Pumpkin jam preserves festival season at Hangtown

Tahoe Onstage

The Infamous Stringdusters picked up the Hangtown Music Festival.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

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At this point in their career, members of The Infamous Stringdusters are almost clinical in their execution of a show.

Travis Book (bass), Andy Falco (guitar), Jeremy Garrett  (fiddle),  Andy Hall (dobro) and Chris Pandolfi (banjo) will slice and dice you with their skills, fix whatever ailment your soul is feeling, then stitch you up with love and leave you feeling better than what you walked in the door.

They are the decorated doctors on high who do nothing but perform miracles day in and day out like it ain’t no thang, with something such as curing cancer on their list of things to do. Garrett was actually in the presence of the men and women in white coats for the birth of his child, so the Stringdusters carried on as a quartet. The band was surely with him in spirit but they channeled that into a steadfast performance Sunday afternoon after a free-for-all late night set on Saturday.

In Garrett’s absence they brought out Hangtown artist-at-large Tim Carbone and Nicki Bluhm for “Not Fade Away,” with Bluhm, Hall, Book and Falco providing the sweet harmonies before Carbone and the Dusters lettin’ loose on a ramshackle jam that had Carbone literally jumping with enthusiasm. Bluhm and the group went on tour together this spring and summer and continued that chemistry with a powerful “Run To Heaven” and a thrilling “Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane.

It was all-and-all another solid show for The Infamous Stringdusters, one that should keep people feeling good until their next check-up.

Tahoe Onstage

Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, center, joins Twiddle onstage in Hangtown.

Twiddle
Twiddle was captivating Saturday on the main El Dorado Stage as the morning cool gave way to the afternoon heat.

The quartet has a lot of game curating a style of playing music that is scatter shot with creativity. Sounding like a bunch of guys who smoked a pipe packed with the heady jams of Phish, Damian Marley, Peter Tosh and The Disco Biscuits, the band moves in these lines are constantly changing and keep you guessing what musical road you are going to turn down next.

At times it can be a Krazy Maus coaster in one section, right-angle riffs from guitarist Mihali Savoulidis and tricky beats from drummer Brook Jordan. But those can quickly give way to to pumping, backroad jams that roll on keyboardist Ryan Dempsey’s rhythms and Zdenek Gubb’s inviting bass leads. It is a lot of sound coming at you and helixing over itself, but it is finally woven together by the band’s deft touch and creates worlds to move through.

It was music to get lost in as the clouds passed by and the breeze flitted through the trees.

Tahoe Onstage

Carolyn Wonderland’s fiery red licks represented the blues in Hangtown.

Carolyn Wonderland
For all the good music at Hangtown one genre that was underrepresented was the blues. Thankfully, singer and guitarist Carolyn Wonderland was on hand to be its representative and there aren’t many who do it as much justice as her.

The “reigning queen of Austin blues” has the emotional delivery of Janis Joplin and unrelenting guitar chops on the guitar that act as a one-two punch that isn’t fully felt with less talented performers. Her bare bones trio included Kevin Lance on drums and Bobby Perkins on bass and they tore through classic blues staples with vigor, including a rousing “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” that rose from the ashes on a tortured intro from Wonderland.

She also invited up sax man Andy Goessling and Gene Evaro Jr. trombonist Scott Kisinger to add some muscle to her Texas two-step. Goessling even busted out the always alluring double-sax solo at one point to take it to another level.

Wonderland was the hair of the dog blues remedy that the festival needed. They just need to bottle it and sell it next year.

Tahoe Onstage

Nicki Bluhm has stage presence is Hangtown.

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a really cool, stoned cat? Maybe. Have you ever wondered what singer Nicki Bluhm would be like as a really cool, stoned cat? Probably not, but now it’s got you thinking. It got Bluhm thinking, too, and was partial inspiration for her penning “Simpler Times,” a fact she revealed before Bluhm and her band The Gramblers slid effortlessly into the song’s cowboy sway during their mid-afternoon Sunday set.

She played the charismatic frontwoman in between her sweet, sun-drenched country and folk-rock tunes, chatting up everything from the jack-o-lanterns adorning the front of the stage to the name of a new guitar. She shared the good vibes by bringing up friends Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz and most of The Infamous Stringdusters in Andy Falco, Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi throughout the set.

Everyone on stage and in the crowd was relishing in the collaboration treats. None seemed more giddy than guitarist Deren Ney, who eagerly traded solos with all of the guests who came out, including a rare electric ax attack from Falco.

It was a showcase of California charm and everyone left a little more in love with Nicki Bluhm.

-Garrett Bethmann

To see all of Larry Sabo’s photos from Day 3, click the LINK
To see all of Larry Sabo’s photos from Day 4, click the LINK

Colorful Bobby Perkins with Carolyn Wonderland.

Colorful Bobby Perkins with Carolyn Wonderland.

Travis Book, a stand-up guy with the Infamous Stringdusters.

Travis Book, a stand-up guy with the Infamous Stringdusters.

Tahoe Onstage

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers and the great pumpkins.

Tahoe Onstage

Zdenek Gubb of Twiddle

Carolyn Wonderland band

Carolyn Wonderland band

Tahoe Onstage

Toe-tapping sounds from Infamous Stringdusters Andy Hall.

Twiddle rocks the Hangtown Music Festival.

Twiddle rocks the Hangtown Music Festival.

Tahoe Onstage

Andy Falco on guitar.

Tahoe Onstage

Twiddle’s Mihali Savoulidis

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About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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