Call them the Portland bluegrass trailblazers. Cascade Crescendo burned a path up and down the coast in February, warming the hearts of new fans.
Formed in 2013, the addition of banjo player Harrison Olk sparked the band’s wanderlust.
“When I met the guys, I could see the potential was huge,” Olk said. “They already had a lot of original songs and some great covers and the sound was great. I told them we should tour outside of Portland. Everybody was on the same page, but it kind of took me to light the fire and get them going, branching out of our comfort zone.”
Aden Beck plays mandolin, Hunter White plays guitar and Taylor Skiles is the bassist. Three of the four sing, and harmonies are big part of their Americana-newgrass sound. Cascade Crescendo’s first big tour last spring covered 14 states.
“A lot of our influences have played out that way, so were pretty excited to finally get to Tahoe,” Olk said before a winter run through the Sierra Nevada last year.
A native of Northern Minnesota, Olk was raised in a seriously musical family and attended festivals across the country. He began taking banjo lessons at age 5.
“As a banjo player, Earl Scruggs is definitely an influence,” he said. “He’s the one who put the banjo on a pedestal and revolutionized the way that it’s played. He took that three-finger style and started playing a lot of bluesy licks on the banjo. Anybody who plays three-finger style in a progressive nature, you have to tip your hat to Earl Scruggs.”
Another banjo great, Danny Barnes, lives in nearby Washington and has become a personal mentor to Olk and the entire band.
Olk went to college in Duluth, Minnesota, and his band would tour the upper Midwest, hitting college campuses. He said he always knew he would land somewhere in the West.
“It’s not uncommon to have negative-zero temperatures for a month in Minnesota, just as it’s not unusual to have four-straight weeks of rain in Portland,” he said. “You just preserve and keep moving.”
Cascade Crescendo is on the move and ascending in the progressive bluegrass realm.