The Fifth Annual Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash

The Fifth Annual Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash

Arts at Old First is pleased to present The Fifth Annual Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash. Founded in 2012 to benefit the restoration of an historic Park Slope sanctuary, the Bash has become NYC’s premier bluegrass event, having presented a who’s who of performers with ties to the city’s thriving roots music scene from legends like David Bromberg and Andy Statman to young stars Chris Thile, Sarah Jarosz, and many more. Curated by Grammy-nominated guitarist and singer Michael Daves, whom the New York Times calls “a leading light”of the city’s bluegrass scene, the Bash brings together the Brooklyn community around world-class bluegrass music for a great cause.

This year’s main stage headliners are:
-Progressive banjo legend Tony Trischka teaming up with Daves and others for a full-band bluegrass throwdown
-Virtuoso acoustic guitarists Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge (of the Punch Brothers)
-Hudson Valley trad./folk-rock favorites, the Mike & Ruthy Band
-Old-time fiddle master Bruce Molsky with his new trio the Mountain Drifters

A second stage features performances by Della Mae guitarist and singer Courtney Hartman, The Abby Hollander Band, and 9 Pound Hammer (featuring Old First’s own Bilger Family). There will also be the premier showing of a documentary by Jason Zucker on the making of Daves’ recent double album release Orchids and Violence (Nonesuch Records), one disc of which was recorded in Old First Church’s upper hall.


3pm: doors

3:15pm: [FRONT ROOM] Abby Hollander Band

3:15pm: [MAIN STAGE] Documentary Premier: The Making of Michael Daves’ Orchids and Violence

4pm: [MAIN STAGE] Molsky’s Mountain Drifters

4:50pm: [FRONT ROOM] 9 Pound Hammer (featThe Bilger Family)

5:15 pm: [MAIN STAGE] Mike and Ruthy Band

6:00pm: [FRONT ROOM] Courtney Hartman

6:25pm: [MAIN STAGE] Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge

7:20pm: [MAIN STAGE] Tony Trischka, Michael Daves & Friends (Alex Hargreaves, Mike Barnett & Larry Cook)

8:10pm: [MAIN STAGE] All Star jam session

8:30pm end


by Burkhard Bilger

It began with a cave in—or, rather, two. In September 2011, just fifteen minutes before Rosh Hashanah services, large chunks of plaster began to fall from the ceiling at Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope. The plaster nearly hit Rabbi Andy Bachman in the head, prompting a sinking sense of déjà vu. Bachman and his Jewish congregation were gathered in a Protestant church because the ceiling of their own synagogue, Beth Elohim, had begun to collapse two years earlier. The twin disasters attested to the fragility of Park Slope’s beautiful old sanctuaries. But they also galvanized their members’ community spirit. After the first collapse, Reverend Daniel Meeter invited Bachman’s congregation to worship at Old First. After the second, Bachman returned the favor, inviting Old First to celebrate Easter at Beth Elohim’s newly renovated synagogue.

Like most things in Brooklyn, religion works a little differently around here. On October 30, at the Bell House in Park Slope, more than a dozen of the city’s finest bluegrass musicians will donate their services to a benefit concert for Old First, which still faces several million dollars in sanctuary repairs. Old First has one of the oldest congregations in the country—Peter Stuyvesant founded it in 1654—and the church lies at the very heart of the cultural life of Park Slope. It serves as a homeless shelter, a day-care facility, a meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous, The Hurricane Sandy Relief Kitchen, and a magnificent performance space for local arts groups. It’s both a neighborhood landmark and one of the city’s loveliest halls, with Tiffany glass windows, Arts and Crafts woodwork, and a Neo-Gothic spire of Indiana limestone. The congregation is small, however, with less than a hundred members, and they can only afford to save the building with the neighborhood’s help. Enter the Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash.

New York has always been an improbably wonderful place to hear bluegrass. Going back to the late fifties, the Greenwich Village folk scene produced the first non-Southern bluegrass band of note, The Greenbrier Boys, fronted by John Herald who served as an early mentor to Bob Dylan. Since the early seventies, homegrown players like Tony Trischka, Andy Statman, David Grisman, and Kenny Kosek have pushed the boundaries of the genre, while legends like Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers regularly swung through town for concerts. Recent years have brought an influx of the best and brightest young talent - musicians like Chris Thile and The Punch Brothers, Michael Daves, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O'Donovan, and many others have made New York their home base.

The Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash brings this history together. It’s a meeting of “the old Turks and the new Turks,” as organizer Michael Daves puts it. The cross-generational theme is strong again this year, bringing together seasoned masters and brilliant upstarts. Banjo legend Tony Trischka, “The Godfather of New Acoustic Music” will join Daves, bassist Larry Cook and two young fiddler stars Alex Hargreaves and Mike Barnett. Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Eldridge joins reknowned jazz and acoustic guitar virtuoso Julian Lage for a set mixing originals and covers that illustrate the breadth of the American songbook as Lage and Eldridge see it, incorporating bluegrass, country, gospel, old-time music and jazz. Hudson Valley based songwriters Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar (aka Mike + Ruthy) bring their crack five-piece ensemble, reintroducing a high-energy folk rock sound that they helped define in the early 2000’s as “Trad is Rad” trailblazers, The Mammals. Master old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky will be on hand, who WBUR calls " one of the greatest American fiddlers of all time.” He’ll be presenting his new trio, Molksy’s Mountain Drifters, with two young up-and-comers, Alison De Groot on banjo and Stash Wyslouch on guitar. A second stage features performances by guitarist and singer Courtney Hartman (of Della Mae), The Abby Hollander Band, and 9 Pound Hammer (featuring Old First’s own Bilger Family).

New York’s players have always specialized in taking the old tunes to new places—combining them with jazz and classical; infusing them with everything from Radiohead to the Strokes to the fiddle tunes of Sweden and Galicia. The music they’re making is as cosmopolitan as the city itself, and as utterly American. Somehow, a city that’s about as far from the roots of bluegrass as you can get has become its second home—a place of kindred urgency and sophistication, humor and mad invention. Please join us for what promises to be an astonishing show. Roofs will be raised.

Chris Thile & Michael Daves

Sleep with One Eye Open is an impassioned collaboration/conversation between mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and guitarist Michael Daves in which the subject is bluegrass, specifically how this upstart duo can acknowledge history and tradition while exuberantly defying convention. Though it was recorded in four feverish days of sessions at Jack White’s Third Man Studio in Nashville, the album has deep roots in a serendipitous side of New York City that reveals itself at certain times of the night, when strangers become kindred spirits as clubs empty out, and only the hardiest souls stick around to keep the music playing. It’s a story that begins, like so many, with a guy walking into a bar.

Sarah Jarosz with Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith

22- year-old, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who hails from just outside Austin, TX. A recent graduate from the prestigious New England Conservatory, she will release her third album, Build Me Up From Bones, for Sugar Hill Records on September 24th. Over the past four years, Jarosz, who musically fits comfortably where contemporary folk, Americana and roots music intersect, has covered a remarkable amount of ground thus far. She has toured the United States extensively, as well as Canada and the UK, taped Austin City Limits and the BBC Series The Transatlantic Sessions and appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. Her two previous records (Song Up In Her Head and Follow Me Down) received high praise from outlets including Rolling Stone, New York Times, USA Today, Paste, Mojo, Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter, and she has received multiple Grammy and Americana Music Association nominations.

Sarah is supported on the road by stellar musicians Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) and Nathaniel Smith (cello). Hargreaves recently completed the prestigious Berklee Global Jazz Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and has been tapped to perform and record with such musicians as Jerry Douglas and jazz master Danilo Perez. Smith has toured for years with renown Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster and, more recently, in various configurations with Jeremy Kittel. Jarosz, Hargreaves and Smith, who met at various music camps when they were much younger, have been performing together since 2010; the sheer joy they express on stage during performances is contagious. Hargreaves and Smith are both featured on Jarosz’s upcoming release Build Me Up From Bones.

The Deadly Gentlemen with Michael Daves

Roll Me, Tumble Me, the Deadly Gentlemen's third album and Rounder debut, boasts ten winsome examples of their playfully irreverent, vibrantly rootsy songcraft. Although the Boston-based quintet employs acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and double bass—a lineup that's usually associated with traditional bluegrass—their music defies conventional genre restrictions, filtering a bottomless assortment of influences through their own decidedly distinctive songwriting sensibility and uncanny instrumental rapport. The result is timelessly resonant music that's rooted in tradition, yet effortlessly contemporary and boundlessly entertaining.

Jen Larson and Friends featuring Noam Pikelny and Barry Mitterhoff

Jen Larson is a Brooklyn-based bluegrass and honky-tonk singer, songwriter and guitarist. In addtion to having garnered critical praise and national airplay from her work with the bluegrass band Straight Drive, Jen has been a valued part of New York City's vibrant bluegrass and roots music scene, and has had the pleasure of working with many talented musicians along the way including Barry Mitterhoff, Kenny Kosek, David Bromberg, John McEuen, Michael Daves and Greg Garing. Jen has also been a featured guest vocalist several times over the years on the nationally-broadcast radio program, "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She’s currently finishing a new EP recording, due out in Fall 2013, with producer and guitarist Michael Daves, featuring some of NYC’s greatest bluegrass talent.

Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, & Jordan Tice

The Trio of Brittany Haas, Jordan Tice, and Paul Kowert is a confluence of three of the most exciting young voices in acoustic music today. While each member carries an impressive resume of professional experience, it is the devotion to collaboration and the pursuit of a unique group sound that sets them apart.

The Birdhive Boys

The Birdhive Boys hail from mighty Brooklyn, NY. Their headlining engagement at Sterling's Upstairs at The Federal marks their west coast debut while on a concert tour throughout the United States. They approach a traditional country and bluegrass repertory with instrumental prowess and a unique rhythmic sensibility. They recently shared the stage with bluegrass super groups Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and Dailey & Vincent, and have just released a new, self-titled EP.

$35.00 - $160.00


Additional tickets may be available at the door.

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