Arts and Entertainment

Chillin’ on the bluegrass at Battle Point Park

Old time legacy survives at the third Bainbridge Bluegrass festival, July 26.

Even with the fully-equipped playground, roller hockey rink and the largest public access telescope in the Northwest located there, chillin’ on the grass at Bainbridge Island’s Battle Point Park never sounded so cool.

Chillin’ on the bluegrass that is.

This weekend, eight different bluegrass and old time bands will be taking up residence at the park for the island’s third annual Bluegrass Festival and Family Fun Fair, all day long, starting at noon July 26.

In addition to all the old timey goodness on stage and in the audience, there will also be pervasive impromptu jam sessions and activities for kids throughout the day. The community festival-like setting has proven an apt surrounding for the old time music.

“Old time music is a social / party music, that’s the traditional setting that it evolved in,” said Joe Fulton, fiddler with The Tall Boys old time string band out of Seattle. “People would gather and make music together and dance. It still works today.”

The Tall Boys are returning for their second appearance at the Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival at the request of organizer Norm Johnson. With a very natural sound, set up and history, the band is exemplary of old time music’s charm.

“It’s music that has never really gone away,” Fulton added. “There’s got to be a reason for that and it’s the same thing that makes it attractive. It just feels good and it doesn’t need a lot of amps and wires and stuff.”

Old Time Music, the tradition which bluegrass grew out of, is arguably one of the purest American musical genres out there. It’s been passed on organically for generations through multiple reemergence. The Pacific Northwest is in the midst of another surge, but it still remains outside of the mainstream, which, Fulton noted, is probably another part of its allure.

“Old Time Music really draws some diverse individuals, but one thing they often have in common is a sort of Do-It-Yourself sensibility,” Tall Boys guitarist Charmaine Slaven said. “When we started playing Old Time, I often felt like we were the youngest folks playing, but in the last couple of years I’m meeting hordes of kids five to 10 years younger than myself who are playing, and are totally enthusiastic for the music.”

The legacy continues with events like these, which keep the old timers’ feet tappin’ while introducing young’uns to the long-standing tradition.

The third annual Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival and Family Fun Fair will be from noon to 8 p.m. July 26, featuring bluegrass and old time bands from Portland to Port Angeles and as far away as Salt Lake City gathering at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. Tickets are $7 per person, $15 for a family. For more info on the line-up, directions and more, go to www.bainbridge or call Norm at (206) 842-5485.

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