The weekend of August 15-17 brought to San Diego the 12th annual Summergrass Bluegrass Festival. Presented by the San Diego Bluegrass Society and the North San Diego County Bluegrass and Folk Club, both non-profits, the event was held at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista. The weather was beautiful, if warm, attendance was great, and the music and bands were outstanding! The Kids Camp was its usual knock-out success, teaching youngsters ages six to 16 how to play bluegrass music and putting them on stage on Sunday. The vendors and their wares were interesting, the free workshops informative, and the jamming outstanding and everywhere!
On the main stage Della Mae, the all-girl super-star band was a huge hit with the crowd. Courtney Hartman can flat pick with anyone, and Celia Woodhouse delivers the goods with her sultry and smoky vocals. While they can rock the traditional bluegrass, they also did some out of the box material including the Rolling Stones’ “Factory Girl” – with Courtney playing frailing banjo! Bluegrass Etc. were their usual outstanding selves, with John Moore picking the guitar with more notes than a Tennessee ant hill!
Special Consensus out of Chicago, led by veteran Greg Cahill, brought a great hard-driving sound to the main stage, and Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper, blew everyone’s ears back with championship fiddling and smokin’ traditional bluegrass.
These bands were complemented by outstanding performances by regional and local bands including the Sonoran Dogs, Front Country, Prairie Sky, the Virtual Strangers, Rusty Gait, the Shirthouse Band, and more. Read all about it at www.summergrass.net
The Thursday night before the event’s official opening on Friday, the Thursday Night Pickers were there to honor Bob and Karen Cox. For 35 years the Cox’s ran a jam every Thursday night in Encinitas at Today’s Pizza (formerly New York Pizza). About five years ago the Cox’s moved to Kauai and Jason Weiss took over the jam, which continues today. Thursday night at Summergrass the Coxes returned for a visit and were feted by the gang in a fun and awesome reunion of sorts, complete with food, beer, tee shirts, a raffle drawing, and yes, another playing of “Truck Driving Man”!
The Summergrass campground was packed with jam sessions, day and night. I participated in several great bluegrass jams, a gypsy jazz jam, an old-time jam, and a few in between. It is truly a marvel to see all the folks out jamming – all ages, all abilities, and all with big smiles! This informal participatory aspect of bluegrass music may well be the best part of Summergrass and of most other bluegrass festivals. If you play and haven’t tried it, come on out and give it a go. You will find the participants welcoming and helpful, and I guarantee you won’t regret it. You’ll have to wait a year for next year’s Summergrass, but there are events every week here in town. Check it all out at www.sandiegobluegrass.org.
IBMA World of Bluegrass. The annual IBMA World of Bluegrass event will be held for the second year in Raleigh, North Carolina (which moved from Nashville) over the week of September 30-October 5. There will be seminars, a giant street fair, an outdoor festival called Wide Open Bluegrass, showcase performances by juried bands in the convention center and in local clubs, the annual awards show where bluegrass honors the best of the best (the equivalent of the Bluegrass Oscars), and much more. You can read all about it at: www.ibma.org. As we go to press the final round of nominees for this year’s awards are being voted upon by IBMA members. Next month I’ll report the outcome, and you can listen to a rebroadcast of the Awards Show on Wayne Rice’s “Bluegrass Special” radio show on KSON. Check the KSON website (www.kson.com/bluegrass) for details.