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Evergreen Grass Band seeks non-traditional bluegrass

BY NINA EARNEST | JULY 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Matt Jagow plucks the banjo. Steve Bateman plays the harmonica. Caleb Horne — the mandolin.

Yet the members of the Wisconsin-based Evergreen Grass Band, including Tim Listcher and Dan Turner, refuse to define themselves as a bluegrass band.

“We do play some bluegrass songs in our repertorie, but most of the time the only thing that’s bluegrass about us is instrumentation,” Jagow said. “I think we’re most similar most of the time to a rock band or a punk rock band.”

The Evergreen Grass Gand will perform 9 p.m. Friday at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St. Admission is $6.

The band took shape as the Ultimate Frisbee Orchestra and later evolved into the Evergreen Grass Band with a new lineup and shift toward traditional bluegrass instruments in 2008.

Yet, Jagow said, the members struggle to explain their “anti-bluegrass” style.

“We get that question all the time, and it’s really hard to describe what we do,” he said. “We just play music — whatever strikes us as what we want to do at the time.”

Bass player Turner said audiences are taken aback by the music, whether it’s an original composition or cover of a “bluegrassified” pop song.

“They’re comforted seeing all those instruments on stage, but they kind of get surprised when we don’t do what they expect,” he said.

Songwriter and vocalist Listcher said he is certainly influenced by local and national bluegrass artists, but other genres, from classic rock to jazz, make their way into their music.

And lyrically, the members try to veer from traditional bluegrass, even though the band is “not singing about the gospel.”

“A lot of bluegrass is whiskey, women, and heartbreak. We do have certain amounts of songs staying within those constraints,” he said. “But maybe with a slightly harder edge.”


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