Thursday, April 25, 2019

WinterWonderGrass 2019 Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California

Concert Photos Magazine had the distinct pleasure of attending this year's WinterWonderGrass Festival, held March 29-31 at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, California.

What is WinterWonderGrass Festival you might ask? Well, 658 inches of snow fell on Squaw Valley this year (that's almost 55 feet!), so it's not about grass growing, but rather the kind of grass that grows on mandolins, banjos and dobros.  It's a bluegrass/newgrass festival on steroids.  What's unique about this festival is that it is held when winter still has a grip on 3 different locations:  Squaw Valley, CA; Steamboat Springs, CO; and Stratton, VT.  Why would fans and musicians want to attend a music festival where the temps drop into the low 30s (or worse) when the sun goes down, and sometimes have to battle the elements when the weather gods aren't smiling on the festival?  Good question, read on.

WinterWonderGrass (WWG) is definitely unique.  It draws some of the finest musicians from the bluegrass/newgrass/Americana scene, performing bundled up in winter clothes and sporting huge smiles on their faces.  The faces on the audience match the musicians.  WWG isn't a festival, it's a state of mind, where the weather just adds to the magic.

WWG is the brainchild of founder Scott Stoughton (pictured above and below, getting his moment in the lovelight with Leftover Salmon).  Scott has taken his already well-honed festival promoting talents to a new level, with the mission of creating a vehicle to fuse an interpersonal relationship between "nature, authentic music, and communal family - and beer."  Everyone would agree that he has succeeded.  
There's just something extra special about dealing with the challenging elements of nature while having a blowout great time.  It brings out a fearless audience that basks in whatever nature has to offer, whether it's a sunny tee shirt afternoon where noses need sunblock, or in the case of 2018, word on the street was that the sleet was so bad, it was like God was spitting out kidney stones.  Challenging indeed for everyone, especially the staff, who year after year deliver an excellent experience for everyone, judging by how many fans weren't WWG virgins.  The experience is addictive.

The Lineup

WWG always attracts top notch performers, and this year's lineup did not disappoint.  Headliners Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon (LS and Scott Stoughton go way back), Greensky Bluegrass, Billy Strings, ALO, Trampled by Turtles, Deadwinter Carpenters, Jeff Austin Band, The Travelin' McCourys, Fruition, and Lindsay Lou all took their craft to the outer limits.  Maybe the cold makes their hands shiver, which leads to some of the meanest picking around, but fans were treated to some really stellar performances by all the bands, including the 3 additional stages, which were ever so slightly warmer than the main stage, especially because they were packed.

Andy Thorn and Friends, Driftwood, Vince and Silas Herman, Pickin on the Dead, Daniel Rodriguez and Friends are some of the names  filling the space in between main acts, but each of them could easily hold down a time slot on the main stage.

Billy Strings commented during his performance that "You can't get better than perfection, but this festival has!"  When the last note was played, the vibe was so high - somewhere in between being completely satisfied and wishing it would never end.  The happy crowd was definitely going to miss the beer, the incredible music, the community, and strangely enough - the weather.

Writing By: Leslie Pitts
Photos By: Joseph F. Carney III

1 comment:

Doug Siegel said...

Damn Joe, I was there too. I wasn't shooting bc I was with my kiddo. I was there skiing Squaw.

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