The recent explosion of interest in bluegrass and American roots music has led to record numbers of fans attending the many bluegrass festivals, both old and new, across the country. This summer, the concept is turned on its head with the nationwide JamGrass tour, a traveling all-day festival that will bring this joyous music to fans all over the country.

This weekend the JamGrass tour makes its way to the Bay Area, at the Marin Center Lagoon Park this Saturday, August 24th. Presented by Mystery Machine Productions, this festival will feature David Grisman Quintet, Peter Rowan & Tony Rice, the John Cowan Band and Yonder Mountain String Band. The rare opportunity to see these stellar artists performing on the same bill makes this a very exciting tour for fans of both traditional bluegrass and contemporary roots music with a jamband twist.

Music begins at noon, and tickets are $27.50 in advance ($32.50 the day of the show). All ages are welcome, so bring your kids to the show! Tickets for kids 6-12 years old are only $12 and children five and under are FREE. Tickets are available through the Marin Center Box office and online via Ticketmaster. For more information on this weekend's JamGrass festival, visit Mystery Machine Productions online.

Here’s more on all of the great performers who will grace the JamGrass festival this Saturday. Think JamGrass will leave you pumped and wanting more great music? You’re probably right, so keep reading for details on a JamGrass post-show in San Rafael and a free performance on Sunday in San Francisco.

What is legendary mandolinist David Grisman best known for? It depends on who you ask. His 40-year career is a fascinating tale of exploration and discovery. Fans of traditional, old-time music probably know him best for his early reverence of and immersion in the style of the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. Grateful Dead fans love him for his mid-'70s collaboration with Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowan, John Kahn and Vassar Clements in Old & In the Way. Contemporary fans are very familiar with his own style of “dawg” music, combining influences as diverse as bluegrass, jazz, Latin and folk. The David Grisman Quintet delivers consistently excellent performances with the gentle humor and wry observations that are a Grisman trademark. His headlining the JamGrass tour shows the respect and admiration accorded to Grisman from all corners of the acoustic music world.
David Grisman Quintet
Peter Rowan

photo by clay brasher
Peter Rowan began his musical career in the late 1950s. Bill Monroe hired him as a Blue Grass Boy in 1964, handling rhythm guitar and lead vocals. In 1967, he left Monroe’s band to join David Grisman’s band. During this time he developed his strong songwriting skills, eventually penning such well-known songs as "Midnight Moonlight," "Panama Red," "Land of the Navajo" and "Free Mexican Airforce," and was also a member of Old & In the Way. Known for his excellent picking and soaring tenor vocals that comfort you like an old friend, Rowan brings that "high lonesome sound" to a strong song repertoire. In recent years Rowan has toured solo or with differing casts playing traditional bluegrass, folk, and (most recently) his own unique style dubbed “Reggaebilly,” fusing reggae, bluegrass and rockabilly. Steeped in traditional bluegrass yet willing to step out into hybrids such as Reggaebilly, Rowan remains fresh and always keeps his audience guessing.
A maverick of the flat-picked acoustic guitar, Tony Rice was the first instrumentalist to seize upon the innovations of guitarists like Clarence White and Doc Watson and propel them into new flights of rhythmic, harmonic, and textural virtuosity. He’s at home playing everything from traditional folk to contemporary “spacegrass,” and his innovative flatpicking style has influenced many artists since he began his career in the early 1970s. Tony has redefined his instrument’s role in bluegrass and raised the bar for new generations of acoustic six-stringers, and the Tony Rice Unit still stands as one of the most innovative and experimental groups in acoustic music. Rice has collaborated with such disparate artists as David Grisman, J.D. Crowe, Norman Blake, his younger brother Wyatt Rice and, of course, Peter Rowan. Together these two world-class musicians promise to deliver more than the sum of their parts.
Tony Rice
John Cowan
A core member of the legendary band New Grass Revival, bassist John Cowan has since developed his own hybrid sound of bluegrass, rock and pop. His strong tenor voice is his signature, and he’s considered by his contemporaries as one of the most powerful vocalists in the genre. His second solo album, Always Take Me Back, is getting stellar reviews from publications across the country. Backed by a crack ensemble to match his vocal talents, Cowan has a high-energy approach that makes for a lively performance. Mixing song styles and grooves throughout his show, Cowan and his band deliver a sound that is instantly recognizable by roots music fans.
Rapidly rising in popularity, the Yonder Mountain String Band is gaining a strong following among younger fans who enjoy a mix of traditional sound with jamband sensibilities. One of the most impressive things about YMSB is its respect for traditional songs and songwriting. Most younger bands eschew the past in favor of creating their own all-new sound. YMSB has its own distinctive sound, to be sure, but writes songs that evoke the early days of folk and traditional acoustic music. This combination of youthful energy with respect for their elders is a rare commodity that will warm the hearts of bluegrass and NewGrass fans alike. This is one of those bands where you might hear something and exclaim, “How’d they do that?!?” As these young musicians continue to hone their chops, their performances will only get better.
Yonder Mountain String Band

If JamGrass leaves you wanting more great music, then check out the post-JamGrass show with monkeyGrass at New George's in San Rafael. With JamGrass wrapping up at about 6pm, the post-show will kick off at 7pm with local bluegrass stalwart David Thom, then monkeyGrass will hit the stage with their bluegrass funk fusion at 9:30pm. Tickets are only $5, so be sure to stop by after the festival. Then on Sunday, August 25th monkeyGrass will be performing a FREE show at the Rock Soup Cafe in San Francisco at 7pm, with Appalachian folk singer AJ Roach starting things off at 5pm.

monkeyGrass is very excited to make its official Northern California debut this weekend! This Los Angeles-based bluegrass band says “bluegrass” lightly because its music also includes flavors of funk, reggae, jazz, fusion and rock. The members are Dane Halter on mandolin, electric mandolin, and vocals; Paul Aziz on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals; Robby Loeb on banjo, electric banjo, and vocals; and Chip Fieberg on upright bass, electric bass guitar, and vocals.

See you this weekend for some fine roots music in the Bay!

John Waldman | Margaret Pitcher
JamBase JamGrass Correspondents
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