Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wintergrass 2014 (Late) After Report

This is the one and only photo I took: my scribbling and caffeination supplies for a morning of jotting down memories.

I spent Feb 27-Mar 2 at Wintergrass--the big indoor music festival held at the Hyatt in Bellevue, WA. We take over the whole place--people wandering around with fiddles and guitars and banjos and mandolins, jamming in hallways and stairwells. And then there are the concerts! It was, in short, an incredible experience. Highlights for me:

  • Beats Workin' (Peter Ostroushko on mandolin, Mike Dowling on guitar, David Lange on accordion, Cary Black on bass): they played swing and bluesy stuff and original tunes and...oh man, were just so good and so fun all around! My favorite was Peter Ostroushko's "Heart of the Heartland" on Thursday night.

  • Väsen, the truly excellent Swedish folk band, currently a trio with 12 string guitar, nykelharpa, and 5-string viola. I've liked them for a long time, but had never seen them live. My only regret is that I only got to see them twice over the course of the festival. I bought their Mindset album, and I have to say, while there were flashier, more mind boggling performers at Wintergrass, Mindset is the album I've had on repeat ever since. Favorite tune: Hundlaten, which Mikael said he wrote while walking his dog--the title, as I recall, means, simply, "Dog Song." It's bouncy and fun and gets hopelessly stuck in my head.

  • The Kruger Brothers. I'd not seen them before, either, and WOW. As someone said about Jens Kruger, there are good banjo players, great banjo players, and then there's Jens Kruger. I've never heard music like that before. And Uwe's voice and songwriting are icing on the cake. Favorites: "Carolina in the Fall" and the first bit of their "Appalachian Concerto."

  • Chris Thile and Mike Marshall. I just don't have suitable words for what they do. Improvising, in harmony, even at high speeds or in funky time signatures like 25/16. Really. They were amazing, and I do not use that word lightly. Mando gods.

  • Combination of the above: one of my favorite Väsen tunes is a beautiful waltz: Josefin's. Not only did they do it, at the very end of their last set on Saturday, but Chris Thile and Mike Marshall joined them. It was...I still can't describe it. Magical.

    I also have so many other happy memories: morning jams after breakfast, a trip to the dim sum place nearby, where we laughed at our varying ability to eat with chopsticks, running up eleven flights of stairs sometime after midnight when I got sick of waiting for the elevators after the last concert of the day, a walk to the QFC (across the street) wherein I got us so lost I think we saw most of Bellevue....

    Good friends, good fun, good food, good music. It was a perfect vacation. And the accommodations definitely beat the tar out of your average bluegrass festival...beds? Private bathrooms, with fresh towels provided daily? Thermostats? Whoa!


    Bill M said...

    AH the Kruger Brothers. Lucky you. I've not heard the others. I really want to see the Hot Violinist.

    Little Flower Petals said...

    They were amazing! The others are well worth listening to as well.

    I added a link to a video of Peter Ostroushko's "Heart of the Heartland." Just lovely.