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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

Bluegrass Corner

Nickel Creek at the Rady Shell

by Dwight WordenNovember 2023

Nickle Creek at the Rady Shell last month. Photo by David Cupp.

Chris Thile, Sean Watkins, and Sara Watkins are Nickel Creek. They grew up in the Vista area earning their chops playing bluegrass at the local pizza parlor, playing in the dirt at the Julian Banjo and Fiddle Contest, and in appearances for the San Diego Bluegrass Society at many events early in their careers. Nickel Creek has been together for more than 34 years, which is remarkable enough, until you realize they are still in their early 40s (Chris and Sara are 42; Sean is 46), which is more than amazing. In those early days as kids they had a bluegrass band called The Seldom Clean.

Since those early days Nickel Creek has won Grammys, played the Grand Ole Opry, had hit records, and more. Their outside activities have been impressive as well. Chris Thile won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” of half a million dollars, took over for Garrison Keillor to host A Prairie Home Companion (renamed Live from Here), performed with The Goat Rodeo (Stuart Duncan fiddle, Edgar Meyer bass, Yo-Yo Ma cello, and Chris Thile mandolin), and Chris founded the successful band The Punch Brothers. Sara, meanwhile, has performed and recorded with many other successful groups, including I’m with Her, comprised of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Sara Watkins. And she had many other successful activities.

Sean took a creative turn into indie rock, including collaborations with Switchfoot front man Jon Foreman, and later with a super group collaboration called Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). The octet is composed of Watkins, his sister Sara Watkins (fiddle), Glen Phillips (guitar, vocals), Benmont Tench (piano), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Greg Leisz (various), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher (bass).

Nickel Creek has retired more than once. They held a previous reunion tour in 2006-7 billed as “Farewell for Now.” They then released new albums in 2014 and an album of livestream recordings in 2021. This year, in 2023, they released their newest album, Celebrants.

It was to the delight of fans that Nickel Creek held a 2023 reunion tour, capping it at the San Diego Rady Shell this October. They played many of their classic hits as well as newer material from their current album Celebrants and everything in between.

What a great run over 34 years! Still in their 40s and going strong we can expect lots more to come, perhaps even yet another farewell tour.

South State 48

South State 48
The California Bluegrass Association’s (CBAs) South State 48 is coming up in Carlsbad November 2-7 at the Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel (the one with the big Windmill). There will be concerts, jamming, vendors, workshops and more. All are welcome. Read more about it here:

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