IF YOU GO
BLUEGRASS CONCERT SERIES
WHEN: Helen Highwater Stringband (June 13), Tony Trischka and Brittany Haas (June 20), Travers Chandler and Avery County (June 27), Ernie Evans and the Florida State Bluegrass Band (July 11) and Nothin’ Fancy (July 18). All shows begin at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Garden Theatre, 160 W. Plant St., Winter Garden
TICKETS: $25 for Helen Highwater Stringband and Nothin’ Fancy are $25; $20 for other acts. The Bluegrass Pass is sold for $75 and allows attendees to see all five shows at a significant discount.
The Bluegrass Concert Series is returning to the Garden Theatre this week, and any of the shows throughout the next month promises to be an exciting way for families to kick off the summer.
“Last year, we had tremendous support from the bluegrass community, with big audiences of very excited fans, and this year we only expect the series to grow,” said Matt Heim, a spokesman for the theater. “These bands are some of the biggest names in bluegrass music. They tour nationally and internationally.”
A new feature of the series this year is that there will be major headliners on the opening and closing nights: Helen Highwater Stringband, who “break the boundaries of what stringbands normally do,” and Nothin’ Fancy, “one of the most entertaining bands in the bluegrass genre,” Heim said.
All shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets for Helen Highwater Stringband and Nothin’ Fancy are $25, and tickets for all other shows are $20. The Bluegrass Pass is sold for $75 and allows attendees to see all five shows at a significant discount.
“We’re excited to see the success of bluegrass in our town,” Heim said. “It’s very alive and well in Winter Garden.”
JUNE 13: HELEN HIGHWATER STRINGBAND
Individually, the members of the Helen Highwater Stringband have been accumulating Grammys and other high-profile credentials for decades. But as a Nashville-based band, they have been playing together only since 2012.
“We’re sort of steeped in the traditional roots, but the influences are little bits of blues, little bits of contemporary instrumental … the full range of Americana,” mandolin player Mike Compton said.
Much of the group’s material is original. In his 30-plus years on the music scene, Compton doesn’t remember being in a band that played more of its own tunes and songs than Helen Highwater does.
Compton said the group’s music has been popular among bluegrassers, jamgrassers and general audiences alike, partly because of its lively nature.
“It’s a mix of a lot of different things put together, but there’s a lot of energy in the sound, and we’re not standing planted behind microphones,” he said.
Tony Trischka has been active in the bluegrass scene since the 1960s, when he heard a Kingston Trio song that featured the banjo.
“I was just completely enraptured with that,” he said. “I’ve been obsessed ever since.”
Trischka has toured nationally and internationally, and even once collaborated with Steve Martin and Paul McCartney to produce Martin’s album, “Rare Bird Alert.”
At Trischka’s side will be Brittany Haas, a fiddle player who impressed Trischka with her “bionic bowing arm” when she was just 16 years old.
“It’s so rhythmically strong and exciting that it’s just a thrill to play with her,” Trischka said about Haas.
JUNE 27: TRAVERS CHANDLER AND AVERY COUNTRY
Travers Chandler grew up in a musical family, learning to play guitar and mandolin at a young age. He started out playing country music at square dances near his home. Later, he became a supporting musician for some of the leading traditional acts and then formed his own band in 2010.
“My music is aggressive, driven by mandolin … and as much honky tonk country as bluegrass,” Chandler said. “It’s been deemed ‘Baltimore barroom bluegrass.’ Typically, our best audience is one who doesn’t mind an intensely lively show.”
Chandler’s performance is sure to be organically grown — he won’t be tied down by a set list.
“We never use one; we go off the feel of the audience,” he said.
Chandler, a native of Virginia, once lived in Polk County, so he said coming to Central Florida for this concert will feel like a homecoming. His music can be heard at traverschandler.com.
Ernie Evans is a third-generation banjo player who also grew up in a musical family. He also is proficient in mandolin, guitar and bass.
“There was always music around the house, and we formed a family band at an early age,” Evans said.
He has recently played as a member of Grammy-nominated and Grammy Award-winning groups. He will be playing in Winter Garden with his band, the Florida State Bluegrass Band.
“I am constantly told I have my own style, and that I look like I am enjoying myself; that’s because I do,” Evans said. “We have the rare ability to switch mid-stream from traditional bluegrass, to renditions of gypsy jazz and popular music of the 1970s, and even a few of today’s songs, if they fit.”
Evans is this year’s only artist who played at last year’s Bluegrass Concert Series, and he said he is excited to return.
The group’s music can be heard at floridastatebluegrassband.com.
The members of Nothin’ Fancy are all music, all the time. On the side of their tour bus are the words: “This ain’t no hobby.”
“We take it serious, and we have a good time,” said Mike Andes, a member of the band. “We not only perform good music, but we also entertain and put on a show.”
This five-piece ensemble from Virginia will close out the 2015 bluegrass series with a show that will appeal to all ages.
“We see kids out there clapping their hands and wanting to get autographs,” said Mike Andes, a member of the band. “We try to perform something for all the ages in the audience.”
A large portion of Nothin’ Fancy’s set will be original material, but there also will be some traditional bluegrass songs and a few country and rock covers. For more, visit nothinfancybluegrass.com.