Bluegrass festival offers a banjo pickin', fiddle-playing good time
The Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza will be filled with the "high lonesome sound" of bluegrass music this weekend at the Prescott Bluegrass Festival.
Now in its 30th year, the festival is headlined by Blue Highway, a Grammy and Dove Award-nominated group from Tennessee.
Prescott Bluegrass Association's vice president Bill Blackburn said the festival would appeal to those who love music - regardless of the genre.
"Bluegrass is a different kind of music. It's a fun music," he said. "You don't really have to like it to get into the swing of it. The music is fun."
Blue Highway is one of the most popular outfits in the contemporary bluegrass scene. These musicians have been nominated for two Grammy Awards (for 2003's "Wondrous Love" and 2005's "Marbletown") and have won several International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Members of the group have worked with such bluegrass and country luminaries as Allison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs in the past.
Joining Blue Highway will be New Mexico family group Triple L Band, Arizona's own Thomas Porter and the Copper River Blues Band, Lonesome Otis from Southern California, Tucson's Titan Valley Warheads and locals Just 4 Mama.
The Triple L Band consists of the three Miller brothers, Landon, Lance and Levi, (hence the "Triple L" moniker), their father Len and mother Amy.
In addition to her duties as stand-up bass player, Amy also serves as the band's promoter and booking agent. She said the band was picked to play at the festival after impressing at a show in Tucumcari, N.M.
"We're excited about it. We're going down the side of California, so we'll stop on by on the way through," she said.
The Triple L Band performers, making their first Arizona appearance, just finished a gig on board an Alaskan cruise, where they enjoyed the scenery and played several times a day.
The band began performing about 11 years ago when the three boys ranged in age from 7 to 11. At that time, no one in the family played music.
"It was mostly the kids - we just started playing for fun - so we could get in free to bluegrass festivals," Amy said.
The Prescott Bluegrass Festival was started by the Prescott Chamber of Commerce. After humble beginnings as a fiddling contest, it gradually expanded and moved from Watson Lake Park to the courthouse plaza and is now a free show. It is now run by volunteers.
Unfortunately, though the crowds have expanded exponentially over time - Blackburn said he expected around 4,000 people for the festival this year - the cost of putting it on has also increased, with the need for better sound equipment and higher-profile bands, leaving the association struggling to make ends meet.
"Hopefully we'll be able to put it on next year," Blackburn said.
The festival's opening ceremonies take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Groups perform throughout the day and Blue Highway caps off the show with a performance at 7 p.m. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
In addition to the music on the plaza, Blue Highways' Tim Stafford and Rob Ickes will conduct workshops at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hassayampa Inn. For more information on the workshops, email John Diamond at email@example.com.
Along with main stage music and food and drink booths that will have funnel cakes, shaved ice, corn dogs, kettle corn and similar fair food, you can expect to see and hear lots of bluegrass jamming going on around the courthouse plaza. There will also be a raffle for a mandolin, a guitar, a weekend stay with golf and dinner at a local hotel and other goodies.
For more information on the festival, visit www.prescottbluegrassfestival.com.