Bluegrass, Whatever That Is

Monday, July 29, 2013

Photo by Arnold Mejia
Is this rock's next great instrument?
By: Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Electric-guitar sales boomed in the 1960s, thanks to Clapton and Hendrix. In the 1980s, synthesizers were popular enough to blow up the likes of A-ha and A Flock of Seagulls. Beck upped the status of two turntables and a microphone, and everyone knows that a band's drummer gets all the ass.

The instruments of the moment are banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Thanks to groups like Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men and Trampled by Turtles, these twang-tastic stringed instruments are no longer just for Appalachian jam sessions. Somewhere, Woody Guthrie is smiling. But what other instruments are poised to make the leap from supporting act to headliner?

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Dustbowl Revival
  • The Dustbowl Revival
Combining elements of New Orleans jazz and Appalachian bluegrass, Venice-based band The Dustbowl Revival seems to come out of another era. But the band competently and inspiringly brings vitality to genres decades older than its members.

Made up at times of anywhere from five to 15 members, the acoustic collective was put together by Zach Lupetin, who spoke to us about the act. Its name comes from Lupetin's move to L.A. from Michigan five years ago in search of prosperity. "It's this idea that you come to California to make something of yourself, where it's like this promised land," he says.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lead singer Dave Simonett - MOLLY BERGEN
  • Molly Bergen
  • Lead singer Dave Simonett
Trampled by Turtles

The Fonda Theatre


Better than ... your daddy's bluegrass band.

We've seen some weird things in our time, everything from artist meltdowns to near riots and young punks playing their instruments with their private parts. But never did we imagine a mosh pit at a bluegrass show. That's right. A full blown mosh pit that rode the the steely edge between a dance party and a fight broke out in the middle of Trampled by Turtles' set last night. Possibly the only time folks have moshed to a band that has no drummer. Surrounded by cowboy hats and non-ironic trucker caps, some fans found the siren call of the fiddle and the mandolin too damn powerful to ignore and were sucked into a vortex of sweat and enthusiastic jumping and shoving.

Straight out of the frozen streets of Duluth, Minnesota, Trampled by Turtles didn't seem surprised by the organic outpouring of violent joy on the dance floor. All five members had been in punk bands before ditching the amplifiers for wooden instruments that are far easier to carry. The result?

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ed Helms performing at the 2011 LA Bluegrass Situation - LINCOLN ANDREW DEFER
  • Lincoln Andrew DeFer
  • Ed Helms performing at the 2011 LA Bluegrass Situation
This year's incarnation of the L.A. Bluegrass Situation features comedians Steve Martin, Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. But they're not telling jokes -- they're doing some serious picking.

The annual event has been a hot ticket since it began in 2010; this year it goes from May 3-6 at Largo, concluding with a Sunday night show at Coldwater Canyon Park. You can also expect some special guests: Will Farrell, Will Arnett and Vince Gill have dropped by in the past.

We spoke with Ed Helms, from The Office and The Hangover. An accomplished banjo and guitar player, the Georgia native can impressively deliver an old-timey country tune. He founded the L.A. Bluegrass Situation, and on May 4 will be hosting his variety show called The Whiskey Sour Radio Hour.

How you did become a fan of bluegrass music?

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