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Iowa City hosts first December Brewgrass Festival

BY CARLY HURWITZ | DECEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend, the Brewgrass Festival featuring four Midwestern bluegrass bands and beer tasting will come to the Yacht Club honoring a new brew and great music.

In the spirit of the holiday season, proceeds from the concert will go to the Food Bank.

The Evergreen Grass Band, Slewgrass, St. Anyway, and Burlington Street Bluegrass Band will kick off the festival at 7 p.m. Friday at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn. Admission is $7.

"We decided to create a Brewgrass Festival built around the release of a somewhat, at least in Iowa, new beer Snow Day and beer tasting with four great bluegrass bands," said Scott Kading, the owner and talent buyer for the Yacht Club and Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St.

He said that last year's "Novembeard Bluegrass Festival" celebrating No Shave November was such a big hit that he and his staff decided to do something similar, but celebrating in the month of December.

Traditionally, bluegrass musicians play songs with simple chord progressions on acoustic instruments. This festival will feature progressive bluegrass musicians who have expanded on those traditions, creating innovative and original sounds.

The five-man group from Eau Claire, Wis., the Evergreen Grass Band, will return to Iowa City to play fast bluegrass/punk-rock. Some of its musical influences include Slit Lip Rayfield, Smashing Pumpkins, and Metallica.

"There are lots of different styles of bluegrass, and we play a very nontraditional style," said Tim Litscher, the guitarist and vocalist of the band. "There are a lot of punk-rock elements in our music that make it a little bit different."

The members of the group play guitar, acoustic bass, mandolin, banjo, and harmonica. Litscher said the group plays covers and original songs and produces a multidimensional show, mixing covers of songs with improvised solos and various harmonial structures.

"We don't limit our songwriting to any one area; we talk about life and the things we find interesting, and beautiful, and fun," Litscher said.

This fall, the group toured the Midwest, making stops in Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, and Colorado, among other places. The band is working on its second album, hoping for a release by the end of the year.

"[Concert-goers] should wear their drinking and dancing shoes — we play some fast bluegrass," Litscher said.

The stompgrass/Americana band members of St. Anyway also have a nontraditional bluegrass flair in their music.

The group will perform its first show in Iowa City; it has a high-energy, raucous background, inspired by such bands as the Replacements, Trampled by Turtles, Bruce Springsteen, and Steve Earle.

St. Anyway released its most recent album, Here On The Ground, on Thanksgiving, and the group has toured since, driving "Emmylou," the musicians' cherished brown GMC Safari van. They will make their last stop in Iowa City before going home to Minneapolis.

The Brewgrass Festival combines two of the most beloved pastimes of our generation, drinking beer and listening to live music that will shake up the soul.

"It's a chance to hear some of the best local bluegrass Iowa City has to offer, [and it is] a chance to taste the newest craft beers offered from New Belgium," Kading said.


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