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scene

Wyoming Bluegrass Earns Agrooval

| Wednesday, August 27, 2014

web_graphics_wyoming bluegrass_8-28-2014Samantha Coughlin

I spent the summer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on white water more than wifi and spotting animals instead of Spotifying. It was an amazing experience to be fully invested in whatever was going on around me all the time, however my music street creds were being stifled under my newly-discovered trail creds. I enlisted a hip friend of mine to assemble me a playlist to keep me updated on new tracks. The playlist broadened my limited music selection and refreshed the stale music I had been listening to since arriving in the wilderness; however, it did not allow me to revel in the delight of discovering new music on my own.

I missed the sense of intimacy created when you discover a new song and the only thing on your mind, the only influence on your mood, in that moment is the music. Your only opinions on the artist are your own, the air clear of other’s approvals and criticisms.Although this way of connecting with artists is estimable, I employed an even more intrinsic way of finding new music this summer. I decided to take advantage of the environment and culture I was immersed in for the summer. Placing a focus on local, live music, I went to free outdoor concerts on the weekends, frequented places with local bands for entertainment and even attended a bluegrass music festival.

My adventure started with a free, outdoor concert featuring The Infamous Stringdusters, an acoustic bluegrass band a few of the girls I was working with at Triangle X Ranch in Grand Teton National Park were fans of. Skeptical of what a bluegrass concert would entail, I tagged along and was pleasantly surprised. The band had a definitive groove aspect I never would have associated with bluegrass. I spent the night busting a move – sometimes turning to the robot for a shock factor in the sea of “hippie dancing” or inventing new moves with my roommate to showcase our crump. Needless to say, by the end of the night, we had a sizable fan base.

Dance was an essential addition to the music out west and it definitely added to the experience. Normally, listening to an artist for the first time entails sitting in bed with headphones on, perhaps casually snacking on the stale Cheetos in the bag that has been on your table for a week. Imagine swing-dancing while hearing a band for the first time – the initial listen enhanced with endorphins and energy.

In the beginning of August some of my coworkers and I took a trip to Idaho to attend the Targhee Bluegrass Festival. It was quite a different experience than most crop-top, flower-crown-infested music festivals. There was a focus on the outdoor culture: Chacos, locally-crafted trucker hats and Patagonia paraphernalia ran rampant. There were trailheads all around the resort where the festival was held, open for hikes during set-breaks. Since there was only one stage, people strung hammocks between trees in the back. The standout sets we saw included the Sam Bush band and Leftover Salmon. One of my friends brought a large stuffed-animal trout to hold up and dance with at Salmon’s set, reasserting our status as fan-favorite.

However fun these concerts were, not all the music I saw live was exuberant and groovy. My roommate and I decided to return to the venue where we saw The Infamous Stringdusters for what was promised via an online blurb to be an “explosive performance.” Upon arrival we were met with lots of middle-aged people and an empty dance floor. We ran to the general store to grab a 5-Hour Energy; however not even the syrupy, burning concoction could liven it up.

That experience aside, what I thought would be a summer of training my ears to close at the first note of songs like, “Drunk on a Plane” or “Moonshine in the Trunk,” turned into an ear-opening practice.

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

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  • Connor Walsh

    It’s great to hear other students exploring new genres of music–the music scene on campus can feel pretty “same-y” at times, with such a monolithic emphasis on pop and indie artists. People think “bluegrass” and tend to picture the famous Dueling Banjos scene from Deliverance–outdated hillbilly music. In truth, bluegrass has a ton going on musically right now, with musicians at the top of their game writing exciting, original material and performing it live all over the country. It’s fun, energizing, distinctively American music. Not to mention, as a musician, the level of technical proficiency on display by skilled bluegrass artists is staggering.

    On a related note, if anyone is interested in exploring the playing side of bluegrass, folk, or old-time music with other student musicians, I am beginning to organize a jamming group. There’s no pressure to perform or compete with each other, just learn and enjoy the music. Violin/fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, bass, etc are all welcome. Contact me on Facebook if you’re interested.