21 bands to perform during Bluegrass Festival
Twenty-one bands from throughout the United States will converge at the 29th annual Father’s Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival today through Sunday at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The California Bluegrass Association-sponsored festival attracts 5,000-plus fans, the majority repeat customers, each year.
About half the groups are new to this weekend’s festival.
Artists range from bluegrass veterans such as J.D. Crowe, who learned to pick the banjo as a young boy watching Earl Scruggs, to new generation groups including Mountain Heart, the Gibson Brothers and this year’s emerging artist band from Tennessee, Pine Mountain Railroad. The 21 bands will keep audience members’ toes tapping from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily except for Sunday, when the festival ends about 6:30 p.m.
Legendary bluegrass singer David Parmely and Continental Divide from Tennessee will appear; Parmely will hook up with his banjo-picking father, Don, in a reunion of the classic Bluegrass Cardinals band which was one of the top bluegrass groups from the mid-’70s through the mid-’90s. Longtime festival favorites the Bluegrass Patriots, fresh from a successful tour of Ireland and Scotland, will arrive from Colorado, and Nevada County favorite Berkeley singer and fiddler Laurie Lewis will perform with her singing partner, vocalist-mandolinist Tom Rozum and their most recent band, Guest House.
The music of 19th century cowboys and pioneers will be recreated by Skip Gorman and His Waddie Pals.
Gorman, a noted fiddler and mandolin player, specializes in the old-timey songs of covered wagons and cattle drives, exploring the Celtic and Spanish roots of the music of the American West.
A new band from Virginia, Michelle Nixon and Drive, will make its first appearance at Grass Valley this morning at 10 and then again Friday afternoon. The group’s second album, “It’s My Turn,” has been well-received by contemporary bluegrass fans and music critics.
From Utah comes Ron Spears and Within Tradition, a band noted for the originals of lead singer Spears and guitarist Charlie Edsall, who also contributes flat-picking to the group’s traditional sounds.
Five bands from around the state will appear in the festival’s annual California Showcase portion: the West Coast Ramblers, Rick Jamison and Copper Canyon, Chris Stuart and Backcountry, Cabin Fever and John Murphy’s Carolina Special.
Although the stage show shuts down each night at about 11, the music almost never stops during the festival.
The campground reverberates with music most of the day and particularly after the main show, as hundreds of fans unpack their own instruments and form impromptu bands lasting until the wee hours of the morning.
The festival also offers a daily program of free children’s activities, including for the first time this year, a mini-instructional camp at which children will be given an introductory lesson on a bluegrass instrument and taught to play a simple, two-chord song.
Several food vendors will sell everything from barbecue dinner selections to sno-cones. Crafts and musical supplies booths will also be set up. An entire exhibit hall will be devoted to luthiers and their hand-built instruments.
George Martin, a former journalist with the San Francisco Examiner and also the San Francisco Chronicle, has eagerly attended most of the annual festivals at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: 29th annual Father’s Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival
WHEN: Today through Sunday
WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley
ADMISSION: Four-day tickets to the festival (including camping) are $95 for adults, $50 for teens 13-18 and free for children. Daily tickets are $20 today, $25 Friday, $30 Saturday and $20 Sunday.
TIP: The Union’s June 11, June 14 and June 16 main sections and this week’s and last week’s Prospector has coupons good for $10 off one-day tickets.
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