Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band at Dead on the Creek Music Festival 2010

Then and Now

Bluegrass at Dead on the Creek Music Festival 2010

A Saturday in the California hills listening to hillbilly music at the Dead on the Creek Music Festival is close to heaven for this Kansas girl! You may as well know that bluegrass music is still very much alive and so are the people who love it so. Thanks be to Uncle John, Mama Jo, and their lively crew up in Willits who produce this 3-day music festival every year for those in the know. It is always sold out, so I’m very fortunate to know these guys.

I didn’t get to spend the full three days and only had a chance to sample one afternoon. I chose to hear Peter’s band because I have such fond memories of hearing him and his brothers play in Stinson Beach and Mill Valley when I was young and could stay up dancing all night. Ahh, nostalgia!

It was blissful to see and hear Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Band. And what a perfect place, with others just like me (hippies) old and young, equally blissed out, in perfect weather!

Peter Rowan and his brothers are very well-known and toured extensively all over the world. Nowadays he plays his music with many other great musicians like Tony Rice (a DVD of these two playing and teaching guitar is new and available on Tony’s website). If you are interested, go to Peter’s website also and see his biography! It is impressive. As usual, these incredible musicians are so very generous with their time and knowledge and offer up lessons for the price of a DVD and also some free lessons on YouTube.

His band at Dead on the Creek included world-famous Jody Stecher, who is a master on the mandolin (and guitar and a bevy of other instruments). I’m trying to learn the mandolin, so I zeroed in on him. When I came home I discovered his lessons on YouTube on mandolin and guitar. He is a gracious, generous musician, so skilled it takes your breath away, but he speaks gently and has a country soul, not pretentious. He plays with a purity that would not be possible if his soul were not also pure. Stecher also plays East Indian music and it is apparent when he puts one of those eastern scale riffs into an otherwise totally bluegrass song. When he does this it really wakes you up! His sound is distinct and masterful. His singing varied between traditional bluegrass and more bluesy notes.

Paul Knight is a favorite bass player, accompanying with perfect rhythm and deep harmonies and also a masterful musician. I think the stand-up bass provides the underpinnings for the whole sound of this band and those rich, deep notes hold down the high wailing harmonies that bluegrass is all about.

Avram Siegel was standing in at the last minute for the regular banjo player, Keith Little. I thought Avram was an exceptional banjo player but it was obvious to me that he probably didn’t get to rehearse very much and so any little bobbles he made were totally understandable.

 

Bluegrass traditions

Bluegrass music is all about the blending of voices and instruments with rhythm and lyrics so that the sound is plaintive and tender and molten, like hot lava running down a mountain, when it is played right. In every bluegrass band I’ve ever heard or seen the musicians love of the genre and appreciation of each other is so apparent - its like a love-fest! You can understand why the Grateful Dead, using bluegrass to blend with rock and blues were so very popular and their traditions continue, while pure bluegrass also thrives.

Its good to remember our American musical roots and pay close attention to the way this music is made, because it is as demanding as any classical concerto, East Indian raga, or extemporaneous jazz number. The musicians must not only have full control of their instruments and voices, but must also hear and anticipate each other. When you think this bluegrass is getting predictable and you know just where the tune is going, they will drop in some rhythms and wails that surprise and delight, as though they psychically know just what the other band members are feeling.

I have about three hours of video, which I have just begun to edit and refine but I’ve put one of their songs on YouTube for y’all, so far. More will be ready in the coming weeks.

Enjoy!

 

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Comments 14 comments

mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago Author

charlie! Thanks! I should have realized you would love this music - what happened to your picture? oh, you must have logged on from somewhere else.


ralwus 5 years ago

love it, really doo


mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago Author

Hi kentuckyslone - I am so glad you like the hub and the music!


kentuckyslone profile image

kentuckyslone 5 years ago

Beautiful stuff! I do love bluegrass music and attending live shows at local festivals


mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago Author

Thank you so much Datahound - I so love to find fellow bluegrass hounds! You can find my other vids on Youtube - just go to "megcainable" or hear "Little Maggie" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Agex0z1X_QQ


datahound profile image

datahound 6 years ago from USA

Hey mega1 great hub. I've seen Pete more times than I can count. He is definitely one of the best and one of my favorites. My most memorable sighting was in Spartanburg, SC. He was supposed to play outside solo and showed up with Charlie Sawtelle from Hot Rize. They did a Jimmy Rogers tune and right as they ended a freight train whistle blew somewhere out of town. I still get chills.

Pete was an original Bluegrass Boy singing with Bill Monroe as a young-un.

Wonderful read, can't wait to see the rest of those videos.

Good luck with that Mando, highly addictive instrument and as fun as it gets.


mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago Author

Hi! I loved it and hadn't been to a fest for a long time = and I wish I could go every week!


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

...catching up on my reading....i haven't gone to a blue grass festival in awhile...got me missing it...


mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago Author

Hey Big John! I'm glad you enjoyed this! Hope everything is going well with you and now you are back with us at HubPages! Have missed your sweet smile>


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

Great Hub Mega! Bluegrass is the musical heart and soul of America. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!!


mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago Author

Thanks Rich! I love your hubs too! mutual admiration society!


NamVetRich profile image

NamVetRich 6 years ago from Springfield Oregon

Wish I could have joined you, sounds like you had a wonderful time, the video was good even if as you say your just and amateur. I enjoy the diversity in your Hubs and your writing skills, look forward to more Hubs from you.


mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Paradise! they did that with just about every song - sorta slipped into it slowly and then really made the lava flow! I am hoping people will also overlook my amateur video skills - meaning no skills, but a lot of enjoyment!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Once they got going, they kinda rocked. Interesting---it's been a long, long time since I've heard bluegrass. Thanks! And I liked the clog dancers, too!

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