Being in a band is labor of love. The money’s not always steady, the hours are long and the real work of it can often be thankless. The hard truth is sometimes life on the road isn’t all good times and great oldies.
“We have a motto: Adversity welcome,” says One Grass Two Grass fiddler Anthony Dente. “Things are going to go wrong and it’s just a matter of how to deal with them.”
On their way home from a tour of Colorado and on a tight deadline to record their sophomore album, “Horizon,” the band’s van broke down somewhere outside of Salt Lake City.
“We were watching the clock tick by, but we fixed it just in the knick of time able to bomb it back, get some sleep and head into the studio the next day,” says Dente. “Obviously it wasn’t ideal, but there was a particular energy in the recording of that album.”
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Once they hit the studio at Tiny Telephone in Oakland, it didn’t take long for producer Nat Keefe to pick up on the group’s quirky, freewheeling, positively idiosyncratic dynamism, which had been exposed to its authentic roots by the joys and trials of the road.
“An artistic pursuit with five other adults comes with all the beautiful moments and difficult negotiations that anyone could imagine,” says Dente. “It always feels like someone is sacrificing something in their life to make music on the road. It’s not easy. We wrestle as musicians and artists to hold onto elements we care deeply about and bring that to the music, but that’s when the magic happens. The blend of everyone’s strengths creates things that we didn’t know were possible and that we didn’t even know we were going for.”
The resulting album delivers a spontaneous, heartfelt mix of newgrass, ethereal acoustic funk and old-time traditional bluegrass girded by the complementary talents of each band member who contribute equally to writing, singing and other musical duties.
“I think through that album we were are able to create a dynamic range of rhythms for the *crowd to move their knees to,” says Dente. “I appreciate that we can give that experience every night.”
An Imaginative Band of Brothers
A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single note or, in this case, a single fish. The wonder of One Grass Two Grass was first sparked when Dente and Carson Hunter met at a farmers’ market in the Sonoma County mountain town of Occidental.
“I was selling lamb chops and he was selling Alaska salmon,” says Dente. “Suffice it to say, I cared far more about his banjo playing than his fish.”
They starting jamming together at Dente’s apartment in West Oakland and eventually entered a band competition at the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention where they came up with their whimsical name.
“It’s all about intention,” says Dente. “We do it because we love it. We do it because it makes us smile. The name hints toward that.”
The group’s lineup settled in once Hunter brought along Bodega Bay surf buddy and steady-handed soul Sam Trimboli on bass. When Bud Dillard joined on mandolin his melodic influence quickly came to shape the band’s sound. Hard-driving flatpick guitarist Riley Hill and Haight-Ashbury drummer Rhyne Erde of Jugtown Pirates fame joined over the past couple years magically thereby completing a colorful and tight-knit musical family with friends across the land.
“We’ve been on a slightly inclined trajectory for a really long time,” says Dente. “At one point we were really just figuring things out. The good thing about that is that you have so much room to grow. Every year the gigs are better, the festivals are better, the music feels better, the crowd response is better. It’s fun to have been doing something for so long and feel like the music is still improving. I still don’t know where it’s going to end up, but I can boldly say we haven’t plateaued in any way and I’m always exited to see what’s around the next corner.”
The only challenge now is for Dente to keep track of all six members.
“I’m like the parent that forgets one of the kids,” he says. “I love everybody in the band. I love hanging out with them. I love partying with them night and after night. The collaboration is strong. It’s a good timey place to be with others in the dance of life.” | crystalbaycasino.com