The Valley Bluegrass Stage, set up three times a year at Clarkston High School, constantly draws 400 to 600 guests, so the Lewis Clark Bluegrass Organization has decided to up the ante.LCBO is hosting the first LC Valley bluegrass festival June 28-29, with bands such as Custers Grass Band and John Reischman and the Jaybirds.
“Bluegrass music seems to be on the rise, especially in the Northwest,” said LCBO Treasurer Denis Hackwith, who plays upright bass for bands Higher Grounds and Wanigan.
Hackwith said Custers Grass Band, for example, formed back in the 1970s. They quit playing for several years, he said, but then got back together. All the original members, plus one, will be at the festival.
Hackwith said bluegrass festival locations have included Medical Lake, Moses Lake, Tacoma, Darrington, the Tri-Cities, Wenatchee and Stevenson.
“There’s so many bluegrass festivals in the Northwest, you could spend your whole summer traveling from bluegrass to bluegrass festival,” said Scott Lombard, LCBO president and Higher Grounds guitar player.
Bluegrass band and LCBO festival headliner, John Reischman and The Jaybirds, will conclude the festival Saturday.
“We sound like a bluegrass band, but we sound like ourselves,” said Reischman, whose style is influenced by jazz and Latin music. “We put our own stamp on it.”
Band members include Canadian mandolinist Reischman, fiddle player Greg Spatz from Spokane, banjo player Nick Hornbuckle, upright bass player and singer Trisha Gagnon and guitar player and singer Jim Nunally.
“Watching (bluegrass) live is different, because one thing I’ve seen is that no matter what happens on stage, they have fun,” Hackwith said. “You can tell, most bands, the guys up there are having a blast. They make a mistake, laugh it off and go on. You can’t see or hear that on a CD.”
While John Reischman and The Jaybirds have five albums already, Reischman said they may do a live-recording album. After watching a performance in Spokane, Lombard said Reischman and his group like to tease each other and their personalities show when they play.
“We think we’re funny,” Reischman said. “It’s not a dry performance.”
Individual band members will lead workshops on guitar, mandolin, bass and fiddle at 10 a.m. Saturday, which is open to audience questions.
“It’s just a way to chat with the players,” Reischman said.
Lombard said workshops, open mic and jam sessions are popular at festivals of this kind.
“At most bluegrass festivals, the fun is just sitting around and playing with different people afterwards,” Lombard said.
Friday night music is 6-10 p.m. Instrument workshops begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, while open-mic slots are open from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, the bands will play until 9 p.m., switching every hour. Other bands include Thorn Creek Express, Panhandle Polecats, Beargrass and Forgotten Freight.
Festival tickets can be purchased at the Nez Perce County Fairgrounds gate. Friday passes are $10, while Saturday’s cost $20. A weekend pass is $30 at the gate. Admission for children, ages 13-and-under are free.
Raffle tickets for an Ibanez acoustic guitar are $1 each or six for $5 at the festival. RV hook-ups are available for $18 per night, while dry camping is $12 per night. Restrooms and showers are available. Happy Day Restaurants will serve food and soda at the site.
Lombard said bluegrass is all acoustic. There is no distortion, no amplifiers and nothing to mask the sound.
“It’s just pure, simple and true and you can’t beat it,” he said.
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.
-If you go:
WHAT: Lewis Clark Bluegrass Organization’s bluegrass festival
WHEN: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Nez Perce County Fairgrounds, 1229 Burrell Ave., Lewiston
COST: $10 Friday, $20 Saturday, $30 weekend pass, 13-and-under free