Author: Carlin, Larry

May 20, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The hills are alive with the sound of music. By the time you read this I will either be en route to or will have arrived at the Strawberry Music Festival at Camp Mather just outside of Yosemite, where I will be staying until Monday. In its early days it was called the “Strawberry Bluegrass Festival,” but it is hardly a strictly bluegrass festival now, and it does not pretend to be. There are always some bluegrass bands on the bill (this time Dry Branch Fire Squad, Sawmill Road, Poor Man's Whiskey, The Wronglers, The Greencards) along with singer/songwriters, blues, swing, country, and more. However, there is scant web access at the festival, so the next column will probably not appear here again until next Tuesday. (If access can be made at the fest then this column will get edited down in a couple of days.) So there is more info than usual in this column at mid-week. If by chance you do make it up to the festival, stop by the mess hall some morning for the live Breakfast Club. Yours truly is the host in the bathrobe, red slippers and strawberry pajamas. Or tune into the show on the Hog in-camp radio station. Otherwise, have a fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend, and don’t forget to take some time to remember all of the brave men and women who are either serving or have served their country…

Steve Martin, idol to all Americans -- Far be it for this column to ever encourage anyone to watch game shows like American Idol and Dancing With the Stars. But if there was ever a reason to watch the former, than do so tonight as the word on the street is that the one and only comedian/actor/writer/banjo player Steve Martin will be appearing on the show, playing a song (ably abetted by Nathan McEuen) and promoting his new album The Crow. Then, on Monday the 25th (Memorial Day), either watch in real time or set your TiVo or VCR to watch young SoCal mandolin picker Scott Gates performing with Martin on an episode of The Ellen Degeneres Show. In the SF Bay Area the show is aired at 4 p.m. on KNTV.

Soldier Stories -- Bay Area bluegrass bandleader and singer Nell Robinson has formed a new group called the Soldier Stories Band along with Mayne Smith, Harry Yaglijian, Dave Gooding, Johnny Harper and Jonathan Schiele, and she has put together a really important show at the Freight & Salvage on the 27th – just two days after Memorial Day. Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum will be performing as well. Proceeds from the evening go to supporting veteran health care projects at two excellent non-profits. The music will showcase songs from the Revolutionary War to the present, from a variety of perspectives. They hope to both honor our veterans and raise awareness and funds for their health care. The musicians involved have a personal connection to this issue, a few are veterans, and all of our lives have been touched by soldier stories in some way. Go to the Freight link above for more info.

Greencards on tour -- The Greencards are all over Northern California this week. On the 20th see them play at the Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne, on the 22nd at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with Marty Stuart, on the 23rd at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, and on the 24th at Strawberry.

Dry Branch in Berkeley -- The Dry Branch Fire Squad will be playing a show at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 20th. Led by its founder, Ron Thomason, the DBFS has been playing for over three decades, currently consisting of band members Dan Russell, Brian Aldridge, and Tom Boyd. Together they combine traditional bluegrass and old-time tunes with wry humor and cultural commentary.

Alhambra Valley in Martinez -- On the 20th the Hometown Classics show will take place at Armando’s in Martinez starting at 7 p.m. On the bill are local singer/songwriter Andy Mason, the group The Hopeful Roamin Tics, and red-hot original and traditional bluegrass will be played by Martinez’s own Alhambra Valley Band.

Bluegrass in Moss Landing -- Every Wednesday night at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing from 6:30-8:30 p.m. you can experience live bluegrass. Tonight see Homefire play.

Black Crown in SF -- John McKelvy, formerly guitarist and lead singer in The Earl Brothers bluegrass band, and his new band Black Crown Stringband can be seen playing on the 20th at the Cafe International in SF. The band is John on guitar, Tim Hicks on mandolin, Elise Engleberg on fiddle, Matt Knoth on banjo, and Rob Mellberg on bass.

South Bay bluegrass barbeque -- Enjoy Sidesaddle & Company and the spicy barbeque this evening at Sam’s Bar-B-Que in San Jose from 6-9 p.m. Louise Mintun will be standing in on bass. Reserve a table at (408) 297-9151.

Jammin’ in San Jose -- There is a jam in San Jose on the first and third Wednesday of the month at Round Table Pizza on the corner of Union and Camden starting at 7 p.m. For more info please contact Fiddle’n Steve Pexton at

Jammin’ in Paso Robles -- "Matt's Jam" takes place every Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Matt's Music, 617 12th Street, in downtown Paso Robles. For more information call (805) 237-0054.

Bluegrass in Burbank -- The Brombies play on the first, third, and occasionally the fifth Wednesday nights at Viva Cantina in Burbank starting at 8 p.m.

Jammin’ in Napa -- There is a CBA sponsored bluegrass jam session at the Pizza Hut in the town of Napa every Thursday night from 7-10 p.m. For more info call Pat Calhoun at (707) 318-1913 or email

Pickin’ in Petaluma -- Ed Neff and Friends play bluegrass every Thursday at the Willowbrook Ale House in Petaluma from 6:30-9:30 p.m. There is no cover, and you get to hear some of the finest traditional bluegrass in the North Bay. The regular pickers are Ed Neff on mandolin, Mike Wilhoyte on guitar, Jeff King on bass, Paul Shelasky on fiddle, and banjoist Larry Cohea. The address is 3600 Petaluma Boulevard North. Call (707) 775-4232 for more info.

People playing bluegrass in San Francisco -- The Atlas Cafe presents the best in live bluegrass and old-time music every Thursday night from 8-10 p.m., and on the 21st it will be bluegrass by a new band called I’m A People that is comprised of hot Bay Area pickers Jacob Groopman, Dan Booth, Adam Roscoewitz, Alisa Rose and Erik Yates. They play mostly traditional bluegrass with some folk and newgrass thrown in for good measure. Filling in for Eric Yates on banjo for this show will be Jordan Klein.

Jammin’ in Redwood City -- There is a weekly bluegrass and old-time jam on Thursdays at
Posted:  5/26/2009

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