By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
4 p.m. Mondays at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave., Sequim. More information is available at 360-457-8355, www.firststep
family.org and on First Step Family Support Center's Facebook page.
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — You could say the gathering has snowballed.
Over a dozen Januaries, the Snowgrass festival has fallen on Port Angeles, bringing bluegrass music in its many colors.
Come snow or starshine, the event has raised money for First Step Family Support Center, the nonprofit organization providing help for moms, dads and their kids across Clallam County.
For Staci Matthes, though, it's a whole new ballgame.
“This is my first Snowgrass. And what I came away with is how eager everyone is to help First Step,” said Matthes, development director — read chief fundraiser — at the 42-year-old agency since April.
For Snowgrass 2014, Matthes has assembled six local bands, with players of washtub bass, upright bass, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and even sand blocks. They will all take the stage Saturday at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.
The Fiddle Kids, Crescent Blue, Luck of the Draw, Witherow, Good Machine and the Kings of the Wild Frontier complete the lineup, to begin at 6:30 p.m.; doors will open at 5:30, with tickets at $12 in advance, $14 at the door, $9 for seniors, and free for youth 10 and under.
“This is a new show for sure,” said Matthes, adding that Witherow, Good Machine and Kings of the Wild Frontier are the new names on the bill.
Snowgrass-goers are likely to recognize Witherow's singer, Abby Latson, though, since she was leading lady in Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys, a quartet that disbanded in 2012 after much success. Meanwhile, David Rivers and Joey Gish, two of the Homeschool Boys, have graduated to the Kings of the Wild Frontier.
“It's cold, dark, and dreary, and we all need a joyful dose of bluegrass,” declared Rivers. At Snowgrass, “you'll hear incredible representations of the great bluegrass and old-time traditions, as well as the up-and-coming, contemporary 'NorthwestGrass.'
“Youngsters to senior citizens from across the Peninsula will be sharing the stage,” he added. “Get ready to hoot-n-holler.”
The Kings of the Wild Frontier and Good Machine will be playing together Saturday night, Matthes noted. And there's a good chance all of the musicians will hop back onto the stage for a song or two at the end of the show.
Another new feature: jazz songstress Sarah Shea of Port Angeles and Forks-based filmmaker Vern Hestand will serve as hosts, as traditional master of ceremonies Denny Secord takes a break this year.
Everyone's a volunteer on Saturday night, said Matthes. The Snowgrass money goes to First Step for its drop-in centers in Port Angeles and Sequim, where needy parents find emergency supplies of baby food, formula and diapers, along with a baby- and children's-clothing closet.
“This is a labor of love for the bands. It's humbling, actually,” Matthes added. “I have more bands and volunteers than I have time.”
There are sweets to be had during Snowgrass, too: As is traditional, Northwest Fudge & Confections of Port Angeles will offer refreshments during intermission.
Here's a little more about the music.
■ Crescent Blue, a 7-year-old band, will start Snowgrass off with their West End-bred sound. And for Snowgrass, Crescent Blue's Barney Munger will do a double-banjo duet with his daughter Rochelle.
■ The Fiddle Kids, the six-player ensemble from Port Angeles, are back after their Snowgrass debut in 2013. The band consists of fiddlers Charlotte Hertel and Lael Butler, singer and sand blocks player Imogen Fraser — at 7 the youngest Snowgrasser — plus her cousins, bassist Adam Watkins and guitarist-singer Elizabeth Watkins, and just one big kid, their dad Al Watkins, a mandolinist and singer.
■ Witherow, a folk and Americana quartet with their roots in bluegrass, has Abby Mae Latson singing, Dillan Witherow on guitar and vocals, Jason Taylor on the bass and Josh Kirsch on drums.
Known for their harmonies — Latson and Witherow are sweethearts after all — this Sequim-Port Angeles band appeared in November on Seattle's public television station, KCTS.
■ Luck of the Draw, one of the longest-playing bands on the North Olympic Peninsula, ranges from bluegrass to rock 'n' roll on Dave Secord's mandolin, banjo, strumstick and lead guitar; Rosalie Secord's rhythm guitar, mandolin and singing, Dennis Schosbeck's fiddle and Barbara Priebe's washtub bass.
■ Good Machine is a folk trio composed of banjoist Cole Gibson, cellist Taylor Thomas-Price and upright bass player Hayden Pomeroy, also known for his work with Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys. Having recently toured the United States to busk in cities from San Francisco to New Orleans, Good Machine is back in town for Snowgrass.
■ The Kings of the Wild Frontier are David Rivers and Joey Gish, who was the fiddler in Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys. Their sound, Rivers notes, “is big, joyful and just plain silly.”
Snowgrass tickets are available in advance in Port Angeles at Odyssey Books, Port Book and News, Strait Music, Sound Community Bank, Necessities & Temptations and at First Step Family Support Center. In Sequim, they're on sale at Pacific Mist Books downtown, and on the West End the place to buy is Forks Outfitters.
For more about Snowgrass and First Step, phone Matthes at 360-457-8355 or visit www.firststepfamily.org.