Make no bones about it, Crow and the Canyon are headed south this month for their first official performance in the Tahoe Basin — tour dogs in tow. Fortunately for their canine companions, the Portland folk pickers will be playing at Squaw Valley’s 8th annual Peaks & Paws, a two-day, dog-friendly music, food, beer and wine festival to benefit the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe on June 17 and 18.
June 17 | 3-5 p.m. | Peaks & Paws Festival | Olympic Village
“It’s actually kind of funny because we are totally dog people,” says Austin Quattlebaum. “At any given rehearsal, dogs are sleeping in the basement or running around the yard. The band mates without dogs will ask us if it’s going to a two-dog tour. At least my dog has a purpose: he’s the security dog. If you come anywhere near the van, he barks his head off. The other dogs will lick your head.”
With the addition of Audra Nemir on upright bass, this up-and-coming band is beginning to run with the pack of the West Coast folk and bluegrass music scene. Nemir recently flew the kennel, as it were, for Portland after being hounded out by the ever-rising Bay Area cost of living.
“I knew I couldn’t stay there long term, so I decided to bite the bullet and move,” she says. “Now I’m playing more than I ever have before. Having chosen to focus on music leaves me with more time to write and work on other projects. I’ve really clicked with the band members and I’m having a blast.”
As far as her opinion of dogs in the tour van, Nemir maintains that it depends on the pooch.
“I love having my own dog in the bus, but he’s an older dog so he’s happy to just sit in laps for hours,” she says. “He’s so little and cute and outgoing that he makes friends everywhere we go. The more energetic the dog, the less fun it is to tour with it.”
Even if they can’t quite agree on the pedigree, the band features a fine balance with Leigh Jones’ vocals complementing Quattlebaum on banjo, Ben Larsen on mandolin and Jeremy Elliot on guitar.
“I think that bands can benefit from having some feminine energy in them to encourage some other creative forces,” says Quattlebaum. “Audra has been a good addition for us.”
Crow and the Canyon describe their sound as lyric-driven folkgrass.
“I think oftentimes we get put in the bluegrass category, but we’re definitely not your traditional Flatt and Scruggs,” says Quattlebaum. “A lot like the new acoustic music that’s out and about on the scene nowadays, we lean more towards a lyrical focus than a jamgrass band per say, but we do have those tendencies at a late-night live show.”
The band is currently is the process of planning a followup to their 2015 debut “Leaving Soon.”
“We’ve got a lot of new songs since that album came out, so it’s just a matter of timing right now,” says Quattlebaum. “I think we’ll be hunkering down sometime next winter.”
Quattlebaum honed his love of roots music while growing up around music festivals at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla., with his family. He began playing banjo during high school in Savanna, Georgia, before minoring in Appalachian folk music at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.
During an eight-year stint as an itinerant raft guide and van-touring musician, Quattlebaum was a member of California bluegrass staples such as Sam Chase & The Untraditional and Dead Winter Carpenters’ foremother, The Rusty Buckets. He was passing through Portland toward the end of that era when he connected with Larsen via mutual friend Allie Krall of Yonder Mountain String Band. The two had been collaborating at the time in Larsen’s now-defunct progressive bluegrass project, The Giraffe Dodgers.
“I met those folk singing and playing and the first time together we arranged a three-part vocal harmony,” he says. “I can’t speak for the whole band, but I’ve always enjoyed folk music because it’s such a family. You can go to a festival and there are bands sitting in with bands, people sitting in with people. You don’t go to rock fests like Coachella and see bands sitting in with each other like that. It’s all a big community.”
Luckily, that community also has plenty of room for the likes of Wigglebear, Sadie and Barack Obama: Crow and the Canyon’s official tour dogs. Until then, “Woof!” | crowandthecanyon.com
For more information on Peaks & Paws, read the Event calendar in this edition.
|SATURDAY Music Lineup|
|11 a.m.-1 p.m.||Angele and the Wildwood||First Street Stage|
|12-2 p.m.||Front Country||Main Stage|
|2-4 p.m.||Bison||First Street Stage|
|3-5 p.m.||Crow and the Canyon||Main Stage|
|SUNDAY Music Lineup|
|11 a.m.-1 p.m.||The Sierra Drifters||First Street Stage|
|12-2 p.m.||Dusty Green Bones||Main Stage|
|2-4 p.m.||Lost Whiskey Engine||First Street Stage|
|3-5 p.m.||Crow and the Canyon||Main Stage|