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Thread: Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

  1. #1
    I like to play Man of Wax's Avatar
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    Default Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

    I'm looking to get some info on the bluegrass scene in and around Austin, Texas. By the scene, I don't mean just the places to take in a professional show, although I'm into that sort of thing, of course, and I know Austin has some of the best live-music offerings anywhere. I mean the participatory situation: picking, not "jams on stage" by house bands/pickup bands. For instance, a lot of people--including in older posts in this forum--mention Radio Coffee & Beer and St. Elmo's as jam spots, but both of these places, fine as they may be, appear to have performances, not jams. Maybe I'm mistaken about that; I'm going by what I find on their websites and in other sources online. So, where do folks gather to pick and sing the classics of the Stanley Brothers or Hartford or Jim and Jesse or Bill or Flatt & Scruggs or... with whoever shows up?

    Now, with respect to the pros, I'm wondering about where to find traditional-ish bluegrass and old-time shows and festivals. I love creative musicianship across genres, which Austin is known for. A lot of "alt-" and progressive stuff. I like that that, but I like the standards, too. What's a good venue for traditional/traditionally inspired bluegrass bands and other string bands?

    I don't have specific upcoming dates in Austin, though I may visit in December. This is a general inquiry, in advance of a possible move to the area. I've lived for a long time in Boston, which has a fantastic jam environment for an avid amateur player and occasional gigger such as myself. My partner, however, is being recruited for a great job in Austin. (She's also a picker.) So I'm trying to learn more. I checked out centraltexasbluegrass.org, which has some good info. But I'm wondering also about the inside scoop.

    Thanks in advance for any tips. Boston is my beloved home, but I'm thinking that if we wind up in Austin, we'll find lots of musical fun there, too.
    Last edited by Man of Wax; Oct-30-2018 at 9:39am.

  2. #2
    Registered User wellvis@well.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

    Brad's Page of Steel:
    http://www.well.com/~wellvis/steel.html
    A website devoted to acoustic & electric steel guitars

  3. #3
    I like to play Man of Wax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

    Thanks. I've seen that page, and it has some good links. Curious about the inside scoop, though, if anyone would like to share.

  4. #4
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

    Quote Originally Posted by Man of Wax View Post
    Thanks. I've seen that page, and it has some good links. Curious about the inside scoop, though, if anyone would like to share.
    Nothing like repeating what you already wrote in OP, right? I did read the whole post. I'm not from Austin, so I can't help you with the inside scoop there, sorry. I did want to mention the monthly fun that goes down in Pearl, Texas though. 1st Saturday Bluegrass Jam and Stage Show. It's west of Gatesville, so it would be a monthly drive. I'm up here in Abilene, but make the drive sometimes. Usually a whole lot of pickin' going on there, and worth the drive. Search this forum for a post about it, with link to their website.
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    Registered User Rob Ross's Avatar
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    Default Re: Jams and "traditional" bluegrass in Austin, Texas

    I'm not an Austin resident, but I get there occasionally, and so far have only managed to make the Stone Soup Session (think of the long-lamented Sandy's Old Time jam from Cambridge meets a British Isles song session, no bluegrass but great eclectic fun.) That leads me to playing at a Minnesota MBOTMA jam some time later with one Gary Mortensen from Austin, one of the hosts of the KOOP radio "Strictly Bluegrass" program, and a really great dobro player. He had written the birthday article in the "Reel Times" Newsletter of the Austin Friends of Traditional Music for Dave Polacheck, the leader of the Stone Soup Session, which is what originally led me to finding the Stone Soup Session. He said that due to the very large number of professional musicians in Austin, plain old pick-up jams are not really very prevalent in Austin. They are there, but you are going to probably have to find some local folks with knowledge of them. I think you're correct that many of the "jams" listed are more watch the local professionals get down than join and play.

    As an aside, an another small world story: for years I flew into Memphis, and would see adds for Fiddler's Green, a great little music store. I never got anywhere near where it was, till my company changed hotels we stayed in, and there it was, across the street. I got there once, and then they packed up shop, and moved back to Austin, from whence the owner came. I haven't made it there yet, but if you're down for Irish, they have a session on Sundays.
    Rob Ross
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