay” along with local seafood and beer, Yonder Mountain String Band, Cabinet, Larry Keel Explosion, and more, Annapolis Baygrass Festival was definitely one we were excited for.

Luckily, Baygrass has already announced the return in 2023!  

We’re pulling for you, Annapolis Baygrass Festival!

RUNNER UP: When We Were Young Festival

Just kidding.  This dumpster fire of an emo fest had Fyre Festival vibes all over it.  Actually, they only had to cancel day one of two, and they had the same bands planning to play the same sets 2 days in a row, so really, no loss.




There was no clear winner here, with votes being pretty evenly dispersed.  Which makes sense – our audience prefers the outdoors.  More room to pee and poi.


Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO

Deep Ellum Art Company – Dallas, TX

 The Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN

In Memorium…


We said goodbye to many fine people in our community this past year, and our hearts go out to all who have suffered a loss.

We would like to honor someone in particular, who completely embodied the Festy spirit in all that she did.

Lara Keithley had an impact on everyone whom she encountered.  Her smile – best seen on the rail of most Yonder Mountain String Band shows – was infectious.

She was an advocate of live music and festivals, and a beautiful soul who will truly be missed.

Lara, we dedicate the 2022 Festy Awards to you.

Lara Keithley at Strings and Sol

Watch Lara interview Nick Piccininni of her favorite band, Yonder Mountain String Band (who dedicated their Final Strings & Sol set to her):



Thanks for coming, everyone!  

Wow, what a crowd! 

It’s a who’s-who of jamgrass out there.  Is that Del McCoury I see?  Someone aim a fan at him and see if his hair moves!  What’s that?  There are no fans available?  Paul Hoffman has them all?

(pause for laughter)

We’d like to give a special shout-out to the line of folks sitting outside in the cold on the sidewalk.  Don’t feel bad for them, they could have gotten in if they wanted  – this clearly wasn’t a sold-out event.  They’re actually just waiting to get a spot on the rail.  Billy Strings is playing here in a few months.

(pause for even more laughter)

Ok, back to the show!

The Real Award Award


We’ll begrudgingly admit that The Festies might not yet be globally recognized as an officially sanctioned award – although our time is coming, trust us.

But for those who pay attention to “traditional” awards, we’d like to congratulate the Grammy Nominees for Best Bluegrass Album: 

Toward The Fray
The Infamous Stringdusters

Almost Proud
The Del McCoury Band

Calling You From My Mountain
Peter Rowan

Crooked Tree
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

Get Yourself Outside
Yonder Mountain String Band


And a special congrats to Molly Tuttle for her Best New Artist Grammy nomination!



BEST Opening Band at a Show 

Never miss an opening act.  You never know what you are going to catch.  Remember, even the biggest headliners most likely started as an opener at some point.

And in the case of the 2022 winner, we will most likely see them at the top of the rosters from here on out.

WINNER: Kitchen Dwellers – Red Rocks (opening for Greensky Bluegrass) 

RUNNER-UP: Big Richard – Mishawaka Amphitheater (opening for Yonder Mountain String Band)

BEST Outdoor Music Venue in 2022


Let’s face it, we prefer festivals to anything, which is why we love outdoor music venues so much.  And we’re lucky enough to be based down the road from the Best Outdoor Music Venue on the planet, in our opinion.  And you agreed.  It was no contest.

WINNER: Red Rocks Amphitheatre


The Gorge Amphitheater

Dillon Amphitheater

Hornings Hideout

Strings and Sol (Come on!)

Find Hotels Near Red Rocks Amphitheatre



Ok, this was admittedly tricky.  What exactly is a collaboration vs. a sit-in? (see next category)

We went with the top answers that referred to a collection of artists that do not always or typically play together.

WINNER: Béla Fleck My Bluegrass Heart

    RUNNERS-UP: The Bluegrass Generals, Billy String Cheese Incident

    BEST SIT-IN of 2022


    Different than the collaboration, we thought of this as more of a one-off, and maybe only a song or two.  But, with your answers, the clear winners were more than that…

    WINNER: Billy String Cheese Incident (Billy Strings with String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks Amphitheatre)

    RUNNERS-UP: Billy Strings With ANYONE, Holly Bowling with Greensky Bluegrass



    After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out…

    WINNER: Kitchen Dwellers at Strings & Sol

    Maybe an unfair advantage as the Kitchen Dwellers had two performances in the Strings & Sol late-night palapa, but word on the street is that either one could win the Festy Award for Best Late Night, and together it’s a no-brainer!

    RUNNER-UP: Big Richard Strings & Sol – come on, Strings & Sol – let someone else have a chance!  But Big Richard seriously crushed this one.

    HONORABLE MENTIONS: A few that we caught that definitely stood out last year: 

    Tara Rose and the Real Deal – Tico Time Bluegrass Festival, The Bent Ears – Rhythms on the Rio, Chain Station at  Tico Time Bluegrass Festival

    BEST ALBUM OF 2022


    There was so much good music released in 2022! And based on the number of responses in this category, y’all felt very strongly about these winners:

    WINNER: “Crooked Tree” by Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

    RUNNERS-UP: “Wise River” by  Kitchen Dwellers, “Stress Dreams” by Greensky Bluegrass, “Enjoy the Ride” by Vince Herman



    It was already voted the “Best Outdoor Venue” in the prestigious Festy Awards, so you know this place is legit and deserving of its very own category.

    That being said, the top answers here all had a similar theme…

    WINNER: Billy String Cheese Incident

    RUNNERS-UP: Billy Strings,  Billy and the Kids

    Hmmm.  I guess maybe we should check out this Billy Strings kid?!

    Most Memorable MUSICAL MOMENT OF 2022


    A vague category open to interpretation, which pretty much sums up the Festies.

    Here are some of the moments that stood out for you in 2022:

    1. “I saw you with that naked dude.  At least he had some boots”  When a rain and lightning storm temporarily shut down the Phish show at Dicks Sporting Goods Park, a new legend was born, as a naked dude in boots frolicked to the amusement of everyone in attendance, forever sealing his place in Phish-lore.
    2. Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway playing unplugged encore at Rhythms on the Rio.  The sound went out right as Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway were about to play their encore at Rhythms on the Rio.  That didn’t stop them, and the result was an incredibly special and intimate moment with who would become one of the biggest 2022 FESTY winners!
    3. Billy Strings playing a solo acoustic set at Santa Barbara Bowl and at TCU Amphitheater at White River, 7/29/22 State Park, Indianapolis
    4. “Roll On Buddy, Roll On” by Leftover Salmon at I-Bar Ranch.  When Leftover Salmon learned that a devoted fan had just lost his dog, “Buddy,” they honored him in the best possible way.  In true Leftover fashion, they quickly learned the tune “Roll on Buddy, Roll on” and dedicated it to Grandpa Jack and his dog, Buddy.



    We left this up to your imagination.  If there’s water near the festival, we counted it.  (No surprise that Strings & Sol tried to take this one as well, but we need to spread the love around)

    WINNER: DelFest  (Yes, there is a river!)

    RUNNER-UP: River Wondergrass (LOTS of water on this one!)




    Ok, so all of these winners were actually multi-night runs at the same venue rather than a single show, but this isn’t actually a real award academy, so we’re going to run with it.

    WINNER: Leftover Salmon w/ Sam Bush, Boulder Theater.

    RUNNERS-UP: String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks Amphitheatre,  Billy Strings “Away From The Shire” in  Asheville, NC.


    A silly category for a silly fake award…  There was no strong consensus on this, so here a few of the mentions:

    Billy Strings “Wharf Rat” (multiple instances)

    Infamous Stringdusters “Terrapin Station” at Strings & Sol

    String Cheese Incident “Peggy O” at Red Rocks

    Travelin’ McCourys “Cumberland Blues” at DelFest

    Travis Book & Andy Falco “Ripple” at Telluride Transfer Station

    BEST SONG OF 2022


    WINNER: Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway  “Crooked Tree”

    No other song received more than 1 vote, however, 6 different Kitchen Dwellers’ tunes were mentioned, so we’re giving them an overall nod here!

    Lower-tier 2022 artist most likely to be headlining in 2023 


    Expect this winner to grow and erupt on the scene in 2023!

    WINNER: Big Richard

    RUNNERS-UP: Kitchen Dwellers, Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway



    Who did you fall in love with in 2022?

    This category received a ton of responses, which shows that you all really love your bands and jump to support them wherever you can.

    There were clear winners for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place:

    WINNER: Big Richard

    1st RUNNER-UP: Infamous Stringdusters

    2nd RUNNER-UP: Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway



    The FESTY GONUTS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD honors the best-of-the-best.

    Recipients of this award have not just exemplified the spirit of music festivals, they have changed the game, pushing music festivals to new heights.  This year’s winner stands above the pack.


    Northwest String Summit sadly celebrated its curtain call this summer in North Plains, Oregon, at a very special space known as Hornings Hideout.

    In its 20-year history, String Summit has been a pillar of the jamgrass movement.  Strummit has literally overseen the growth of our industry.  We have all grown with Yonder Mountain String Band and everyone involved in this amazing festival. 

    We fondly remember first seeing Fruition as they led a campground parade to the pond, then proudly watching years later as they took the main-stage for the first time.

    We saw our first Greensky Bluegrass show at NWSS.  We met lifetime friends in the woods of Hornings, sledding down the hills near Camp Plummet.

    We even conceived of Festy GoNuts in the afterglow of a Strummit experience.

    So, it is our great honor to present the FGN Lifetime Achievement Award to Northwest String Summit!


    About the Final Festival

    Our Favorite Strummit Review



    What a show so far!  Wow.  How about that Big Richard?  And Molly Tuttle!  Looks like we’ve got some new players taking on the scene headed into 2023.

    Now to address the unfortunate incident that just occurred on the stage. 

    Vince Herman is ok, and at this point is not planning on pressing charges.  The Mayor McCheese has been removed from the building and will be stripped of his Festy Membership.  He will also not be honored this evening with the Most Valuable Mascot award.  That award will instead remain with 2021’s winner, Anders Beck.

    OK, moving on…

    2022 has been a terrific year filled with a ton of amazing music and spectacular performances.

    Let’s get to the Big Winners…




    There’s just something different about a music festival performance versus a concert. 

    Maybe the bands try harder, knowing that not everyone is there specifically to see them.  Or maybe it’s the magic of the festival – when thousands of people gather together for days to dance and listen to their favorite bands, the level goes up. 

    There were a ton of amazing festival performances in 2022, but your votes gave us a clear winner:

    WINNER:  Infamous Stringdusters at Strings & Sol

    Which set wasn’t specified, but the Strings & Sol ‘dustings got enough votes to take this one!  Having been ‘dusted on the beaches of Mexico many times, we can easily stand by this choice!


    Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway at Rhythms on the Rio

    Railroad Earth at Hillberry – also not a single set, but who’s counting?

    Honorable Mention: Jeff Austin Band at Rapidgrass – OK, clearly this didn’t occur in 2022, and should not be counted, but how are you going to argue with this write-in vote?

    And the moment you’ve all been waiting for…



    It almost seems unfair, but the votes don’t lie. 

    With its amazing beachfront location, incredible roster of musicians, and, most of all, the unparalleled family of returning guests, there’s no surprise in the 2022 Best Music Festival Winner.

    Retaining the title for another year, the winner of Best Overall Music Festival goes to Strings & Sol!

    WINNER: Strings & Sol

    RUNNERS-UP: DelFest, Northwest String Summit

    Congratulations, Strings & Sol, and to all of our nominees!

    strings and sol 2022 lineup poster



    WOW!  What a night. What a year!

    Congratulations to everyone that was nominated for the 2022 Festy Awards.

    Thank you to all the artists, and their crews for going out and delivering night after night so that we can revel in live music.

    Thank you to everyone who voted in the 2022 Festies.  Thank you for reading and supporting Festy GoNuts.

    Apologies to Billy Strings – we ran out of time, but we’ll try to have you back next year.


    ❤️ Festy GoNuts 

    About The Author


    Festy GoNuts is the ultimate resource for enhancing your music festival experience: the Music, the Culture & the Adventure.


    1. Don Hines

      Yawl need to check out the Meadow Grass festival held in the Black Forest just east of Colorado Springs every Memorial weekend.

      The ullrgrass festival in Boulder Co is really good also with Bill Nerschi attending this year.

      • Kelly Day

        Thanks, Don! Meadow Fest is on our radar and we love Ullrgrass (check out our reviews from the past).

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