WinterWonderGrass. Going beyond bluegrass

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe is one of the area’s premier festivals. It has received so much traction that several event clips appeared in Warren Miller Entertainment’s most recent film: “Here, There and Everywhere.” This year’s stellar lineup has everyone abuzz.

Courtesy of WinterWonderGrass Tahoe

“This year the event adds a fourth stage and a new expo village that cultivates lifestyle brands. We host the festival at the bottom of two epic mountains [Squaw Valley and Steamboat Springs in Colorado],” says Jennifer Brazill, partner and organizer of the festival. “Most of the bands are acoustic and roots based. We find up-and-coming bands to introduce people to. We expose bands to new fans and fans to new bands — it’s a win-win. Scotty Stoughton is the lead on talent and Mike Welle manages our site operations and bar concessions.”

Stoughton, the festival’s founder, is a musician with a knack for gathering talented artists to perform, which is key in making the event successful. He understands how hard musicians work and seeks artists who are into a communal vibe, who enjoy hanging with and playing with other artists at a big event. Ego-driven musicians need not apply.

“We choose the kind of bands that keep playing if the power goes out and offer a positive message. It takes different ingredients to create a stew — who’s going to play together, who will find themselves on the tram.”  –Scotty Stoughton

Expect a variety of musical genres that stretches beyond the grass — this is not a strictly bluegrass gathering. Stoughton is passionate about booking artists who are genuine. There’s a yogic wisdom to his approach: intention, integrity, community and raising the collective vibratory flow through conversation.

“It’s about all of us contributing to a higher purpose,” he says. “It’s about the power of community. We choose the kind of bands that keep playing if the power goes out and offer a positive message. It takes different ingredients to create a stew — who’s going to play together, who will find themselves on the tram.” 

Environmental awareness, social consciousness and making a difference in the world are at the root of the festival’s mission. Stoughton’s creative community inspires everyone. 

Breaking the mold

Fruition is a band that has performed at most of the WinterWonderGrass festivals. Folk, rock, Americana, soul and blues, Fruition continually breaks the genre mold. Band member Kellen Asebroek remembers playing at the top mountain at Emigrant lift last year.

Fruition

“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime, insane experience,” says Asebroek. “We loaded whatever we could carry onto the gondola and ski patrol took us up on snowmobiles. I held my keyboard and guitar under one arm. I was dressed in a hoodie and cowboy boots and played on a Snowcat.” 

Asebroek is a solo artist and DJ, as well as one of the band’s songwriters and lead vocalists. 

“Many of the songs we write are about falling in love or watching love fall apart, what’s going in the world, aspects of the human condition and loving self,” he says. “We are storytellers, we tell stories.” 

Cosmic Americana

“We’re a grassroots, do-it-yourself band,” says Tyler Grant of Grant Farm, who describes the band’s music as “cosmic Americana.” According to Grant, their new album is a workingman’s album because it focuses on the struggles people face in their day-to-day lives, such as high rents, health care and bills. He is from a bluegrass background and a veteran of the festival.

Grant Farm

“We’ve evolved into rock ‘n’ roll. I’m a big bluegrass guy and love traditional bluegrass,” he says. 

Grant also coordinates the “Pickin’ on the Dead” shows at the festival and he speaks highly of the festival founder. 

“Scotty is a visionary. His ethos of positivity, gratitude and fun is WinterWonderGrass,” says Grant. 

Women artists are out in full force this year. Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange, Sarah Vos of Dead Horses, Allie Kral of Yonder Mountain String Band, Mimi Naja of Fruition and Jenni Charles of Dead Winter Carpenters are just a few who will bring a powerhouse of feminine energy. 

Late-night performances feature Infamous Stringdusters, Brad Parsons Band, Front Country, The Deer, Hot Buttered Rum, Dustbowl Revival, Lil’ Smokies and Everyone Orchestra.

One thing that stands out about the artists and organizers of WinterWonderGrass is how conscious, philosophical and passionate they all are. If this is any indication of what to expect, this festival will be a fun and expansive experience.

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe is from March 31 to April 2 at Squaw Valley, with daily beer tastings from 2 to 5 p.m.

For more information and a daily schedule, visit winterwondergrasstahoe.com.

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Priya Hutner

Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience.
Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle.
She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks.
| priya@tahoethisweek.com