Steamboat WonderGuide: The rundown on WinterWonderGrass bands |

Steamboat WonderGuide: The rundown on WinterWonderGrass bands

Photo by Hans Brunk

Railroad Earth

Sunday: 7:45 p.m., Main Stage (headliner)

In 2001, six musicians in western New Jersey were forming a bluegrass-jam band. Before the group ever played a gig, it got the news — it was booked to play at the renowned Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Since then, Railroad Earth has been playing shows across the country and has released seven albums. The group is known for its versatility and genre fusion.

Todd Sheaffer on lead vocals, acoustic guitars; Tim Carbone on violins, electric guitar, vocals; John Skehan on mandolin, bouzouki, piano and vocals; Andy Goessling on acoustic guitars, banjo, dobro, mandolin, lap steel, flute, pennywhistle, saxophones and vocals; Carey Harmon on drums, hand percussion and vocals; Andrew Altman on upright and electric bass

Leftover Salmon

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Friday: 8:15 p.m., Main Stage (headliner)

In 1989, a few members of the band Herman's Salmon Heads couldn't make a New Year's Eve gig in Crested Butte, so some of the Left Hand String Band showed up to round out the line-up. The rest is history. Leftover Salmon is known for being instrumental to the creation of jamgrass and for unpredictable live shows. The members have described their music as "polyethnic cajun slamgrass," and continue to adventure in musical directions, including rock, ska, jazz, blues and Afro-Caribbean calypso.

Vince Herman on guitar and vocals; Drew Emmitt on mandolin, guitar and fiddle; Greg Garrison on bass; Andy Thorn on banjo; Alwyn Robinson on drums; and Erik Deutsch on keyboard.

Elephant Revival

Saturday: Grass After Dark at Thunderhead Lodge

Sunday: 5:45 p.m., Main Stage (headliner)

This Nederland-based group plays a mystical and harmonious blend of gypsy, Celtic and folk music, combined with dance and social consciousness. Named for the story of three zoo elephants who were separated for 16 years, then died within months of each other, this quintet aims to inspire unity and respect for the Earth with its music.

Bonnie Paine on washboard, djembe, musical saw and stompbox; Bridget Law on fiddle and octave fiddle; Charlie Rose on banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello and double bass; Dango Rose on double bass, mandolin and banjo; and Daniel Rodriguez on guitar, banjo and double bass.

The Infamous Stringdusters

Saturday: 8:30 p.m., Main Stage (headliner)

Sunday: Grass After Dark at Thunderhead Lodge

Since 2007, when the band's roots began forming at Boston's Berklee College of Music, the Infamous Stringdusters have been combining bluegrass with country and folk. The group has collaborated with artists ranging from Bruce Hornsby to Lee Ann Womack to Ryan Adams.

The Grammy-nominated, International Bluegrass Music Association award-winning group has released eight albums, the latest being "Laws of Gravity" in January.

Andy Falco on guitar; Chris Pandolfi on banjo; Andy Hall on dobro; Jeremy Garrett on fiddle; and Travis Book on double bass.

Sam Bush Band

Saturday: 6:30 p.m., Main Stage

Sam Bush, a.k.a. The Father of Newgrass and the King of Telluride, has a way of playing the mandolin that's often described as jaw-dropping. He grew up on a farm in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and was exposed to music throughout childhood. His songs are a combination of grooving, picking, toe-tapping instrumental stretches and stories, many co-written with friends, ranging in topic from a ride on a Greyhound bus to experiences with cancer. Bush's nine albums and legendary influences have earned him an Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award.


Sam Bush, Chris Brown, Stephen Mougin, Todd Parks; and Scott Vestal.

Steep Canyon Rangers

Friday: 6:30 p.m., Main Stage

Saturday: Grass After Dark at The Chief Theater

This sextet describes itself as sounding like North Carolina, where the group is based. Through 15 years and nine albums together, the members play bluegrass dance parties as well as with full symphonies. The band has toured extensively with comedian and banjoist Steve Martin, and won Best Bluegrass Album Grammy in 2013 for "Nobody Knows You."

Graham Sharp on banjo; Nicky Sanders on fiddle; Mike Guggino on mandolin; Charles R. Humphrey III on upright bass; Woody Platt on acoustic guitar; Mike Ashworth on box kit and cajon; all members on vocals.


Friday: Grass After Dark at Thunderhead Lodge

Saturday: 4:30 p.m., Main Stage

This Portland-based group includes three singer-songwriters who emphasize three-part harmonies. Since releasing their debut EP in 2008, the quintet has appeared at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit and Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The band's four albums evolve from folksier bluegrass into more rock-indie-soul, with earnest, clear lyrics throughout.

Jay Cobb Anderson on vocals, lead guitar, harmonica; Kellen Asebroek on vocals, rhythm guitar, piano; Mimi Naja on vocals, mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar; Jeff Leonard on bass; and Tyler Thompson on drums and banjo.

The California Honeydrops

Saturday: Grass After Dark at Old Town Pub

Sunday: 4 p.m., Main Stage

From the streets of San Francisco to touring across three continents, the California Honeydrops play an energetic, inclusive party of funk, Southern soul, blues and R&B. The group has supported Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Throughout the group's five albums, the members preach peace, love and hugs.

Lech Wierzynski on lead vocals, trumpet and guitar; Ben Malament on drums, washboard and percussion; Johnny Bones on tenor saxophone and clarinet; Lorenzo Loera on keys and melodica; Beau Bradbury on bass and percussion.

Head for the Hills

Thursday: Western Welcome Pick at Gondola Square

Friday: Grass After Dark at The Chief Theater

Head for the Hills describes its music as multifarious post-bluegrass/indie rock/jazz/hip hop/world and folk. The sound has developed through three studio records and one live, and is complemented by the taste of the group's collaboration with Odell Brewing Company: a Colorado amber ale called "Head for the Hills."

Adam Kinghorn on guitar and vocals; Joe Lessard on violin and vocals; Matt Loewen on upright bass and vocals; and Sam Parks on mandolin.

The Lil' Smokies

Saturday: 6 p.m., Soap Box; 8 p.m., Soap Box; Grass After Dark at The Bear River

Sunday: 12 to 1 p.m., Rendezvous deck (ski-in, ski-out); 2:15 p.m., Main Stage

Bringing music everywhere from The Wilma in Missoula to inside a gondola car, the band is known for soulful lyrics and layers upon layers of danceable melodies. In 2013, the group won the Northwest String Summit Band Competition; in 2015, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition; and in 2016, the International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Award for Best Band.

Andy Dunnigan on dobro; Scott Parker on upright bass; Matt Cornette on banjo; Jake Simpson on fiddle; and Matt Rieger on guitar.

Brothers Comatose

Friday: 3 p.m., Main Stage; Grass After Dark at Schmiggity's

Saturday: 6 p.m., Pickin' Perch; 8 p.m., Pickin' Perch

This San Francisco-based string band is both energetic and easy listening, tinged with plucky, southwestern style. Frontmen and brothers Ben and Alex Morrison grew up listening to their mom's folk quartet rehearsing, then hosting music parties around campfires. In 2010, the band released its first record, "Songs from the Stoop," and in 2012, "Respect the Van." The third album, "City Painted Gold," released last year, is about gentrification of San Francisco. "What is San Francisco without its weirdos?" asks Ben Morrison.

Lead vocalists Ben Morrison on guitar, Alex Morrison on banjo; Gio Benedetti on bass; Philip Brezina on fiddle; and Ryan Avellone on mandolin.


Friday: 4:45 p.m., Main Stage

Saturday: 6 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 8 p.m., Jamboree Tent

Formed in 2006, Cabinet plays shows that are vibrant, inclusive and all about building community. Hailing from Pennsylvania, the septet emphasizes its Appalachian roots and its themes of family and home, working bluegrass, country, folk and psychedelia into a distinct and cohesive sound.

J.P. Biondo on mandolin and vocals; Mickey Coviello on guitar and vocals; Pappy Biondo on banjo and vocals; Dylan Skursky on bass; Todd Kopec on fiddle and vocals; Jami Novak on percussion; and Josh Karis on percussion.

Billy Strings

Friday: 6 p.m., Pickin' Perch; 7:45 p.m., Pickin' Perch; Grass After Dark at Old Town Pub

Billy Strings (real name: William Apostol) is only 24, but has crashed into the world of bluegrass with an authentic, age-old sound. The Nashville-based solo artist has also played with Del McCoury, David Grisman and Larry Keel, as well as Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon and Cabinet. Strings released his self-titled EP in June and won the IMBA 2016 Momentum Awards Instrumentalist of the Year.

Billy Strings on vocals, guitar, banjo and mandolin.

Grant Farm

Saturday: 3 p.m., Main Stage

Boulder's Grant Farm is based on love, family and music. Together since 2009, the band produces a high-energy and diverse set. The group released its third album of original music, "Kiss the Ground," last summer, and describes the album as a positive ode to people working and struggling in a difficult, expectant society. The group's members also created a live concert webcast, hosted by frontman Tyler Grant, called Meeting on the Mountain LIVE.

Tyler “The Champ” Grant on guitar and vocals; Adrian “Ace” Engfer on bass and vocals; Sean “Magic” Macaulay on drums and vocals; Kevin “Money” McHugh on keyboards and vocals.

Gipsy Moon

Thursday: Western Welcome Pick at Gondola Square

Friday: 6 p.m., Soap Box; 7:45 p.m., Soap Box

The Nederland-based five-piece folk band blends original pieces with old-world traditional music, including retro-slavic, Bohemian-pop, newgrass and jazz, in a genre they call Gipsygrass. The members describe their shows as part party, part performing arts.

Silas Herman on mandolin and octave mandolin; Mackenzie Page on guitar, tenor banjo and vocals; Andrew Conley on cello; Matt Cantor on bass, guitar and vocals; and Omar Al Tbal on percussion.

Dead Horses

Saturday: Grass After Dark at The Chief Theater

Sunday: 3:30 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 5:15 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 7:15 p.m., Jamboree Tent

Frontwoman Sarah Vos' preacher father raised her on Bible hymns; some of those sounds peek through into her folk music. The duo, based in Wisconsin, plays songs ranging from fun to tragic to pensive, everywhere from in ballrooms to festivals. Dead Horses released its latest album, "Cartoon Moon," in the fall.

Sarah Vos on vocals and guitar; Daniel Wolff on double bass and vocals.

Kitchen Dwellers

Saturday: Grass After Dark at Schmiggity's

Sunday: 3:30 p.m., Pickin' Perch; 5:15 p.m., Pickin' Perch

"Galaxy Grass" is the energetic, heart-pumping, danceable bluegrass the Kitchen Dwellers make. Formed at Montana State in 2010, the group has shared the stage with Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass and Head for the Hills across the country, and taken home awards such as the Zoo Music Awards and the Magpie Awards' "Best Local Band 2013."

Joe Funk on bass and vocals; Shawn Swain on mandolin and vocals; Max Davies on guitar and vocals; and Torrin Daniels on banjo and vocals.

Drunken Hearts

Friday: Grass After Dark at Schmiggity's

Combining electric and acoustic, and old-time country with electric guitar riffs, this alt-Americana five-piece tells stories in each song. The Colorado-based Drunken Hearts released "Love & Thirst" in May before appearing at Electric Forest, Vertex and other festivals.

Andrew McConathy on guitar and vocals; Cody Russell on pedal steel and banjo; Jon McCartan on electric bass; and Alex Johnson on drums.


Friday: 2 p.m., Pickin' Perch; 4:15 p.m., Pickin' Perch; Grass After Dark at The Bear River

Saturday: 12 to 1 p.m., Rendezvous deck (ski-in, ski-out)

This quintet defines Rapidgrass as "original mountain music influenced by an active, outdoor lifestyle," combining classical, gypsy, bluegrass, pop and swing into a style celebrating music and mountains. Out of Golden, the group includes a pro big mountain skier, a self-described former ski bum and a certified arborist. The group is currently working on its third album, Happy Trails, due to be released in June at the Rapidgrass Music Festival in Idaho Springs.

Coleman Smith on violin; Mark Morris on guitar; Alex Johnstone on mandolin; and Carl Meinecke on bass.

Old Salt Union

Saturday: 2 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 4 p.m., Jamboree Tent; Grass After Dark at Old Town Pub

This Illinois group is all high-energy, St. Louis-style string music, delving into the jazz and blues roots of bluegrass. Established in 2012, the group jumped right into playing 200 shows per year and releasing its debut album, "Western Skies," quickly followed by two more records. OSU has shared the stage with Sam Bush, the Jeff Austin Band and Leftover Salmon, and continues to move forward as a band.

Ryan Murphey on banjo; John Brighton on fiddle; Rob Kindle on guitar; Justin Wallace on mandolin; and Jesse Farrar on upright bass.

Old Town Pickers, led by Jay Roemer

(Local band to catch!)

Friday: Grass After Dark at The Chief Theater (as "Jay Roemer & Friends")

Saturday: 2 p.m., Pickin' Perch; 4 p.m., Pickin' Perch

This Steamboat Springs-based band plays a fun combination of Delta blues, Appalachian roots, Texas country, jam and bluegrass, or Rocky Mountain String Music across Steamboat Springs and Colorado. The group began playing in a Steamboat backyard in 2010. It hasn't been playing much under the name Old Town Pickers lately — more often, it's billed as Jay Roemer or Jay Roemer and Friends, with Roemer backed up by the rest of the Pickers. But with WinterWondergrass coming to Steamboat, these Steamboat locals are bringing the name back for a reunion show, joined by Dave Carroll of Trampled by Turtles.

Singer-songwriter and frontman Roemer released his all-original album, "Taking Names & Breaking Hearts," in October.

Denton Turner on bass and vocals; Jay Roemer on guitar and vocals; Eric Baker on mandolin and vocals; Dave Carroll on banjo.

WWG Allstars

Sunday: 3:30 p.m., Soap Box; 5:15 p.m., Soap Box; 7:15 p.m., Soap Box

The WWG All-Stars are not so much a band in the typical sense of the word than a semi-spontaneous, pop-up collection of festival artists. Curated and organized by festival founder Scotty Stoughton and headed up by Grant Farm's Tyler Grant, the bunch is otherwise members of the festival artist community brought together to explore and showcase different songs and styles in a fun and casual atmosphere. The combination is different at every festival and sometimes by the half-hour.

The reason this impromptu format works, according to festival partner and marketing and brand manager Jennifer Brazill, is that the bluegrass community is so close-knit to begin with. Over the years, many of the festival's musicians have played in past open-mic nights or full-fledged bands together, filled in for each other during a bout of flu, produced each other's records, borrowed each other's picks, taken a class together, carpooled to a festival, and become good friends.

Pickin' on the Dead

Friday: 6 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 7:45 p.m., Jamboree Tent; Grass After Dark at Old Town Pub

Saturday: Grass After Dark at Schmiggity's

Pickin' on the Dead is the same idea as WWG All-Stars, but this group plays only Grateful Dead music. Festival founder Scotty Stoughton curates the group and Grant Farm's Tyler Grant is the frontman; the rest of the lineup will remain a mystery until they take the stage.

Missed the Boat

(Local band to catch!)

Friday: 2 p.m., Jamboree Tent; 4:15 p.m., Jamboree Tent

Missed the Boat formed during local Steamboat Springs open mic nights. Three albums later, the band is celebrating its 10th year. The five-piece plays around Steamboat and other Colorado ski mountains, as well as YarmonyGrass Festival at Rancho Del Rio. The group was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 and took first place in the Wakarusa Festival's Waka Winter Classic in 2010.

Ryan Cox on guitar; Andrew Henry on mandolins; Pat Waters on drums; Skip Warnke on bass; Jon Huge on dobros and banjo.

Colin Hotz and Co.

Friday: 2 p.m., Soap Box; 4:15 p.m., Soap Box

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Colin Hotz has his master's at the Manhattan School of Music and has performed across the U.S., Europe and Australia. Since moving to Telluride in 2012, Hotz released his debut vinyl record, which is unedited and includes live shows, and a self-titled album earlier this year. His music is quietly intimate and soulful, sometimes uplifting and sometimes haunting.

Colin Hotz on guitar; Josie Toney on fiddle; and Dylan McCarthy on mandolin.

The Deer

Friday: Grass After Dark at The Bear River

Saturday: 2 p.m., Soap Box; 4 p.m., Soap Box

This Austin-based band has been described as playing transcendental Texas folk, moody Americana, Southern gothic and psychedelic dream-pop, also bringing analog tape, reverb effects, and pedal steel into the mix. The group is named after the animal the group identifies as being a symbol of guidance. The Deer have shared the stage with Elephant Revival, Trout Steak Revival, Hot Buttered Rum and Jeff Austin, and are currently writing their fourth album, expected to be released in late spring.

Grace Park on vocals, guitar and keyboard; Jesse Dalton on upright bass, banjo and vocals; Michael McLeod on lead guitar and sound engineering; Alan Eckert on drums, guitar, piano and vocals; and Noah Jeffries on fiddle and mandolin.

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