As summer approaches we look forward to great bluegrass music during the traditional festival season. Bluegrass music is very popular–with estimates in the 20 million range of regular listeners in the US. Bluegrass music is hard to find on the radio, however, and the festival season is key to sustaining the economic viability of the bluegrass scene. The festival season provides quality paychecks sustaining national, regional, and local bands, while serving as the gathering place and “glue” that holds together the listening community. Festivals are also a major CD and merch sales opportunity for bands as well as a primary opportunity for fans to hear their favorites as well as new bands, to jam and camp together, and to reignite their bluegrass flame.
It has not always been that way. During the “golden era” of the 1940s through the 1950s bluegrass music thrived at local concerts, barn dances, and on local radio and TV (think Hee Haw). With the advent of Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll in the mid 1950s, bluegrass music was pushed off the radio and TV and declined in popularity. As a genre it was in trouble until the festival movement started in the mid 1960s and gave it new life. Now, Telluride, Rocky Grass, Merlefest, Grey Fox, and countless other summer bluegrass festivals attract hundreds of thousands of fans and present hundreds of bands every summer, serving as the engine that keeps things going.
Here on the West Coast our own Summergrass Festival (August 17-19) in Vista is one of the top dogs, as is the Father’s Day Festival at Grass Valley held every Father’s Day in Northern California. This year the venerable Huck Finn Festival in the LA area is back as well, so summer 2018 looks to be a great festival season. For info about the Summergrass Festival, visit: www.summergrass.net, and make plans now to attend.
Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands in Del Mar. Two-time IBMA vocalist of the year and Grammy winner Laurie Lewis and her great band the Right Hands (Tom Rozum on mandolin, Patrick Sauber on banjo, Jarod Godman on fiddle, and Sam Grisman, son of David “Dawg” Grisman on bass) put on a great show in May at the Del Mar Powerhouse. Presented by the Del Mar Foundation as part of its Bluegrass and Beyond series, the band did sold-out back to back concerts on a Thursday and Friday night.
John Reischman and the Jaybirds Pack the House for SDBS. Hailing out of Vancouver, Canada John Reischman is one of the greatest mandolin players of all time. Backed by his outstanding Jaybirds, John and his group thrilled a packed house in this concert presented by the San Diego Bluegrass Society. The instrumentation and vocals were spot on, and the band performed several of its originals, including the locally popular Salt Springs, named after a locale on the San Juan Islands.
We hope you enjoy the coming summer bluegrass festival season, and look forward to seeing you locally at Summergrass.