WinterWonderGrass 2019 brings the tunes and good times to Squaw Valley

WinterWonderGrass 2019 brings the tunes and good times to Squaw Valley

All photography courtesy of Winter WonderGrass

“Majestic mountains and sunshine…I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be,” exclaimed Lindsay Lou from the mainstage on Sunday afternoon as her and her band, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, rifled through a set at the WinterWonderGrass Festival in Squaw Valley, California.

Last weekend’s three-day festival was the culmination of an entire winter’s worth of shows, spanning ski resorts from East to West, starting in Stratton, Vermont to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and ending in Lake Tahoe, where the stages are set up under the looming, infamous tram face and Squaw Valley’s iconic peaks. Wondergrass has been coming to California since 2015 and this year featured more than 20 different acts, covering all different styles of bluegrass and folk-inspired music. Headliners included Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass and Trampled by Turtles.

This unique festival brings out a lot of energy and eccentricity, from the bands all the way down to the crowds who don fur jackets, onesies, colorful beanies, flower brimmed hats and just about every other exuberant outfit imaginable to display their love for mountain-style bluegrass. “It really has grown into the perfect festival,” says Greensky Bluegrass dobro player, Anders Beck. “The first festival we did we thought this is a terrible idea—cold weather outside—but then it turned out great.”

Greensky Bluegrass has been with the WinterWonderGrass Festival since the beginning and has seen all types of weather from sleet to blizzards to this year’s sunny blue skies and epic spring skiing conditions. The variability of the weather definitely keeps organizers on their toes, but it is also a testament to how dedicated the fans are to support the event, no matter the weather. “I think it makes us play better because of the bad weather we get sometimes,” says Paul Hoffman, the vocalist/mandolin player for Greensky, in regard to keeping the fans happy. “Plus you can’t beat two hours of free beer tasting!”

“The festival is all about breaking down walls and getting the community involved in the winter scene,” says Founder Scott Stoughton, who started the homegrown festival in 2013 in a parking lot in Edwards, CO. “It’s a winter festival so you have to want to be here.”

WinterWonderGrass thrives on community and sustainability teaming up with local non-profits like Tahoe Food Hub, a local farm to market group amongst other local organizations as well as groups like Waste Free Earth, a group that follows the festival to help reduce the footprint and promote green living. Another perk of the festival is that all of Tahoe’s local breweries come out and let the over-21 crowd sample free beer in the late afternoon, a tradition that’s been longstanding at the California installment of Wondergrass.

Whilst this was my fifth year attending the festival, the epic spring sun shrouded last year’s brutal moments of sleet, rain and snow, helping to shine a light on what the festival truly thrives on: the great vibes of a mountain community coming together. Morning laps with friends on Squaw Valley’s elusive Silverado lift provided opulent pockets of hidden powder, the crazy shenanigans in the parking lot’s tailgate scene contributed to fresh sunburns and the evening’s plentiful tunes brought had everyone’s hips swaying back and forth.

This year, musical additions like the rocking jam band ALO and the twangy ripping Bluegrass licks of Billy String provided a fresh sound; meanwhile it was a common occurrence for members of different bands to collaborate together on live on stage. One of my highlights was witnessing the Winter Wonder Women—a make-shift band that brought together all of the women from the performing bands—to harmonize beautifully in a multi-song a capella set. Finally, when Trampled by Turtles finished the Sunday night set and I managed to catch a glimpse of the crystal glare of stars amongst the glow of stage lights, I knew it was the euphoric ending to yet another successful WinterWonderGrass.

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe Recap


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