Grass turns blue this weekend at Nevada County Fairgrounds |

Grass turns blue this weekend at Nevada County Fairgrounds

Steve Baker
Special to Prospector
KVMR live broadcast producer Eric Rice emcees the main stage at a recent Father's Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival.
Submitted photo by John Taber


WHAT: KVMR Live Broadcast of California Bluegrass Association’s 44th annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival

WHEN: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 13-15, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley.

TICKETS: All available at gate only, $40-65 daily; 4 day pass $190, teen prices lower.


LIVE BROADCAST: KVMR 89.5 FM, Truckee 105.1 FM, and streaming online at


Indie rock favorite Alejandro Escovedo gives KVMR and The Bridge an alternative live concert to all that bluegrass this weekend.

The Bridge 105.7 FM will air Escovedo’s concert live from the Sutter Creek Theater this Friday beginning at 8 p.m., and it’ll be rebroadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. on KVMR 89.5 FM ( streaming) three hours after KVMR’s bluegrass broadcast ends.

Escovedo is associated with the Austin music scene and has performed in a variety of genres, including roots rock, alternative country and started with a San Francisco first wave punk band called The Nuns.

He moved to Austin in the ‘80s, played in bands like Rank and File and True Believers, and was named “artist of the decade” by the popular roots music magazine No Depression in 1998.

His extended family is quite musical, including brothers/percussionists Coke and Pete Escoveto, Pete’s daughter Shelia E, and Alejandro has been in bands with brothers Mario and Javier as well.

Well, this is the week the grass turns blue at the Nevada County Fairgrounds as swarms of mandolins, guitars, fiddles and even banjos fill the site, with the musical occupation being broadcast live on KVMR 89.5 FM.

In fact, it’s the 34th annual live remote broadcast of the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, making it the granddaddy of the eclectic Nevada City radio station’s live festival coverage.

“Sure, it was this song from the Seldom Scene called ‘Wait A Minute,’” recalled Eric Rice, a new KVMR 89.5 FM volunteer broadcaster at the time. “They called up (song co-author) Herb Pedersen to the stage to sing it with them, and the harmonies were just so damn beautiful it sent chills down my spine.”

Rice looked around and realized it wasn’t that large of a crowd, and that there were hardly any locals at the concert. He vowed to change that.

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“Nobody here in Nevada County had any idea of all the great music that was goin’ on right here in their own backyard,” Rice explained.


Yeah, it was an era when Father’s Day meant the Nevada City Bike Classic race, with thousands watching that event downtown.

Rice has been at the front of the Nevada City radio station’s broadcast of the bluegrass festival since, um, before day one.

You see, he was the guy who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer when he first wanted to broadcast the California Bluegrass Association event, then approaching its first decade.

“We don’t have the money, and we don’t have the equipment,” a station official told Eric at the time.

Wrong guy to say something can’t be done.

“So I raised the money and got the equipment,” Rice said with a grin. “Then we had to convince the CBA. They were afraid it would hurt tickets sales.”

Rice got to broadcast half of one day the first year, two days the second year, and pretty soon the CBA board was, um, on board.


Then there was 1995.

“Well, It rained eight inches that weekend,” noted Rice. “It poured so much even the tow truck that came to get stuck cars out got stuck itself.”

“So we brought in hay bales so we could stand on something above the mud and water and do the broadcast.”

Eric swore he’d never do a broadcast like that again.

“Next year, I went out and bought a great tent,” according to Rice. “We’ve been using one ever since.”

Yup, hours and hours of work and struggle have become a lot easier in recent years.

That’s because the station’s conversion to digital technology for the remote broadcasts has helped both the technical and set-up portions of the festival coverage.

What used to take far more hours to get done has become simpler, says Rice, “we’ve done it so many times now, too.”

“It’s become a much easier broadcast for us,” he added. “It’s not as much work.”

About this year, well, who else would you talk about the line-up other than, yup, Mr. Rice?


“One of the first groups on the main stage has got my eye,” Rice predicted. “It’s FY5, and they are getting great reports and write-ups.”

They’ll be on around 11 a.m. Thursday to help kick things off.

“And I’m looking forward to meeting Sister Sadie,” according to Eric. They’re an all-female traditional bluegrass group that I haven’t seen before.”

Sister Sadie closes Friday night with a 9:45 p.m. concert on the Main Stage.

He has seen Tom Rozum many times, usually with west coast bluegrass icon Laurie Lewis.

“So I want to see Tommy and the Rozumatics, for sure, just to check out his line-up,” Rice said, guessing “you never know who he might have with him.”

Rozum’s band debuts Friday on the Main Stage at 3:55 p.m.

And his other personal choice is AJ Lee, “a little girl we’ve watched grow up on Kids On Bluegrass, only now she’s an instructor teaching at the music camp.”

“She’s become something else …”

Not sure when she’ll be on any of the stages, but check with Eric at the KVMR Broadcast Booth.

He’s been in the know, now for 34 years plus. Hey, it’s bluegrass time.

On The Air is a mix of weekly news and oddities about KVMR 89.5 FM. The station is a volunteer-driven, community radio station, powered by some 200 citizen-broadcasters. For KVMR On Demand, go to You can hear NPR News on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, plus Pacifica’s “Democracy Now” at 9 a.m. weekdays, on The Bridge 105.7 FM, the station’s new on-air signal.

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