The pigskin is balanced on the tee and kick-off of the fall season in Philadelphia bluegrass is at hand! Still need a little help with your ‘draft picks’? Look no further. We’ve got your top ten picks for shows to see this season.
There hasn’t been this much talent in a draft for many seasons, and there are too many stars to list. As always, you should do your own scouting via the Philly Bluegrass Calendar. But be warned: you may end up seeing so much bluegrass this season, you might not even have time to watch the Eagles.
September 10: Country Music by Ken Burns at World Cafe Live
Esteemed Americana documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has selected country music for his next subject. Judging from the five-disc box set soundtrack—which features the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, and many more—bluegrass will play a significant part in the film. Dare we hope for another ‘O Brother’-type resurgence for bluegrass music? That might be a good question to ask on September 10, when World Cafe Live hosts a preview and talk with area native Langhorne Slim, who will be interviewed by WHYY’s Marty Moss-Coane and WXPN’s Dan Reed. Tickets are $30 and in low supply as of this writing.
September 11: Che Apalache at Philly Folksong Society
Che Apalache boasts two Argentinians, one Mexican, and one American in their lineup, and their name reflects this blending of national identities: “Che” means “buddy” in Argentina and “Apalache” translates into “Appalachia,” as Joe Troop from the band told NPR’s Sandy Hausman recently. The band’s Béla Fleck-produced album “Rearrange My Heart” was released in August 2019, and is already generating significant buzz. Tickets $12-$18.
September 14: Jon Stickley Trio at 118 North
Jon Stickley Trio has been keeping a busy touring schedule this year, but that hasn’t kept them away from the studio. The band just released “Animate Object,” the first single from their upcoming album, which will be their first on Organic Records. Jon Stickley Trio makes its first appearance at new Main Line venue 118 North on September 14. Tickets $10-$13.
September 28: Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi at The Grand Opera House (Wilmington, DE)
“There Is No Other” is the new collaborative recording between Rhiannon Giddens and Italian jazz musician Francesco Turrisi, released this year on Nonesuch Records. In May, John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote in his sprawling New Yorker piece on Ms. Giddens that “[s]tyles blow through the record like winds through a shack.” By the way, Sullivan’s article is not to be missed, and will surely make you want to snap up tickets to see the trailblazing Ms. Giddens at the Grand Opera House. Tickets $38-$45.
October 3: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at The Colonial Theatre
For a good percentage of bluegrass folks of a certain generation, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s groundbreaking record “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” was the recording that introduced them to bluegrass. Indeed, the record re-introduced to the world many of the genre’s progenitors. Sadly, it was revealed this summer that the band’s material was among the destruction of the 2008 Universal Music Group fire, though it’s not clear what, if any, masters may have been lost. At least there is consolation in seeing the band live at the Colonial Theater in October. With Jesse Terry. Tickets $34.50-$49.50.
October 27: Sam Bush Band w/ The Travelin’ McCourys at Keswick Theatre
Sam Bush played an outsized role in the recently-released PBS documentary “Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music.” And rightfully so, the father of ‘newgrass’ has made incredible contributions to the genre over his 49-year career. He continues to push boundaries in 2019, playing electric mandolin on his social commentary song, “Stop the Violence.” Sam Bush and his band pair up with the Travelin’ McCourys on October 27 in arguably the biggest night of progressive bluegrass to hit the area this season. Tickets $29-$55.
October 31: Infamous Stringdusters, Kitchen Dwellers at TLA
This April, the Infamous Stringdusters Released “Rise Sun,” their ninth album, and first since decamping Compass Records for their own Tape Time records, which is also home to Meadow Mountain and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. This Halloween, the ‘Dusters team up with Bozeman, MT’s The Kitchen Dwellers, whose new record is being produced by Stringdusters banjoist Chris Pandolfi. Wear a costume! General admission tickets $22.
November 15: Yonder Mountain String Band at Ardmore Music Hall
Yonder Mountain String Band are back at Ardmore Music Hall, almost a year to the day since their last visit to the Main Line’s jamgrass central. For this run of shows, Yonder will be joined on the road by fellow Coloradans The Drunken Hearts. Tickets $27.50-$42.50.
November 16: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen at The Locks at Sona
“Bands don’t come much tighter than Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.” That’s what Bluegrass Unlimited had to say about Dirty Kitchen’s latest album, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat,” released in January on Compass Records. In addition to critical praise, the band’s latest effort earned an IBMA nomination for Mandolin Player of the Year for its leader. Dirty Kitchen pairs up with Philly-based Man About a Horse at The Locks at Sona on November 16. Tickets $15.00-$18.00.
November 30: Cabinet at Ardmore Music Hall
Cabinet has performed infrequently since announcing a hiatus on December 2017, so many were surely surprised to see this headlining date at Ardmore Music Hall. Is the band fully back in action or just playing a few shows here and there? Whichever it is, this reunion of sorts is something to give thanks for. VIP option available, that includes an early, VIP set at 6:30pm. Tickets $22.00-$69.00.