Brewgrass! A Bluegrass and Microbrew Celebration, now in it’s 14th year, was originally the brainchild of Rockfish Grill and H2O owner Rick Star and his friend, Barry Brower.
Brower, a longtime resident of Anacortes, has been at the core of many fine bluegrass groups including The Friends of Sally Johnson, The Fossils and currently Pearly Blue. He is a bluegrass writer and historian and was a longtime emcee of KBCS Bluegrass Ramble.
Dreamed up over a couple of beers naturally, Brewgrass! brings top regional and national bluegrass talent to Skagit county every year and provides an opportunity to enjoy many fine locally brewed beers at the Rockfish, H2O and the Brown Lantern in downtown Anacortes: “3 Clubs, 6 Acts, 51 Handles” as we like to say. The event which happens every November is scheduled for Friday and Saturday November 3rd and 4th this year. Kicking off 7:30PM each evening at H2O, other start times are staggered so patrons can enjoy visiting all 3 venues during the course of an evening to hear all the groups.
Stay and Play for Brewgrass! at the nearby Cap Sante Inn
and Marina Inn
are offering discounts on lodging with an advance reservation. Call the Cap Sante at (360) 293-0602 or the Marina Inn at (360) 293-1100 and tell 'em you're coming to town for Brewgrass!
Here’s the 2017 line-up:
Brown Lantern – Banjo Andy 9:30PM
H2O – Birdsview Bluegrass 7:30PM
Rockfish Grill – Rain City Ramblers 8PM
Brown Lantern – Marcel and Nakos 9:30PM
H2O – Stilly River Band 7:30PM
Rockfish Grill – Pearly Blue 8PM
play a mix of traditional and contemporary Bluegrass. They are led by lifelong bluegrass man, Jeff Blanton, on guitar, mandolin and lead vocals. He’s joined by Thom Gustafson on banjo, dobro, acoustic guitar and vocals. Thom has performed throughout the United States recording with people like Johnny Russell, David Frizzell, the Drifters and the Coasters and currently teaches at the Northwest School of Guitar. Fiddle player Tommy Wesley has played with The Ridler Brothers and The Buckaroo Blues Band among others and chip sin on mandolin, guitar and vocals. Bassist and vocalist Don Scoggins has toured up and down the coast playing everything from country to classic rock before returning to his original Bluegrass roots.
- From his birth, Nakos was often around music and musicians thanks to his folksinger dad. He developed a vague interest his father's 4-string mountain dulcimer at a very young age, and by age 12 he had learned to play a few tunes. However, he was becoming bored with the simple instrument, and began to play less and less.
The next year, a family vacation to a lake in Idaho changed everything. On a beautiful lazy summer's day on the beach, for no good reason, Nakos placed a spoon on the lowest string of the dulcimer and discovered that it changed the note. He excitedly spent the rest of the day experimenting and practicing - despite his musical upbringing, Nakos had never learned what slide guitar was.
The spoon was quickly replaced with his father's flashlight, and soon after, a 5/8" deep socket wrench that was his tool of choice for far longer than it probably should have been. The slide technique fascinated Nakos. He started practicing every day and, after realizing slide was not exactly new, listening to every slide guitar recording he could find. After much practice and playing the blues, he tried playing "real" slide on a guitar, and never went back. A few months later he had his 15th birthday, and received a Gibson Hound Dog Deluxe Dobro that he still plays.
Since he received a Dobro, Nakos' intense musical curiosity has lead him to Blues, Bluegrass, Jazz, Irish Traditional, Country and more. Having also been a teenager, he's had brushes with Rock, Pop, and even Thrash Metal. Because of his versatility, he's ended up in many interesting performing situations.
- Marcel has roots tied to the Great Northwest through his family, the Carkeeks. The musicians in the family include a banjo playing great-great-grandfather and his son, a guitar player who toured the west coast during the Great Depression. Both of their family heirlooms, the1890's S. S. Stewart banjo and a 1930's Kalamazoo guitar, are now in his possession.
Despite his Americana heritage, Marcel began taking drum lessons at the age of eleven from jazz great, Mel Zelnick. Mel spent his life playing with great musicians such as Patti Page, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Les Brown, Ray Charles, Mel Torme, and Stan Getz. Marcel was one of the youngest students Mel ever taught and was therefore frequently showcased.
Marcel began experimenting with other instruments when his older brother left for college. His brother was known in the family as the "guitar player" but didn't want to take the family's heirloom Kalamazoo to school with him. Eventually Marcel picked up the guitar, and by the end of his older brothers first year in college, Marcel had surpassed him in skill. At age fourteen, Marcel's parents noticed the passion and raw talent in his skills, and bought him his first Martin guitar.
Marcel discovered his passion for bluegrass in 2011 and has since pursued the music intently. He leads Jackalope (formerly David's Drinking Band), hosts an exclusive bluegrass jam with some of the most talented bluegrass musicians in town, just finished recording a solo album titled Something Old, Something New and now gives private guitar lessons from his home as well as giving free lessons at Lessons With Marcel.
Hailing from Seattle, The Rain City Ramblers
are an exciting acoustic trio that draws upon the deep well of American roots music to practice their own original songwriting and arrangement. Featuring Forrest Marowitz (upright bass), Daniel Ullom (mandolin) and Jim Horbett (guitar), they can rip fiddle tunes, set down a groovy two-step, and render haunting versions of folk ballads.
Their minimalistic line-up and tight vocal arrangements can captivate people in living rooms, street corners, and on stages. In the short time they have been together, they have been featured at the Seattle Folklife Festival and at local venues like the Tractor Tavern and Conor Byrne Pub. They are currently working on their first full-length album, which is expected to be released in January 2017.
is a northwest group founded in 2004 that specializes in traditional bluegrass music. It’s members are veterans of many top Washington bluegrass bands. Performance credits are simply too many to name here.
Guitarist and Anacortes resident Barry Brower has been at the core of many fine groups in addition to The Fossils. He also formed the Friends of Sally Johnson in the 1980s. Barry is a bluegrass writer and historian, and was a longtime emcee of KBCS Bluegrass Ramble.
Jen Dunton is familiar to many Skagit Valley residents from her years of performing at the Rockfish Grill with the Dunton Sisters. She switches from guitar to bass in Pearly Blue but that sweet voice remains. The legendary Ralph Stanley said of her and sister Bev Dunton, "Those girls sure can sing!" She has performed with the likes of Tony Rice and Larry Rice and interviewed with major recording labels in Nashville.
Banjoist Rich Jones has been a fixture on the Northwest bluegrass scene since he was a teenager. He has played in a number of well-known bands including the Ohop Valley Boys; Within Tradition; and High and Lonesome. He has a strong, traditional approach to the banjo in the style of Earl Scruggs, plus he is an excellent lead and harmony singer. The son of a well-known Darrington musician, Earl Jones, Rich was raised with a strong background in North Carolina "Tarheel" bluegrass.
Mandolinist Pete Martin is a well-known Seattle multi-instrumentalist who plays a variety of different styles of music including bluegrass, jazz, and Texas contest fiddle. He was the Adult Fiddle Champion at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho. He is also a columnist for Mandolin Magazine and makes his living as a music teacher.
Fiddler Mike Schway understands the raw elements of bluegrass and patterns himself after some of the classic Flatt & Scruggs fiddlers from the 1950s. Mike brings a lot of that "oldtime" feel and danceability to his playing, plus having a huge repertoire of fiddle tunes that are just right for dance situations, or for audiences who like fiddle music.
What They're Saying:
"Best wishes and much success. Ya got a great band there!" -- Larry Kuhn, California Bluegrass Association
"You're the real deal!" -- Keith Bowers, Whidbey Island Bluegrass Festival
"Both lead & harmony vocals fueled by the pulsating sounds of these fine instrumentalists made you take notice of "Pearly Blue" from Washington State. I found myself singing along with many of these fine classics. Everything...was "spot on."
-- Al Shusterman, KCBL Radio, Backroads Bluegrass
Performing together for decades, The Stilly River Band
delivers an exciting range of music, from bluegrass to progressive folk, Latin, Irish, rock and rhythm 'n blues. Their bluegrass arrangement of Sam & Dave's soul classic, Hold On, I'm Comin' will put a smile on your face for the rest of the day.
Known by some as “the bad boys of bluegrass”, the Stillys play and eclectic mix of music from traditional bluegrass to other less conventional styles played in a bluegrass format that the band labels “rude grass.”
The band features John Amber-Oliver on lead vocals and guitar, Jonathon Schneider on tenor harmonies and banjo, Stuart Torgeson on dobro and accordion, John Daugherty on vocals and stand up bass, Steve Stolpe on vocals and mandolin and Mike Schway on fiddle.
The Stilly River Band delivers accomplished musicianship, excellent vocal harmony and an always entertaining and unpredictable show. Looking for a cross between Earl Scruggs and the Tempations? These are your guys!
"Banjo" Andy is a multi-instrumentalist musician and singer/songwriter who performs a unique style of mountain bluegrass music. Originally formed in the Rocky Mountains in 2009, the alias "Crazy Mountain Billies" was used by the musician in the studio while multi-track recording a full ensembles worth of instruments together to get the sound of a full string-band.
"Banjo" Andy has drifted up and down the Rockies writing songs about the mountain lifestyle over the years, and has now relocated to the Pacific Northwest in pursuit of new adventures. Currently the artist is on tour in support of the new "Journey Into The Backwoods" album.
"One-man lineup works for his brand of bluegrass... his songs overflow with real melodies on multiple instruments. His unique vocals are worthy of praise." -Big Western Flavor