We stroll into a plain, room about fifty feet long and thirty feet deep with a small stage along the wall along the length of the room, a lot of small, round wooden tables, each with four chairs nearly bumping the ones from the next tables. There is a slightly raised platform along the rear of the room with five booths along the rear wall and long shelf lined with additional seats. A small bar takes up the rear corner of the room. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Since its founding in 1976, this out of the way room, centrally located in the heart of bluegrass country has been home to hundreds of bands and has hosted the royalty of bluegrass music. Down home’s menu offers a variety of snacks and light platters of Mexican food, sells beer and soft drinks, and makes it clear that once the music starts service stops and the real purpose of this site, listening to great music, comes first. Their web site says it all, “The primary emphasis is on quality music, and the performance atmosphere promotes listening rather than socializing. There is plenty of time for friendly conversation before the show and between sets. With an excellent sound system hung from the ceiling, the club is a favorite of performers as well as listeners.”
Grasstowne was formed around the first of the year when three musicians, two of whom had been friends since childhood, left established bands to form a group which they hoped would allow them each to express their own particular musical tastes and needs. They took a substantial risk. Grasstowne’s formation has created a lot of buzz among bluegrass fans, in the genre’s two glossy magazines, and in the on-line community. Steve Gulley, formerly lead singer and rhythm guitarist came from the
Slowly the band members arrive as the room begins to fill. Jason and Jamie arrive first. Phil, Steve, and Alan soon come in and stop to chat with Lowell, who has designed first rate web sites for the band, Phil, and Steve. He will soon be adding one for Alan. A long haul trucker by trade, Lowell has been in and around bluegrass music for years, publishing an e-zine and building his skills as a web designer. Alisa, a nurse in her day job, is a fine photographer and offers pictures of bluegrass musicians on her web site Pickin’ Shots.
Irene and I had seen Grasstowne’s first festival performance at
Hearing Grasstowne in Down Home is more like attending an intimate gathering of friends who wish to share in the success of a band that promises to be a big hit than attending an appearance in a local pub. The room is filled with friends, relatives, and fellow musicians who know the players and the music. Their response is knowledgeable and appreciative. As the second set winds down, Steve does several of his eerily on target impressions and the crowd yelps with pleasure and recognition. After finishing their second set with a lightening fast instrumental featuring Jason Davis, the group receives a standing ovation. Steve and Alan return to the stage to play “Patchin’ it Up,” a gospel song Steve wrote several years ago and has re-recorded, and the evening is over.
The debut of Jamie Booher with Grasstowne has been a great success. As we return to