The authenticity of it: The thirty seventh annual Bowers Bluegrass Competition places a highlight on the standard music neighborhood

The thirty seventh annual Bowers Bluegrass Competition is returning in late August to the historic Bowers Mansion Regional Park for 4 days of pickin’ and grinnin’.

Whereas bluegrass music is usually related to Appalachia or the American South, its affect is international and immediately acknowledged due to the hallmarks of the sound: acoustic string preparations, a fast tempo and a efficiency model wherein musicians play a shared chorus and take turns with solos.

The Bowers Bluegrass Competition connects people and conventional music to Northern Nevada’s personal historic heritage by means of its chosen web site. Bowers Mansion was in-built 1863 by Comstock millionaires Lemuel “Sandy” Bowers and his spouse, Eilley Orrum Bowers. The peak of wealth and refinement on the time it was constructed, the mansion and its surrounding grounds at the moment are a regional park the place friends can tour the historic home, picnic on the garden and benefit from the public pool.

The competition is placed on by the Northern Nevada Bluegrass Affiliation, a nonprofit with the straightforward and laudable purpose to “present info, instruction, performances and assist to the bluegrass and conventional music neighborhood in northern Nevada.” All year long, NNBA is chargeable for organizing common jam classes, internet hosting lessons and offering membership assets like discounted charges for occasions and free instruction. The Bowers Bluegrass Competition is the largest occasion on their calendar.

This yr’s competition will function jam-band-friendly tenting preparations and a chuckwagon supper at close by Washoe Lake, a bluegrass gospel live performance on the Davis Creek Amphitheater, and performances by 12 bands. This yr’s headliner is the Grammy Award-nominated Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, who will take the principle stage on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 5:15 p.m. Eight of the 12 bands characterize Northern Nevada’s personal bluegrass neighborhood.

“As people musicians, all of us preserve monitor of the place the festivals are, and it’s like our household reunion,” mentioned Holly Sternberg.

A fiddle participant since childhood, Sternberg is the one act billed as a solo performer, though she intends to deliver her college students along with her to carry out a few of the music that earned her the champion’s title within the Nevada State Outdated-Time Fiddler’s Contest in Eureka.

Sternberg grew up taking violin classes in Quincy, Calif., studying to play classical music earlier than graduating to her favourite self-discipline: Celtic music.

“I really like the nuances and the ornamentations which you could get in Celtic music,” she mentioned. “I actually love the nitty gritty, minor, unhappy, mournful form of sound yow will discover in Celtic music.”

After touchdown in Reno for school, Sternberg came upon in regards to the weekly Celtic jam classes hosted at Ceol Irish Pub. This served as her introduction to what she considers a full of life people and conventional music scene in Reno—one which, in her expertise, far outstrips much more populated cities.

“There are a ton of bluegrass gamers right here in Reno,” Sternberg mentioned. “After which there’s a little bit Celtic circle, and there’s a little bit old-timey circle. I’m actually pleased with Reno, as a result of there’s hardly any of that in Vegas, and it’s big, and hardly any of that in L.A., and it’s big.”

Sternberg spent years ingraining herself within the people music scene, changing into a part-time performer and full-time violin trainer. She’s performed and recorded with different bands (together with an upcoming album along with her duo venture, Fiddlers Two). Whereas she’s the primary to confess that bluegrass hasn’t at all times been her forte, her dedication to conventional people music earned her a spot on the stage in August.

“Bluegrass, there’s one thing historical and mystical about it, and I really feel like persons are moved by that form of sound.”

Jill Marlene, songwriter, singer and co-founder of Wheatstone Bridge

“We’re doing lots of twin fiddling, although, which is basically enjoyable,” she mentioned. “That’s the place you’ve two fiddles, however one is enjoying melody, and one is enjoying both concord or some form of type of backing. It’s form of cool, as a result of lots of instances, you don’t see bands with multiple fiddler.”

Whereas Sternberg and her college students will discover a few of the older kinds of people music surrounding the style, bluegrass itself has loads of fashionable practitioners. One other Reno band referred to as Wheatstone Bridge has been performing for many years, recording originals and drawing inspiration from comparatively fashionable artists.

“My favourite band on the earth is Devo,” mentioned Jill Marlene, songwriter, singer and co-founder of Wheatstone Bridge. “Our subsequent album goes to be referred to as Campfire Songs for the Apocalypse. That’s as a result of we write Dixie Chicks songs in regards to the shit of the world. They’re lullabies and form of ardour songs in regards to the finish of the world.”

Like Sternberg, Marlene entered the folk-music scene by means of Celtic music, though she mentioned Wheatstone Bridge’s sound is extra Americana-inspired. She is joined by guitarist and songwriter Steve Barron, singer and fiddler Amy Willoughby, mandolinist Zeke Griffin, percussionist Diana Ekins, banjo participant Joseph Martini and bassist Jim Buehler.

Wheatstone Bridge bought its begin within the ’90s when Marlene met Barron, her songwriting accomplice. The lineup has modified and tailored over time, however Marlene’s songwriting has been one of many by means of threads.

“I used to be a poet means earlier than I used to be a songwriter,” she mentioned. “Generally Steve comes with an concept and a primary line, after which I’m like, ‘OK,’ after which I take 10 minutes, and we write it, and it’s good enjoyable.”

In Marlene’s expertise, critical bluegrass gamers on the town all know one another, both by proximity or status, and touring to bluegrass festivals and jam classes, even in close by states, is widespread. Whereas a few of her bandmates have attended and carried out within the Bowers Bluegrass Competition in years previous, this will likely be her first expertise with the competition as both a visitor or performer. To Marlene, bluegrass music’s mix of simplicity, heritage and technical ability presents the proper automobile for lyrics—calling the band’s catalog “remedy songs.”

“Bluegrass, there’s one thing historical and mystical about it, and I really feel like persons are moved by that form of sound,” Marlene mentioned. “What messages are you able to ship? How are you going to sneak these concepts in? How are you going to soften an concept for somebody sufficient for it to hit their coronary heart as a substitute of hit their head?”

“Everybody is aware of the identical handful of songs which might be part of the gathering. And it’s simply an effective way to attach with individuals. … You may simply sit down and play the songs that everybody is aware of.”

Brooke Chabot, guitarist and vocalist of Rubicon Gold

The elemental connection to the nation’s musical spirit is a giant draw for a lot of bluegrass musicians.

“I actually love the tales of bluegrass music and the cultural historical past of it that I believe that we, as residents of america, are most related to,” mentioned Brooke Chabot, guitarist and vocalist of Truckee-based band Rubicon Gold. “I really feel prefer it’s the deepest root, together with blues, of our historical past.”

Rubicon Gold will even be enjoying on the Bowers Bluegrass Competition for the primary time, and to Chabot and her bandmates Mick Melvin (bass and vocals), Peter Anderson (banjo and vocals) and Dave Zimmerman (mandolin and vocals), it’s an opportunity to fulfill and play with likeminded individuals exterior of their Truckee bluegrass scene.

“I met all the fellows in Rubicon Gold on the native bluegrass jam at Alibi Ale Works in Truckee on Sunday nights,” Chabot mentioned. “We’ve been enjoying primarily in Truckee. We’ve had a few gigs in Incline Village, and we’re wanting ahead to recording. We have now fairly a couple of originals that we’ve put collectively.”

Rubicon Gold revels in its three- and four-part vocal harmonies, and other than their originals, the band enjoys performing bluegrass renditions of well-liked songs from the ’80s and ’90s. Chabot mentioned that the flexibility to fulfill and play stay is integral to each their sound and bluegrass tradition at massive—although they managed to maintain the jam classes going over Zoom through the pandemic.

“It may be quite simple music, and you may decide up with nearly anyone who is aware of it,” she mentioned. “Everybody is aware of the identical handful of songs which might be part of the gathering. And it’s simply an effective way to attach with individuals. … You may simply sit down and play the songs that everybody is aware of.”

To Chabot and lots of the musicians attending Bowers Bluegrass Competition this yr, the connection provided by the style isn’t simply reserved for the gamers.

“I believe the authenticity of it, it’s simply, actually, the core of the style,” Chabot mentioned. “The sensation of it’s going to be there, and it’s nothing however blissful experiences for everybody.”

The Bowers Bluegrass Competition takes place Thursday, Aug. 24, by means of Sunday, Aug. 27, primarily at Bowers Mansion, 4005 Bowers Mansion Street, in New Washoe Metropolis. Tickets costs fluctuate. For tickets or extra info, go to