Sun sets on memorable 2019 WinterWonderGrass season

Tahoe Onstage

Ties that bind: A mountain of strings heighten spirits at WinterWonderGrass 2019.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

“Get out here, Silas, this is a festival and there’s about to be a whole lotta pickin’ goin’ on,” beckoned a smiling and bundled up Vince Herman to his mandolin-playing son, who was waiting in the wings.

The younger Herman was summoned early on to join his dad’s jamgrass band, Leftover Salmon, ai it headlined the first night of what’s become an annual spring three-day event held in the westernmost parking area at Squaw Valley.

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe was the third and final gathering in an East-to-West traveling bluegrass festival odyssey that frankly is supported by what has to be the heartiest collection of music fans on the planet. After last year’s wild weather that could have been compared to The Tempest (and I in fact, compared to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,”) the 2019 edition featured three simply glorious days of sun, a crisp evening chill and outstanding music.

Festival headliners Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and Trampled by Turtles did their thing to close out each day, but the brilliance of WWG is the smaller, intimate performances.

Pixie and The Partygrass Boys, Upstate, Pickin’ on The Dead, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, and Tahoe City residents Jenni and Jesse Dunn all lit up the perimeter venues while the main stage changeovers were completed.

Attendees satiated their tastes for beer, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic or electric guitar, more beer and beautiful vocals in any of the three perimeter tents. For those a bit more adventurous, there was also live music performed outdoors at the top of Squaw Valley, impromptu jams in a gondola, and enough late-night options to satisfy the most hard core.

Fruition, The Sam Bush Band, Billy Strings, and ALO brought inspired performances in their run-up slots on the main stage, and in true to festival tradition, collaborations abounded as artists shared various stages.

The WinterWonderGrass crew deserves a nice break after star-filled stops in Vermont, Colorado and California.  Here’s looking forward to the surprises in store for 2020.

 — Michael Smyth

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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