Bolado Park in Tres Pinos will be filled with down-home acoustic
music this weekend as the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival
returns for the 18th year.
By Michael Hall
President of the Northern California Bluegrass Society
Bolado Park in Tres Pinos will be filled with down-home acoustic music this weekend as the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival returns for the 18th year. Twenty-five California bands will perform on the main stage, the largest gathering of such homegrown talent in the state. More bands will perform on two open mic stages on the grounds. The festival runs Friday-Sunday.
Bluegrass music originated in the uplands of the southeastern United States during the late 1930s and has become more popular in the west over the past two decades. There are now dozens of active Northern California bluegrass bands. The purpose of the annual Bolado Park gathering is to showcase California musicians who devote themselves to the genre.
After taking their turn on stage, players have plenty of time to join the informal jam sessions that spring up everywhere around the festival grounds. Some attendees think these jam “circles” are the best of the weekend “performances.”
“My favorite part of the festival is the evening jam sessions,” said John “Pan” Logan of Redwood City, who joins in after his work as part of the festival crew is done each day. “Everyone gets to play and to learn new songs from others.”
The Good Old Fashioned is an annual benefit for the Northern California Bluegrass Society, which organizes bluegrass music events in the San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay Areas. The volunteer non-profit organization brings other festivals, concerts, workshops, and jams to local bluegrass fans throughout the year.
There are now over 40 bluegrass festivals held each year in Northern California, including the world’s largest, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which draws approximately 240,000 people to the shows on 10 stages in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco each October. Many of these area festivals feature nationally-touring bands based in Nashville and other parts of the bluegrass music heartland. But many fans prefer the relaxed ambiance at Bolado Park.
San Jose’s Brenda Hough attends many larger area festivals each year (including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass), but enjoys the Good Old Fashioned’s size — about 1,000 folks. “It’s not too big, not too small — it’s just right!,” she said.
The festival is also a friendly, supportive place for young performers. A. J. Lee of Tracy began playing in camp at age 7, then on the open mic stage, and now returns to the main stage at age 13 with her band OMGG, the acronym for “Obviously Minor Guys and a Girl.”
“The GOF is fun,” she said. “I like meeting new friends and learning new songs, staying up late to play music in camp, and, now that I have been performing on stage with my band, I am not afraid to talk in front of people! I have more self-confidence.”
Lee’s confidence on stage has led to invitations for the talented teen to play at bluegrass festivals around California and in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Last year, she was in the nationally-distributed documentary film “Discover Bluegrass” that explains bluegrass music to elementary school students. OMGG will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening on the main stage.
Bluegrass music is performed with six acoustic instruments: guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, resonator guitar, and bass, and features soulful harmony singing.
The 2011 Good Old Fashioned will celebrate the 100th birthday of the Father Of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe (1911-1996).
Friday, August 12
Noon-3:00pm — Open Mike
Friday, August 12
3:00pm — Still Searchin’
4:00 — Sidetrack
5:00 – Abbott Family
6:00 — Circle R Boys
7:00 – JEDD Brothers
8:00 — Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band
9:00 — Bean Creek
Saturday, August 13
10:00am — Windy Hill
11:00 – California Pearly Blue
Noon — Rogue River
1:00pm — Workshops/Lunch Break
2:00 – Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players
3:00 – Border Radio
4:00 – Jimmy Chickenpants
5:00 — Workshops/Dinner Break
6:00 – Houston Jones
7:00 – OMGG
8:00 — Sidesaddle & Co.
9:00 — Alhambra Valley Band
Sunday, August 14
9:00am — South County Special
10:00 — Dark Hollow (Gospel plus)
11:00 — Rock Ridge
Noon — Sherry Austin Band
12:45pm — Lunch Break
1:15 – Regina Bartlett presents Kids on Stage
2:15 – Kitchen Help
3:15 – Courthouse Ramblers
4:15 – Stoney Mountain Ramblers