Yonder Mountain String Band
Review and Photos by Terry MayerThe summer of 2002 could easily be called the Valley of the Dead in tiny East Troy, Wisconsin. String Cheese Incident was the first to get the psychedelic colors and pot smoke swirling. Then the hugely popular Terrapin Station brought the summer of love at Alpine Valley to it's full glory. Rounding out the Dead summer was Jam Grass on Sunday, Aug. 18. Leftover Deadheads could still be spotted on the hills of Alpine. Did they ever leave? Better tell the sheriff to round-up his posse.
Dark Star Orchestra, which incidentally is not an orchestra, gave a small pre-show performance, but would then return seven hours later to finish the evening. The John Cowan Band, with front man John Cowan, had his powerful tenor voice and strong thumping bass, soulfully deliver "Four Days of Rain" as he set the pace for the rest of the day. Peter Rowan and Tony Rice teamed up to keep the day-long festival moving. The former colleagues of Jerry Garcia, Vasser Clements and Clarence White, the duo mixed old school with new as "Shady Grove" proved to be a crowd favorite for not only the set, but for the entire day. Yonder Mountain String Band took bluegrass to a new level of retro revival as they infused a stronger than normal groove. The quartet, including a banjo, stand-up bass, guitar and mandolin, are like the "headbangers" of Jam Grass and have huge potential.
The David Grisman Quintet, with bandleader David Grisman at the helm, entered with his wild gray hair that made him look like a mad scientist who first spots his reanimated wife in the nude. Grisman handled the mandolin with a style and grace and a profound and intimate knowledge of the instrument, while playing "Mellow Mang" from the recent Dawgnation. "Telluride" gave the fans a little old school bluegrass that proved to be a success and "Blues on the Beach" begged any rival to play it better.
As the tie-dyed backdrop turned to a neon glow, Sam Bush took the stage as the evening darkened. As a founder of the New Grass style of Revival, the fiddle/mandolin player mixed jazz, bluegrass and older hip-hop rock to form a musical style all his own. The electrically fuzzy "Puppies" started the set, then soon followed with the popular "Memphis" and "Old Joe Clark." Near the end the fans were treated to a newer bluegrass version of Prince's "1999" Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones. Three very different and very diverse styles of music that were melded together by the honesty of bluegrass.
The Dark Star Orchestra finished the evening up by covering the Grateful Dead 's extensive library of music, complete with mistakes and a jumbled set list. It was a good way to end the Dead Summer and with the recent surge of bluegrass popularity, thanks to "O' Brother Where Art Thou," the Jam Grass proved to be a success for all of it's loyal fans.
Peter Rowan and Tony Rice
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