Bluegrass Pride!

Good news, everyone! The California Bluegrass Association will have its first ever float in the SF Pride Parade this year. The SF Pride Parade is the biggest public event of the year in northern California, with over a million people in attendance and a worldwide appeal. A vast range of businesses, community nonprofits and arts organizations have found it to be an extremely efficient outreach event, offering the opportunity to engage with masses of potential supporters, regardless of age, gender or orientation, at a fraction of the cost of other, more traditional channels.

This year’s parade is Sunday, June 25. The San Francisco district of the CBA will be there on a flatbed truck decorated with attractive banners promoting bluegrass and old-time music and the CBA, and carrying a live band playing traditional music, plus a contingent walking alongside handing out CBA promo materials to the crowd.

Our presence in the Pride parade is part of a program of increasing the public visibility of bluegrass and old-time music through participation in mass public events, including the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the Sunday Streets program, and the Chinese New Year parade and the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Bluegrass and old-time music need all the exposure they can get, and this is a great opportunity to show people what we’re about!

Here’s the event page on Facebook!

So much pickin’ in the New Year!

Well, here we are in 2017, and not a moment too soon. But don’t get too comfortable: there’s a lot of picking to be done! First of all, the first-Sunday jam at Cleophus Quealy Beer Co. has been pushed back to the second Sunday (the 8th) just this once. So you can still get in on that if you were too, um, foggy on New Year’s day. I mostly use this jam as an excuse to get my growler refilled with some of Quealy’s delicious hoppy ale.

We do have stuff  happening New Year’s day, though. The weekly Lucky Horseshoe jam is going on as I write this (I’d be there but I’m staying home with my cold this afternoon), and then later in the evening the invitational Shoe Jam takes the stage at that same Lucky Horseshoe, 8 to 10 pm.
It’s old-time jam time at Amnesia this Monday, 6:30 to 8:30-ish. This is a special one for me because I get to bring along my daughter Laura, an excellent old-time banjo player, who just last week became old enough to be around adult beverages! And because of the Bearcat Duo, which goes on stage at about 9. (Amnesia also hosts the regular bluegrass jam on the second and fourth Monday, of course, plus the Handsome Ladies‘ women-only jam on the third Monday.)
Then on Tuesday the 3d we troop on down to Pacifica for the Winters Tavern jam, which runs the first and third Tuesday every month, 8 to 10 pm. This is a fun little jam with a very friendly audience and a great beer selection. On Wednesday the 4th we’re back at the Plough & Stars on Clement for Jeanie & Chuck’s bluegrass jam. You could call this the Guinness jam — it’s one of those bars where they know the time-honored technique for slow-pouring the black stuff.
The Street Beats and Eats jam kicked off with a bang last month and it continues this Thursday, the 5th. This is at the SOMA Streat Food park, which is in that triangle where Division St. and 11th St. meet, under the Central Freeway. There’s a nice heated indoor space, plus lots of overflow space amid the food trucks in case you feel like wandering into a spinoff jam.
There won’t be a Street Beats & Eats jam on Thursday the 12th, though. That’s because a lot of pickers will be heading down to the Bakersfield Marriott that day for the Great 48 Jam. If you haven’t signed up for this already, it’s not too late! I’m told you can still get a room at a hotel nearby. It’s also not too late to book an Amtrak ticket and avoid the hassles of driving.
Speaking of Jeanie and Chuck: their Free Range Fridays variety show is back at La Promenade on the 20th, 7 to 9:30 pm. This time they’ve got trad-grass with the Dim Lights, the singer-songwriter Zoe Yungmi-Blank, and a bunch of other great stuff.
Of course, all of this and more can be seen at Hipster Hoedown, your calendar site for San Francisco bluegrass. Let me know if you want something you’re doing to be featured there!
Bluegrass blessings,
Ted Kuster
Local CBA Guy

Calendar spam?

Some people who subscribe to Hipster Hoedown via their Google calendar are reporting that events are showing up with spam links in the body. No idea how this is happening; bear with us while we try to figure it out.

Sunday Streets back where it all began

We’re back with our moveable bluegrass festival! This Sunday we’ll be picking on Valencia St. outside the legendary bluegrass mecca Amnesia Music Hall from about noon until about 3:30. You can RSVP or just show up! It’s the standard bluegrass jam model: take your turn to lead a song if you feel like it, and play along with others when it’s their turn. You mostly try to pick a song from the good old bluegrass repertoire, so you can be sure at least some people will know it. It’s all about the bluegrass, but if we’re lucky, an occasional friend will sit in on cajon or blues harp or something.
Sunday Streets is that thing where the city blocks off a stretch of a big street so people can hang out all over the pavement without having to dodge cars. All kinds of activities and entertainments come out of the woodwork and everybody has a great time. The California Bluegrass Association has been participating for a few years now. We’ve met all sorts of new friends, fans and pickers out there on the street. Kids, in particular, will sit and stare for a long time. We think some of them may go home afterwards and ask their parents for a banjo.

Mayday Bluegrass Jam Update

Hey! May Day in San Francisco! You can play all day, and then there’s more! This coming Sunday, May 1st, 2016, the monthly Sunday Streets bluegrass jam starts at noon (this month it’s in in the Bayview),  followed by the weekly bluegrass jam from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at the Lucky Horseshoe Bar in Bernal Heights. 2016.05.01HH300Then, the Lucky Horseshoe Bar hosts the monthly Shoe Jam, from 8:00am to 10:00pm. It’s a party all day long!

LOCALS ONLY ~ LADIES NIGHT! Featuring The P’s & Q’s, Shiloh & The Sun, Old Belle, The Bluegrass Revolution, Hay Babes

Please join us for a very special and rare evening of music at one of San Francisco’s premier music venue, Slim’s…a locals only Americana music showcase featuring all women…and not just all women, but some of the hottest pickers and freshest voices in Americana music today. You won’t want to miss the event of Spring!
April 28
Shelby Ash Presents
*An All-Female Americana Music Showcase*
Featuring: The P’s & Q’s, Shiloh and the Sun, Old Belle, The Bluegrass Revolution, Hay Babes
@Slim’s, 333 11th Street in San Francisco.
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Bluegrass Community Paying It Forward

Uncle Jim Letchworth with banjo

Uncle Jim Letchworth

Where do you spend Friday morning? If you’re like most of the people I know, you’re at your desk, thinking about what you need to get done before the beginning of the weekend.  I got lucky last Friday morning; I took off from work, and joined seven other like-minded bluegrass pickers in the southwestern corner of San Francisco for the second Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center bluegrass jam.

Deirdre Donovan on guitar

Deirdre Donovan

We spent ninety minutes of unadulterated pleasure, playing and singing for the folks at the center, students and staff alike.

The program was first organized by Ted Kuster, our San Francisco CBA representative, in collaboration with Julie Gallaudet, a Pomeroy Center staff member.


Pomeroy Center audience enjoying the bluegrass

Julie discovered Ted with a group of bluegrass musicians jamming at the final 2015 Sunday Streets jam (also organized by Ted Kuster). She knew immediately that bluegrass music would make a major difference for the Pomeroy Center people, so she persuaded Ted to put it all together…and that made for the most fun I’ve had all week!

Patti Garber on bass & Ron Esparza on mando

Patti Garber & Ron Esparza

Jammers were Uncle Jim Letchworth on banjo and mandolin, Ted Kuster on banjo, Patti Garber on bass, Ron Esparza on fiddle and mandolin,

Karen Gemmill on guitar

Karen Gemmill

Virgil Stanford on dobro, Deirdre Donovan, Karen Gemmill, and Matt Lauer on guitar,

Virgil Stanford on dobro

Virgil Stanford

Matt Lauer on guitar

Matt Lauer

and Ellie DiBerardino on mandolin.

Ellie DiBerardino

Ellie DiBerardino

We’ll be doing it again soon…and you can play, too, if you want!  Contact Ted Kuster to get on the list for one of the next Pomeroy jams.

Ted Kuster on banjo

Ted Kuster

Free Range Fridays Are Back!!!

Last Friday, a cool, foggy evening in the outer Richmond, a marvelous, local San Francisco talent showcase opened on Balboa Street, near 38th Avenue, in the back room of the La Promenade Café.  

Chuck Poling, mandolin player and good time MC regular at California Bluegrass Association shows, and, not incidentally the promoter of the event, said: “We’re very grateful to have our Free Range Friday favorites for this premiere. They are awesome songwriters, instrumentalists, and singers, and most wonderfully, they are all are good friends. Each brings something unique and special to the table, and if you leave feeling like you haven’t been thoroughly entertained, well, you just weren’t paying attention.”  Well, Chuck was right.  

Chuck & Jeannie

Chuck & Jeannie

Chuck on mandolin and wife and lead singer Jeannie Poling, with bass player extraordinaire Pat Campbell, opened the show.


Chuck and Jeannie were followed by Doug Blumer and Nancy Irish of Bohemian Highway, kickin’ it with gorgeous,raunchy, sensitive tunes, written by this talented husband and wife team, and harmonized to great effect by their tight, clear harmonies.

Doug and Nancy

Doug and Nancy





Misisipi Mike

Misisipi Mike

Misisipi Mike Wolf played next, making it beautiful at Free Range Friday, with one of his original tunes, ‘Couples,’ soulful and sweet song telling love like it is in honor of folks that go the distance, including his parents. The reviews say that Misisipi Mike’s been compared to Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings…and I know why. 

Pam Brandon and Maurice Tani, with Mike Anderson on bass, singing Dirty Duets, kept the crowd spellbound through their first three tunes.  

Pam & Maurice

Pam & Maurice

Then, Pam sang my absolute favorite Steve Earle song, ‘I’m Still In Love With You,’ and truly rocked the house. 



And, what would a Friday night in San Francisco be without The Shut-Ins…and special guest, Diana Greenberg?  It wouldn’t be uniquely hilarious!!

The Shutins

The Shutins


Finally, Jeannie and Chuck closed the show. Before they sang, Chuck told a story about his teenage infatuation with Linda Ronstadt.  Jeannie had the most interesting expression on her face during the story, but Chuck made a really good save when he turned and told the incredulous Jeannie that she had a decided advantage over Linda – Jeannie’s right here (not in some teenage boy’s fantasy)  Then they launched into a tune that shows off Jeannie’s rich vocal chops (watch out, Linda!) to fabulous advantage. What soul! What a great evening!  Man, Free Range Friday’s are back with a roar!

Watch this space for an announcement when the next Free Range Friday is scheduled…

Going Up To Music Camp….

Okay, it’s Thursday, time to pack up all the instruments, and head for Walker Creek Music Camp. I’ve heard it’s a whole lotta fun, and I’m excited about an extra long and well-deserved weekend, playing music, hanging out with 300+ other musicians, and generally taking a well-deserved break from the old nine to five.

An hour and a half into the wilds of west Marin, I’m looking for the entrance to the Walker Creek Ranch…and trying hard to avoid the deer roaming the roads.  They’re not even scared of the cars going by, maybe mildly interested at best.

When I get to the Ranch, checked in, and suitcase dumped in my dorm, I find I’m rooming with six other adult women in a room designed for 30 children), and very satisfied with my accommodation selection.

Then, off and running to the 2:00pm jams, 3:00pm electives, 4:00pm teacher concerts, a short tour of the Walker Creek Ranch campus, and dinner with a big room full of happy people and good food.  After supper, it’s teacher introductions, more jamming (slow and fast), dancing in the Barn, a visit to the camp store, where I find the perfect tiny tuner I’ve been looking for, and general merriment.  So many choices, so little time to  sleep!

Looking forward to bluegrass mandolin class tomorrow with John Reischman!