2011 Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival


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Last year I made my first trip to the Summergrass festival in San Diego. This year I decided to try another "new to me" festival, the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival near Tres Pinos. The festival is not new to everyone - this was the 18th annual, so it's well-established. The location is Bolado Park, which also serves as the San Benito County fairgrounds, eight miles south of Hollister on California highway 25.

Contrary to the way things should be done, this festival made a very bad first impression. First, there were no signs along the road or at the gate to indicate that I was in the right place (I had to ask someone who was already there). And, when I arrived on Thursday, there was no one on duty to check people in and help them find a camping spot. I finally took matters into my own hands and set up at one of the RV hook-up sites, but I still had some concerns. I had paid for electricity but not sewer or water, and my site had all three, so I was wondering if I would be asked to move. After a day with no problems, I ended that worry.

Worse than the lack of help for new arrivals was the fact that the camping area was covered with dried straw and horse poop (it's a fairgrounds, remember?) The manure was dried and breaking up, and there was no smell, but there were about a billion flies, one million of which immediately moved into my motor home for the weekend. So it's not surprising that I was a little grumpy that first day.

Fortunately the stage area was away from the barns, in a nice, shaded grassy area, and there were very few flies there. Some of the performers were shooing flies away now and then, but I never had one near me during the music. So it didn't take long on Friday for me to improve my attitude and start enjoying the event.

The official program started at 3 p.m. on Friday and went into the evening without a break. One of the features of this festival is that each group plays only one set, which translates into a lot of groups. And since many of them were unknown to me, I'm having a bit of trouble sorting them out after the fact.

However, I can give a big shout-out to Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band, a group from Southern California that I had never heard of, and that proved to be the amazing discovery of this festival. Susie has a gentle but powerful voice, and a talented band, and I hope I can see them again. One set was not enough for this band. Check her out on You Tube..

Of the bands I had seen before, the ones I most looked forward to were OMGG, a group of four talented teens; and Snap Jackson & the Knock on Wood Players. I've seen them both about three times, and they are getting better all the time. They both did great sets, and both audience and performers seemed to wish they had more time to play.

Another group I've seen quite a few times is Sidesaddle & Company; in fact, they were at my very first ever festival. They are a group from the south San Francisco Bay area, and have been together about 25 years, with mostly the same line-up for at least the last 15. I enjoyed them that first time back in the '90s, but they didn't strike me as being a top level group. However, I've found myself liking them more and more the last three or four times I've seen them. They are a tight-knit, highly professional group, with a good collection of original songs and old standards.

This was the most electrified bluegrass festival I've ever attended. Two groups used nearly all electrical instruments, as well as drums (and keyboards in one case), and both were too loud. I didn't care for the first one, the JEDD Brothers, but Houston Jones was quite interesting, with lyrics that made you sit up and take notice. It wasn't bluegrass, but it was OK. Listen to the songs available on You Tube..

The weather was as close to perfect as it gets - clear skies, a nice breeze, and just a slight cool down in the evening. There was some fog one morning, but it burned off by the time the music got underway.

The setting is a level valley about a mile across at the park, with golden brown grass-covered hills on the east side, and slightly more rugged hills with quite a bit of brush on the west. Just west of the fairgrounds is the San Benito River, which parallels the road from town. Festival rules have this to say about the river: "The river may not be used for wading, drinking, washing, trash disposal, or any other purpose." It would take a determined rule-violator indeed to breach this clause - there is no view of the river and access is blocked by trees and brush, including plenty of poison oak, that would require a machete to get through.

Overall it was a nice weekend, despite the few negatives, and I will be very tempted to return again next year.

--Dick Estel, August 2011


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


Still Searchin' Sidetrack Abbott Family
Stony Mountain Ramblers JEDD Brothers Susie Glaze & the
Hilonesome Band
Windy Hill California Pearly Blue Rogue River
Snap Jackson & the
Knock on Wood Players
Snap Border Radio
Jimmy Chickenpants Houston Jones OMGG
Nate Schwartz AJ Lee Sidesaddle & Company
Alhambra Valley Band South County Special Dark Hollow
Rock Ridge Kids on Bluegrass KOB
More Kids on Bluegrass
Kitchen Help Courthouse Ramblers Frank Sollivan, M.C.
GOF T-shirt front T-shirt back Grape vineyard
Hills to the east   Hills to the west
Related Links
Dark Hollow Abbott Family Circle R Boys
JEDD Brothers Susie Glaze & the Hilonesome Band Bean Creek
Windy Hill California Pearly Blue Snap Jackson & the
Knock on Wood Players
Border Radio Jimmy Chickenpants Houston Jones
Sidesaddle & Company Alhambra Valley Band Rock Ridge
Kids on Bluegrass Sherry Austin Band Courthouse Ramblers
Hollister Tres Pinos

Northern California
Bluegrass Society


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