Arts Listings

Arts: Bluegrass and Old Time Festival Comes to the East Bay By Mark Schneider Special to the Planet

Tuesday January 31, 2006

The seventh annual San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival runs Feb. 2-12 with workshops and intimate East Bay concerts featuring living legends like Ralph Stanley and rising local talent such as the Crooked Jades. 

The festival boasts a range of acoustic music including bluegrass, old-time (the fiddle and banjo-laden precursor to bluegrass) and a sprinkling of “jamgrass,” which combines bluegrass and jam band influences. Festival Chair Tom Lucas hopes to not only bring all types of bluegrass to the festival, but to introduce fans of particular styles to new kinds of music. Over the course of the festival, music lovers will have the opportunity to see numerous rising local groups throughout the Bay Area, and celebrated venues like the Freight and Salvage and Epic Arts will be packed with music that should not be missed. 

Of special note, the internationally renowned Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will play three Freight and Salvage concerts on Feb. 9 and 10. During his 55 years in the business, Ralph Stanley has achieved unparalleled status as a banjo picker, recorded 170 albums, and won countless awards for his artistry. Additionally, gospel music extraordinaire Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver will perform at Freight and Salvage on Feb. 2, along with local acoustic favorite Matt Bauer.  

San Francisco performances of special note include multi-instrumentalist Peter Rowan at Noe Valley Ministry on Feb. 4; former David Grisman fiddle player Darol Anger and his trio at the Make Out Room on Feb. 5; and Leftover Salmon mandolin player Drew Emitt at Noe Valley Ministry on Feb. 11. Peter Rowan has performed with legends from Jerry Garcia to Bill Monroe and rose to fame as a solo artist in the 1980s. Darol Anger has been an innovator in incorporating the fiddle into jazz and has worked with jazz instrumentalists Bela Fleck and Stephane Grappelli, among others. And Emitt’s band Leftover Salmon plays a major part in the jamgrass scene now extremely popular among a new generation of listeners. 

While the festival brings top national performers, bluegrass and old-time fans also get the chance to experience the music of rising local performers. For example, veteran Bay Area old-time musicians the Crooked Jades perform at the Freight and Salvage on Feb. 3. A staple of the area for more than 10 years, the Crooked Jades bring unique arrangements of obscure old-time music and driving dance tunes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to venues across the country.  

“The Crooked Jades are moving up to the national circuit,” East Bay concert organizer and festival committee member Tom Wegner said. “This may be one of the few chances for people to see them in a small venue before they make it big. Their music is haunting, extremely interesting, and has incredible energy on stage.” 

For another local option, the East Bay’s Lone Mountain Sisters and Backyard Party Boys can be seen at Epic Arts on Feb. 5, as part of Wegner’s monthly Twang Cafe live music series. Wegner describes the Lone Mountain Sisters as a straight-ahead bluegrass foursome of two sisters and their husbands with comic onstage banter. Moreover, the members of the Backyard Party Boys bring decades of experience in bands of varying styles to a new eclectic group. If you are looking for a taste of old fashioned bluegrass as you would have heard it in the 1920s, East Bay natives Julay Brandenburg & the Nightbirds play at Connecticut Yankees in San Francisco on Feb. 2. This relatively new group goes to great lengths to achieve a style of bluegrass quite rare in the current music scene. 

Bluegrass and Old Time Music can be heard from Feb. 2-12 at East Bay venues including Jupiter’s, Freight and Salvage, Epic Arts and McGrath’s in Alameda. Details and a complete concert schedule can be found at  



Contributed photo:  

The Lone Mountain Sisters will peform at Epic Arts Feb. 5 as part of the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival.