Tuesday, July 7, 2015

All things bluegrass in Lincoln

Bluegrass music is the best. The musicianship is brilliant—mandolins, violins, maybe a washboard or two. The musicians are interesting—so many beautiful plaid shirts. And the crowds are some of the best people watching you’ll find—except maybe at Jazz in June.

Thankfully, Lincoln seems to have a thriving bluegrass scene, as long as you know where to find it. A recent Thursday evening drew the Elephant Revival to the Bourbon Theatre. This group from Nederland, Colorado, describes their music as a blend of gypsy, Celtic, Americana and folk. Or, to my uneducated ears, bluegrass. Either way, it was beautiful. 

Elephant Revival, otherwise known as a bluegrass band whose mission revolves around saving pachyderms. Or something.

There’s no easily Google-able way to find bluegrass shows in Lincoln. It helps to have a friend who is plugged into the scene; mine is a Nebraska native who keeps me up to date on the latest happenings. The next show on his list, by the way, is Split Lip Rayfield July 17 at the Bourbon. I’d definitely keep an eye on the Bourbon’s show schedule; they host all kinds of music but tend to get a bluegrass band headlining every month or so.

I cornered my Great Uncle Steve, a bluegrass aficionado and musician, to ask his recommendation for a great Lincoln bluegrass band. His reply: The Toasted Ponies. (As a horse-lover, I’m a little averse to their name. I guess great bluegrass is great bluegrass, even if it alludes to incensed equines.

Nebraska also hosts its own bluegrass festival each spring in North Platte. It’s a bit of a drive from Lincoln, but if all you want is 4-5 days of pure bluegrass, than it’s probably worth it. I haven’t been, but I’m adding it to next year’s bucket list.

And if you’re feeling really inspired after one of these shows, Lincoln’s got a few opportunities to learn how to play bluegrass. One option is to learn from a great himself. Steve Hanson (of the above-mentioned Toasted Ponies) teaches guitar, banjo and mandolin. Find more information on his website.

Southeast Community College also offers an adult education class on bluegrass-style guitar. Their upcoming session starts July 14 and information is available here

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