WinterWonder Guide 2018: Festival lowdown from headliners, up-and-coming bands |

WinterWonder Guide 2018: Festival lowdown from headliners, up-and-coming bands

One of the 2018 WinterWonderGrass headliners, Greensky Bluegrass.
Courtesy: Dylan Langille

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — From the parking lot of Crazy Mountain Brewing Company to Avon and now Steamboat Springs, WinterWonderGrass brings together top bluegrass bands from around the country, and who better to interview than some of the bands that will be playing the festival.

Explore Steamboat interviewed members of Greensky Bluegrass, Fruition and Trout Steak Revival to find out about their favorite festival moments and memories, along with insight about Steamboat’s bluegrass scene from local bands, Buffalo Commons, Missed the Boat and the Jay Roemer Band.

Greensky Bluegrass

About: Greensky Bluegrass is known for bright acoustic bursts, soundscapes, solos and poignant songwriting. Since the group’s beginnings in 2000, members of Greensky Bluegrass have created their own version of bluegrass music, mixing the acoustic stomp of a string band with the rule-breaking spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, according to the band’s bio. They redefined that sound once again with their sixth album, “Shouted, Written Down & Quoted.”

Now, they play as many as 175 shows per year, selling out in some of the country’s most iconic venues like Red Rocks and festivals like Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

“We are ourselves,” said band member Anders Beck. “Our genre is Greensky. We’re not trying to be like anything or trying to be different than anything. We are an amalgamation of all of our musical influences. I love bluegrass, but I also love Phish and Eminem and John Coltrane. Our music sounds like us, and while that sounds really obvious, I think it’s pretty cool that we have carved out our own niche with these five instruments, a bunch of voices, melodies and words.”

Greensky Bluegrass has been part of WinterWonderGrass since its inception, but this will be the group’s first time performing with the festival since it moved to Steamboat Springs. Be on the lookout for their highly anticipated covers.

From: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Members: Anders Beck on dobro; Michael Arlen Bont on banjo; Dave Bruzza on guitar; Mike Devol on upright bass; and Paul Hoffman on mandolin.

Explore Steamboat: Can you remember the first bluegrass song you heard or show you saw? What was it about the music that drew you in?

Anders Beck: It was more of a slow burn than an “ahah” moment. It started with Jerry Garcia and his bluegrass side projects, which I got into by ferociously consuming all things Grateful Dead related. Pretty quickly, I found my way back to Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. I think a lot of people, more than Garcia will ever get credit for, found bluegrass that way. From the perspective of a musicologist, which I am not, it’s a really interesting de-evolution.

First instrument: “I played drums as a kid but picked up a guitar as I got a little older, mostly electric, but acoustic too,” said Beck. “I was a teenager and thought it was cool and would get me the girls. Now I play dobro.”

Words of advice:

  1. Don’t miss a note that Jon Stickley or Billy Strings plays
  2. Everything in moderation, even moderation.

Keep an eye on: Leftover Salmon

“They’re really showing the world what a couple of young kids with big hearts can do,” said Beck.

ES: What is it about bluegrass that’s led this genre to explode within the music scene in Colorado?

AB: I think that this type of music has been popular in Colorado for a long while. Consider Hot Rize, String Cheese Incident or Leftover Salmon, you know? It may seem like it comes in waves but it’s always been there, whether it was on a porch or at Red Rocks.

What you should know: “All of my favorite grass bands are here,” said Beck. “Don’t miss anything.”


About: Fruition is known for its blend of raw, live energy and vibrant harmonies assembled with the strings of traditional folk-Americana. This quintet formed in 2008, and now, hundreds of shows later, they’ve cultivated an ever-growing fan base across the country, headlining and selling out venues from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to the Oregon Brewers Fest. They’ve been part of WinterWonderGrass in Colorado and California each year except the first.

From: Portland, Oregon

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

Explore Steamboat: Can you remember the first bluegrass song you heard or show you saw? What was it about the music that drew you in?

Kellen Asebroek: The first bluegrass I ever really heard was in the late ’90s on Napster. It was the infamously mislabeled cover of “Gin ‘n Juice” by The Gourds. At the time, it was labeled as a Phish song. Those were the days. My first bluegrass festival was at Northwest String Summit as a patron around 2007, and I was blown away by the sense of community that was created there. The fact that it was created in a lush Pacific Northwest camping hideout/peacock sanctuary kinda sealed the deal though.

First instrument: Upright piano, started taking lessons at 6 years old.

Words of advice: “If you haven’t seen Jon Stickley Trio, stop reading this now and go get your life together,” Asebroek said.

Trout Steak Revival

About: What started out as a friend’s jam session in 2008 has now evolved into an Americana-rooted quintet known as Trout Steak Revival. Winning the 41st annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2014 was a pivotal moment in time for the Denver-based group, and they also won an Emmy for a soundtrack they created for Rocky Mountain PBS. The group has been known for performing to sold-out audiences all over the Front Range and outside the state. Steamboat Springs was one of the first places they ever played outside of Denver.

From: Denver

Members: Steve Foltz on mandolin and guitar; Casey Houlihan on standup bass; Will Koster on dobro and guitar; Travis McNamara on banjo; and Bevin Foley on the fiddle.

Explore Steamboat: Can you remember the first bluegrass song you heard or show you saw? What was it about the music that drew you in?

Travis McNamara: Our first show was at the Bucksnort Saloon in Sphinx Park. It’s a little cabin bar in the woods, and it kind of sums up what drew us to the music in the first place: a great place for friends to come together, make an inclusive space, play acoustic instruments and reconnect. First time at a bluegrass festival was the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2009.

“I drove through the evening and night to get there at about 3 a.m.,” McNamara said. “Taking the gondola over the mountain pass and seeing the lights of Telluride gleaming down in the valley was like a dream.”

First instrument: “Piano was my first love,” said McNamara. “I learned in first grade and can’t walk past one without playing it.”

Brew to try at WinterWonderGrass: Anything from Elevation Beer Company from Poncha Springs, Colorado

Words of advice: “Follow your ears.”

Buffalo Commons

About: One of Steamboat’s up-and-coming bands, Buffalo Commons has grown exponentially in popularity. Their focus is on creating solid, original songs derived from the members’ eclectic musical interests spanning multiple styles.

Frontman Tyree Woods and Denton Riding met at Colorado Mountain College and then again at an open mic night at Old Town Pub. They said they instantly clicked and knew there was a chance to start a different kind of band for Steamboat’s music scene.

The name: Inspiration arrived during a class at Steamboat’s Colorado Mountain College when Woods’ biology teacher was talking about “buffalo commons” as an idea to release prairie land back to the roaming buffalo and indigenous, native people. “The second our teach said it, I thought, “Man, I want to name a band after that,” remembers Woods.

Members: Woods on guitar and vocals; Denton Turner on bass; Jonathan Huge on dobro; Eric Baker mandolin; and Randy Kelly on fiddle.

Sound: The group describes its sound as, “soul music from outer space.”

“We have people from 17 to 70 that come up to us after shows and tell us how a particular phrase stands out to them,” Woods said. “We take it as an incredible accomplishment.”

Explore Steamboat: Can you remember the first bluegrass song you heard or show you saw? What was it about the music that drew you in?

Tyree Woods: What drew me into the bluegrass scene was how raw and unfiltered the music was. I witnessed it when I saw my first bluegrass band perform, Greensky Bluegrass (performing Saturday at the festival). The vibe of the fest is what we love. It’s a big reunion of good friends brought together by great music.

Representing Steamboat at the WinterWonderGrass Festival: “It was a bit surreal to see our band name on the same flyer as some of our favorite bands,” Woods said.

What to be on the lookout for: Their originals and new addition to the lineup, Randy Kelly, on the fiddle.

Jay Roemer Band 

About: Front man Jay Roemer, originally from the Old Town Pickers, played at the inaugural WinterWonderGrass festival. The Steamboat-based band showcases a diverse array of instruments and musical aptitude and is comprised of friends who met through the Colorado acoustic-folk-bluegrass scene. They’ve been performing a number of their original songs across the state headlining the Fox Theatre in Boulder and the Cervantes in Denver.

“We’re switching from a traditional bluegrass sound to an electric Americana setup mid set, which I’ve never done before on stage,“ said Roemer, who will be performing and attending the festival for the fifth year (he missed the festival in 2013).

Members: Jay Roemer on acoustic guitar and vocals; Casey Cormier on upright bass; Holley Gardel on vocals; Steve Boynton on electric guitar and banjo; Allen Cooke on dobro; Darren Radach on mandolin and drums; and Joe Lessard on the fiddle.

“I moved to Colorado from Wisconsin in 2002, with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a backpack,” said Roemer. “Every musician I met here seemed to be playing bluegrass, and I had already taught myself to play banjo during my senior year of high school, so I kind of fit right in.”

Factoid: Roemer said what makes his band unique is the songwriting. They will be playing all original music this weekend.


Missed the Boat

About: Local bluegrass and folk rock band Missed the Boat formed in late 2007, where founding members performed at a Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill open mic night. Since then, they’ve expanded their reach and fan base performing more than 250 shows in more than 30 cities. Missed the Boat is accustomed to playing the Front Range and beyond. This will be their second year performing and attending the festival.

Members: Ryan Cox on guitar and vocals; Andrew Henry on mandolins, banjo and vocals; Skip Warnke on bass; and Pat Waters on drums, percussion and vocals

Explore Steamboat: Can you remember the first bluegrass song you heard or show you saw? What was it about the music that drew you in?

Andrew Henry: String Cheese Incident’s “Mid-Winter Carnival” at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver in 2001. The steady rhythm and that soloing acoustic guitar was most memorable for me.

First instrument: Saxophone as a tween 

Sound: “We play many originals tunes, and our harmonies do embellish the sound,” said Henry. “We’re more focused on playing a variety of dynamic songs than long jams. We like to play the bluegrass style and our instrumentation is unique: tenor banjo and electric baritone mandolin.”

What to be on the lookout for: The debut of their new original with special guest Joe Lessard from Head for the Hills on the fiddle for both sets.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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