Bluegrass festivals usually bring to mind visions of sunshine-soaked summer days, audience members dancing barefoot in cutoff shorts, straw hats and sunglasses. In an attempt to bring some of that warm spirit to a rain-soaked Portland, Oregon, McMenamins Crystal Ballroom will be hosting three of the Northwest’s favorite bluegrass acts for the Portland Bluegrass Festival on Friday, January 4th.

The event features three bands that have been delighting audiences throughout the country for several years: Higher Ground, Jackstraw and Sam Hill. Each band will play a set of its own, and the evening will culminate in an all-star jam session featuring musicians from all three of the bands and promising to stretch the boundaries of bluegrass and rock and roll to their limits.

Headlining the Festival, Higher Ground creates acoustic-fired backroots rock and has been a favorite of American roots music fans in the Northwest for nearly a decade. The quartet includes Alan Glickenhaus (guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and fiddle), John Ostrom (lead and rhythm guitar), Tom Noons (bass) and Jeremy Kaplan (drums and percussion). Bassist Tom Noons, who recently toured with Taj Mahal, is the perfect complement to Glickenhaus’s multi-instrumental leadership, Kaplan’s rhythmic brilliance and Ostrom’s jazzy influences.

Jackstraw’s unique brand of “dancegrass” has been delighting audiences in Portland for years. They’ve been gaining national exposure on the music festival circuit at festivals as far East as Massachusetts’s Berkshire Music Festival and as classic as the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California. Jon Neufeld (guitar), Jesse Withers (bass), Darrin Craig (guitar) and David Pugh (mandolin) are bright, young musicians, poised to expose bluegrass music to a new generation while remaining true to the traditional elements.

Sam Hill features Peter Schwimmer (banjo), Doug Sammons (guitar), Jeff Smith (mandolin), Pat Kramer (fiddle) and Dee Ann Davidshofer (string bass). Having played together since 1994, these musicians share a passion for quality, high-intensity bluegrass and a respect for the traditions of bluegrass music.

McMenamins Crystal Ballroom is quite possibly Portland’s premier music venue and should suit the Portland Bluegrass Festival perfectly. The world-famous “floating” dance floor practically dances for guests. If you haven’t experienced dancing on this unique feat of engineering, then it’s time you did.

Friday, January 4th, Sam Hill kicks things off at 9:00pm. Tickets are $10, and all ages are welcome. Tickets are available through JamBase Tickets, at the Crystal Ballroom box office, and at Ticketmaster locations. You can also register to win tickets at JamBase Contests.

More information about the Portland Bluegrass Festival and the individual bands is available at the festival’s website.

Adam Kaye
JamBase | Portland
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