The last stop of the 2nd Annual California Banjo Extravaganza tour will be at Don Quixote’s in Felton, CA for a 2pm matinee show on Sunday, November 17, 2013, led by Tony Trischka, Sammy Shelor, and Bill Evans, who are well known in the world of bluegrass. Tony Trischka’s banjo playing has pushed the envelope beyond bluegrass into “new acoustic music” territory with elements of jazz and blues, and he’s released more than 30 albums, has developed music for films and documentaries, published books, and been nominated for a Grammy. Sammy Shelor currently leads the Lonesome River Band, has won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and previously performed with the Virginia Squires and Sonny Osborne. Bill Evans is currently living in the Bay Area, playing with a number of different bands, and is the author of the best-selling “Banjo for Dummies” instructional book. They’ll be backed by a band of bluegrass all-stars, including John Reischman on mandolin, Jim Nunally on guitar, Chad Manning on fiddle, and Sharon Gilchrist on bass.
The annual Santa Cruz Bluegrass Fair will be held in San Lorenzo Park at the Duck Pond Stage in Santa Cruz on Saturday, May 4, 2013 from noon-5:00pm. A cavalcade of local bands will be featured: Homefire, The Earl White Stringband, Bean Creek, and The Harmony Grits. This free event is presented by the Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society. They suggest that you bring blankets, low-backed chairs, hats and sunscreen in order to comfortably hang out on the grassy hill next to the pond. This year’s event honors the memory of Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs.
The 2nd annual Seabright Stringfest takes place this Saturday, March 2nd outdoors on the Seabright Brewery/Java Junction patio in Santa Cruz on. This day-long FREE event is a cavalcade of bands performing from 11 AM until midnight. The day begins with a kids’ show by Bob Reid, followed by a variety of bluegrass, old-time string band, Celtic, folk and world music. Eleven bands will appear, including locals Bean Creek, The Abbott Brothers, Earl White Stringband, and The Percolators plus The Flatiron String Band from Portland and the Black Crown String Band from the Bay Area. More info and the performance schedule can be found at fiddlersjam.com.
The 23rd Annual International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards show was held several weeks ago, and KZSC will feature highlights from this show on Backroads, between 12-2pm on Sunday, November 4, 2012. Recorded live at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, Laurie Lewis and Del McCoury co-host this year’s show that includes performances by Laurie with Tom Rozum & Bryan Sutton, Dale Ann Bradley with Pam Tillis, Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Boxcars, Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Dailey & Vincent and others. Tune in for the special live performances, including tributes to Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, coupled with lots of thank yous from the award winners.
“Sure, sure…fersherrsure,” the boys of North Pacific String Band mumbled enthusiastically when asked to play some more tunes on my show, Pickin on the Porch with Auntie Em, a few weeks back.
The five-piece string band consists of Steven Stubblefield on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Wilson on banjo, Alex Bice on upright bass and vocals, Evan Penza on guitar and vocals, and Jan Purat on fiddle and vocals. All these boys live locally within Santa Cruz County and have played many houseshows, on-campus shows at the UC, and gigs at local music venues. This summer, they packed up and headed out to tour throughout Northern California and Oregon. When they came back to release their debut album “Steak & Eggs” on August 22, I asked them to come hang out on KZSC’s own bluegrass show.
In the times between being gratefully serenaded by the band in the studio, I asked a few questions about the recording & production process and the tour.
All thirteen original tracks were recorded live with two microphones in the Corralitos Grange Hall. This specific place was acceptable to bassist Alex after clapping his hands a bit and recognizing its “sweet wood tones.” And the central coast of California in general provides as North Pacific’s key source of inspiration–what they like to call “central coast ramblin'” with all its trees and ocean and big blue skies.
When I asked about their favorite show played while on tour, I remembered that the best gigs aren’t always planned. They all agreed on a scenic overlook at a truck stop near Manzanita, Oregon. The crowd’s energy was on cue; everyone was feeling NPSB’s impromptu busking. After seeing these boys play more than a few times, I can attest that a spontaneous, outdoor setting that revolves around nature’s beauty is precisely where they flourish most.
Of course, North Pacific String Band did not forget to mention the lasting relationships made and incredible musicianship witnessed at the Northwest String Summit festival put on by Yonder Mountain String Band in Oregon. One can only imagine the plethora of amazing stringy sounds heard that weekend in August. And get this–NPSB played music on top of the Further tour bus. Cool?! I’d say these boys have their priorities set straight.
Back in the air-room at KZSC, North Pacific played a few songs they worked on while on the road called “Goin’ to the West” and “Big South Skies.” Then they got down to their song “Murphy” (track 2 on “Steak & Eggs”) with more elongated notes and gritty, bluesy chops. They slowed it down to the point where it sounded like their instruments were talking to each other (which I’ve noticed these boys do a lot–they work together beautifully). They built up the tension little by little then picked it up again with some groovin’ guitar slaps, sweet harmonic fiddle/banjo duo, delicate mando chopping, and finished it off with Alex’s heavy bass punctuation.
Stevee, Jeff, Alex, Jan, and Evan have been playing together for a while, have had time to experience lasting memories, and are individually pretty damn funny characters themselves. North Pacific String Band incorporates a “prograssive” sound to their bluegrass–and sometimes jazzy–roots, making sure to give each member solo time to shine, while keeping a youthful humor that the audience utilizes in its own stomp and clap. Their sound is coherent, tight, and undeniably heartfelt; you can really hear the feeling in the melodies and accompanying harmonies.
Check out North Pacific String Band for more information, merch, and show dates at northpacificcompany.org!