Bluegrass festival at Alex's

A li'l bluegrass has been added to the bill at Alex's Plaza Restaurant in Ashland.

The popular music venue will host its first-ever bluegrass festival at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at Alex's, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. Cover for the festival is $5 per night.

Friday's lineup includes Hamfist and the Flat Five String Band, while Saturday features Siskiyou Summit and Eight Dollar Mountain.

While all the bands participating in this weekend's festival use traditional bluegrass instrumentation, not all are true to the American roots-music form.

"I use the word 'bluegrass' because from a very layman point of view, there's a banjo; there's a violin; there's a guitar," says Charles Tobey, owner of Alex's.

Hamfist is composed of Jesse Baldwin (banjo), Stephany Smith-Pearson (mandolin), Ezra Severin (ukulele), James F. Dean (mandolin), Jon Bates (guitar), Sequoia Pearson (guitar) and Joe Porto (bass). While the band tends toward Americana, its sets don't exclude bluegrass.

Likewise, the Flat Five String Band features the instrumentation of a bluegrass band, but actually plays gypsy jazz and acoustic swing (the band will, however, be throwing a few bluegrass teasers into the mix Friday night). The band is Michael Hodgin on archtop guitar, Bryan Miller on acoustic guitar, Bryon Harris on standup bass and Linda Powers on violin.

On Saturday, Siskiyou Summit opens with a more progressive bluegrass set, featuring both older standards and more contemporary songs by U2, Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones.

"It sounds more bluegrass than it does rock 'n' roll," says dobro player Bob Evoniuk.

Besides Evoniuk, Siskiyou Summit includes Crystal Reeves on fiddle, Jeff Jones on mandolin, Rick Nelson on banjo, Sam Cuenca on bass and Glenn Freese on guitar.

Eight Dollar Mountain remains tethered to the traditional bluegrass style. The high-energy group is made up of Peter Koelsch on upright bass, Stu Green on banjo, Phil Johnson on mandolin, Mark Lackey on dobro and Darren Campbell on guitar. While covers by The Stanley Brothers, Earl Scruggs and Jimmy Martin are part of the band's repertoire, they prefer to play their original bluegrass tunes.

Call 541-482-8818 for details.

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