On Friday, Colorado progressive bluegrass quartet Head For The Hills will make a return to Des Moines. It'll be their first visit to the capital city since last fall and they are fresh off the heels of a Pacific Northwestern tour with Pert' Near Sandstone.
Progressive Bluegrass is a subgenre of traditional Bluegrass music. It essentially became a thing in the late 1940s when Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys were doing duets with banjo and contrabass. In a nutshell Progressive Bluegrass is traditional bluegrass that draws instrumentation from other genres, such as electric guitar and bass, and even keyboards. Steve Martin's Steep Canyon Rangers are an example of traditional Bluegrass that has become progressive - they've recently added a drummer to their band. While this isn't the exact definition of progressive bluegrass, it's a a simple nod to that direction. Other factors include non-traditional chord progressions and drawing elements from other musical genres such as Rock and Roll or Jazz. Head for the Hills does this, as can be heard in this instrumental rendition of David Bromberg's "New Lee Highway Blues."
Head For The Hills are Adam Kinghorn on guitar, Joe Lessard on fiddle, Matt Loewen on bass and Sam Parks on mandolin. It'exciting to have them back in Des Moines on the small stage and if you can't catch them at Vaudeville Mews on Friday, make the short drive to Cedar Falls on Saturday and see them at the Bella Sala Brew Grass Festival reunited with Pert' Near Sandstone and many others.
Despite being on tour last week, bassist Matt Loewen took a few minutes to answer five questions.
Do you have any memories of playing in Des Moines?
We've played Des Moines a handful of times--a big highlight for us was doing 80/35 Fest last summer. Great bands and a great crowd!
What is the Pickin' on the Poudre project, and how did that become a thing?
Pickin' on the Poudre is the opening weekend event we do at the Mishawaka Amphitheater (Bellvue, Colorado) every year. Though we haven't always called the show "Pickin' on the Poudre" it's been happening every year since 2004 and is one of our favorite shows of the year. We'll be back this May 14th for the 12th year.
|Head For The Hills (Photo courtesy of Graham Gardner)|
The Bluegrass genre has gained momentum over the past few years. What does Head For The Hills do that sets them apart from other acts?
I think we bring a unique and eclectic set of ears and chops to songs that are deep and frequently stray from standard source material for the genre. Domestic abuse, comic book meta-ficton, gun violence--all these and more come up in our songs. Plus there's no banjo!
What are the biggest obstacles to overcome while touring as a four piece band?
Same as touring with any small independent group--it's challenging to make a living while creating at the level we want to. It's all on us, we don't have backers or a record label or anything. Money is always tight but the rewards are high and we love what we do.
Tell me a true and crazy "Bluegrass Band on Tour" story.
I once got electrocuted on stage. Threw my upright bass out of one hand and my beer out of the other. The rest of the band thought I got stung by a bee but that was no bee. Haha. The show however went on.
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Pickin on the Poudre