River Bluegrass Festival
I've driven as far as 450 miles for a bluegrass festival, it only
make sense that I should always attend a festival that is only 20
miles from my house. And yet, for various reasons, I've missed a few
Kings River (formerly Hobbs Grove) festivals over the years.
However, I have been a regular attendee for the last four years,
including this one.
last year, I was joined by my friend Janell Sidney, and we got
started about 2:30 Friday afternoon for the short drive to The
near Sanger, home of the Kings River Bluegrass Festival. We did a
little setting up after we arrived, then headed to the stage area,
in time to see about half the first act, the Grasskickers. This was a local group that
we've seen several times before, and that seems to be really getting
the right personnel and the right chemistry to be an excellent band.
were two bands that were new to us on Friday, both competent but not
outstanding. First was the Rock Ridge Bluegrass Band, who come from the Chico area. We had been anticipating the
other, the Central Valley
Boys, because two players were in the
Dalton Mountain Gang, our favorite local group which disbanded
earlier this year. The Boys were OK, but had not really worked
together that much yet; their set Saturday evening, after intensive
practice during the day, was better. Their approach is to do
strictly traditional classics. These are songs we enjoy, but the
variety of contemporary and original material was sadly missed.
(Dalton Mountain had been adding more and more intriguing original
group that deserves a mention is Red Dog
Ash, based in Turlock. They
have recently released a CD, which got a good review in the primary
magazine devoted to this music, Bluegrass
also seen this group a few times, primarily at the free Friday
Bluegrass in the Park series in Clovis.
repeat we looked forward to was The Get Down Boys, who we'd
seen at Parkfield.
Although they sounded fine, we were certain that at least one and
probably two players had not been with the group we saw last May.
Their mandolin player was definitely a "fill-in,"
recruited at the festival. At their second show, the three
"regular" member were joined by Pete Hicks of Bean
Creek, and mandolinist Scott
Gates, who's been playing
professionally in southern California after starting out in the Kids
on Bluegrass program.
Creek is a group that I've seen a number of times, over at least the
last six or eight years. They are from the Santa Cruz area, highly
popular with the crowd, but a bit of an enigma for me - I like some
of their stuff, but not all. Pete Hicks was hands down the best fiddle and
mandolin player at the festival. Lead vocalist Billy Petrone has a
voice that works great for some songs, and less so for others, but
overall, I have always enjoyed their music.
out Saturday night, as well as the entire festival Sunday afternoon
was Evie Ladin & Evil
Diane. Diane is neither evil nor a person,
but rather the group name. This group was mostly new to us,
although we recognized Evie as member of the
Stairwell Sisters, who we saw at Parkfield. In addition to the
usual singin' and pickin', Evie dances on an amplified board. We
both enjoyed their performances.
weather was close to perfect at the two bluegrass festivals I
attended earlier this year, we were due for some unpleasant weather,
and we really got it Friday. Summer said goodbye with a temperature
of 101, with lots of clouds and humidity. Walking around the motor
home for some minor chore left me dripping, kind of like being in
Alabama. Saturday was about 95 degrees, but still very humid, while
Sunday brought the weather we like - 85 high, and a nice breeze all
Saturday, shortly after we went to the stage area, Janell went to
sit in a more shady area, and almost immediately began feeling
faint, to the extent she had to be helped into the hospitality room.
She is diabetic and takes several medications, and her doctor later
determined the probable cause was too high a dosage of one of the
prescriptions. After resting a while and having a few swallows of
Coke, Janell was feeling well enough to walk back to the motor home.
She spent the rest of the day just taking it easy, and by the time
of the evening performances, she felt up to going back to the stage;
she was able to enjoy the rest of the festival with no further
musical performances included Baloney
Creek, a group that seems to fluctuate up and down in my
rankings. When I first saw them about 10 years ago I liked them, and
was especially impressed with the lead singer/fiddler/guitarist
Delisay Richter (now Johnson). Over the years, they have often
played with their instruments electrified, which just does not work
in bluegrass for me. They now have a new guitarist, who is less of a
show-off than the previous one, and at the Kings River Festival they
played acoustically, so once again I had to move them up in the
rankings. Dee does not do as much of the singing as she used to,
which is a loss.
also brought the first of two sets by the Anderson
Family, who I first saw at Plymouth
in 2006. They have made great progress, especially with their
instruments, but are not quite at the point of being really
outstanding like some other family band I've seen. Janell and I
agreed that 10-year old Daisy shows promise of being the best singer
of the bunch.
day of music ended about 3, and was nice and cool (85 and breezy).
On our way home, we were tempted, as we often are, by a fruit stand,
actually the Simonian Farms
complex, more of a full size store than a stand. We both came away
with some grapes, and with a desire to go back for more great music
Estel, September 2011
Barn Bluegrass Festival
Lots of changes at the Brown Barn festival this year - for one thing,
the barn is actually brown, although it's not the site of the music.
The festival is a month later and three miles south of where it used
to be, and it almost didn't happen. The previous location is being sold and it took a lot of work and worry before the promoters connected with the owner of
Franklin Ranch in
Gilroy, who had been wanting to put on an event
of this type. The
owners are involved with Music
Medics, "a nonprofit corporation created to provide comfort and healing through the use of music for all in
need" and a co-sponsor of the festival.
festival was started by the late Jake
Quesenberry, co-founder of the California
Bluegrass Association, and has been continued in his honor by
his family, with support from other bluegrass organizations. This is
the sixth one, and I've attended the last three.
So were are in probably the strangest setting of any festival I've been to. Although it is a working ranch, with hay as the main crop, the area near where I am camped and on two sides of the festival area is some sort of indescribable industrial place with lots of old vehicles (tractors, fire engines, etc); lots of shop-type buildings that seem to be closed up and not in use,
storage containers, old mobile homes, and some alpacas. Yeah, alpacas.
The festival area itself is very nice, with green grass, a little
shade around the edges, and a stage with a custom-built false-front barn behind it attached to an existing fence. For tent campers, there
is a big grassy area outside the main grounds, but those who wanted electricity had to park near buildings with outlets.
The building where I am plugged in is a storage room full of
music was good to great, with quite a few groups that I saw in
August at the Good
Old Fashioned Festival, or last month at Kings
River. The only group that was totally new to me was a band that
specializes in old time music, Ragged but Right.
of musicians play in more than one band, and this was
well-exemplified by three groups that appeared. Oak
Grove is the Schwartz family band, including teenagers Nate and
Max who later appeared with AJ Lee and Marty Varner in OMGG.
AJ is a regular with the Tuttle
family band. And just for good measure, Molly
Tuttle played guitar through most of Snap Jackson's set.
Tuttle boys, Mike (age 12) and Sullivan (age 16) are probably the
best young pickers on mandolin and guitar that I have seen. Their
performance of El Cumbanchero from five years ago has over a million
and a half hits on You Tube, but their updated
version is faster, hotter and better. Their CD was reviewed in Bluegrass
Unlimited magazine, which also praised the boys playing.
were a number of groups that take the more traditional approach,
65 (from Porterville), the Pleasant Valley Boys, Windy
Hill, and the Mighty Crows (a band that no longer exists, but
re-united for this event).
favorite old-time band, Red Rag Andy was there, although Barry
Schultz, the vocalist who always provided an interesting background
on the group's songs, is gone from the group. And I can't help but
give another shout out to Snap
Jackson & the Knock on Wood Players, a group that is
starting to get national attention, and that always gets the crowd
weather was mostly very good, warming up to 80 or so in the
afternoon. With almost no shade available, I was able to stick with
my 2nd row seat in the sun all weekend, but had to take a shade
break each afternoon. Evenings were cool, but required no more than
a sweatshirt. There was some overcast Sunday morning, but it burned
a good part of the crowd comes from fairly close by, most everyone
left Sunday afternoon, but I stayed overnight as usual. I think
there were three other parties that also stayed. I got a good early
start Monday morning and was home shortly after noon.
Estel, October 2011