Lake photo by Lola Sherstobitoff
Nestled in the pines on the shores of Medical Lake, Washington, the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival is quite possibly the best summertime bluegrass experience in the Northwest. With it's pristine location, warm Eastern Washington summer weather, stellar lineup of world-class and regional bands, and bargain-basement price, it's no wonder folks all over the Northwest Bluegrass scene are buzzing about us.
Since its inception in 2002, Blue Waters has brought some of the biggest names in bluegrass music to the Inland Northwest, including The Seldom Scene, Dan Tyminski, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Della Mae, Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, Darrell Scott, The Lonely Heartstring Band, Kathy Kallick, Chatham County Line, Front Country, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Mountain Heart, Crooked Still, The Infamous Stringdusters, Kenny & Amanda Smith, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, the Greencards, Martha Scanlan, Dirk Powell, the Josh Williams Band, and many, many others.
Blue Waters is a 501(c)-3 nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. Our budget is small and depends heavily on the contributions of sponsors and individuals. By becoming a "Friend of the Festival" you can help us keep the cost affordable for other festival-goers and the entertainment quality high for future festivals. Just click the button below to get started.
Kenny & Amanda Smith are probably the most well-known husband & wife duo in bluegrass today. Kenny is widely considered one of the most important and influential flatpicking-style guitarists of his generation. A two-time IBMA Guitarist of the Year award winner, his professional credits include six years with the popular Lonesome River Band and countless session appearances on bluegrass and country albums. He is also in great demand as an instructor at guitar workshops and master classes.
Born in the small town of Davisville, West Virginia, Amanda grew up singing in church choirs and participating in talent contests at local fairs. "I always sang, my mom and dad said, even before I can remember," she says. She started playing guitar in high school to accompany herself, and soon discovered bluegrass music through female artists such as Rhonda Vincent and Alison Krauss. Amanda was awarded the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award in 2014.
Friday - 9:00pm, Saturday - 3:30pm
Saturday - 8:00pm, Sunday - 3:00pm
In September 2015, Danny Barnes was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, in recognition of his role as "one of bluegrass music’s most distinctive and innovative performers." Now a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Barnes grew up in Texas, where he was raised on the music of bluegrass pioneers Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and Jimmie Rodgers. His banjo playing led him to the Bad Livers, a progressive bluegrass band he formed in 1990, with a sound likely either to offend or amaze fans of the genre.
Joe K. Walsh and Grant Gordy are at the elite top of a new generation of instrumentalists in American acoustic music. Joe (mandolin) is a former member of the Gibson Brothers and Joy Kills Sorrow, and is currently on faculty at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Grant held the guitar chair in the legendary David Grisman Quintet for six years, he's also worked alongside such musical luminaries as Edgar Meyer, Steve Martin, and Tony Trischka. Both Joe and Grant are current members of Darol Anger's latest band Mr. Sun.
Heralded by CMT Edge as "one of the most promising bands on the bluegrass scene," the music of the Nashville based group The Barefoot Movement is as down to earth as their intention for members of their audience: sit back, relax, take your shoes off, and stay a while. All the worries and frustrations of the world melt away as this charming, acoustic band takes listeners back to a simpler place and time. Whether you're seeking emotional ballads or rip-roaring barn-burners, you can expect a collection of music that offers something for everyone.
In the seven-plus years the band has been together they have enjoyed almost non-stop touring, including a trip to Burkina Faso, Africa where they were guests of the American Embassy. In September of 2014 they received a Momentum Award, naming them "Band of the Year" by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Their show is as fun to watch as it is to hear. The smiles on the faces of the band are obvious displays of the joy and excitement they feel when performing and the audience shares in the fun.
Saturday - 9:00pm, Sunday - 4:00pm
Friday - 7:00pm, Saturday - 4:30pm
Born in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, springing to life with all the zest and zeal you’d expect from a 1940s-style Tennessee bluegrass band, The Po' Ramblin' Boys have rambled far from home, touring throughout the United States and Europe. Yet, these four friends – C.J. Lewandowski (Vocals, Mandolin), Jereme Brown (Vocals, Banjo), Josh ‘Jug’ Rinkel (Vocals, Guitar) and Jasper Lorentzen (Bass) – remain close to their musical roots by cranking out some of the tightest and hardest-driving traditional bluegrass you’ll find anywhere. "We want to be known for keeping the old music alive, and making some new music that’s still close to the roots," says Lewandowski, a native Missourian who is the group’s eldest member as well as its lead singer and mandolin player. "A tree can’t stand without its roots. So we are just trying to keep those roots alive. We want to complement and not take away."
The band backed bluegrass legend James King for the first part of 2015, playing with him at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America awards in February, and for the following 4 months. "These are some of the best boys I've ever worked with" said Mr. King.
The Old Growth Quartet are the Northwest's newest Bluegrass Supergroup. After many years honing their powerful harmony vocals around Pacific Northwest campfires, Dale Adkins, Don Share and Joe Wilmhoff have decided to take their repertoire of soulful acoustic music to the stage. The unique vocal connection between these three singers is the centerpiece of Old Growth Quartet. The band features an eclectic repertoire of traditional and original music with deep roots in bluegrass, country, and folk. The band’s instrumental firepower features the virtuosic lead guitar playing of Dale Adkins and the riveting fiddling of Paul Elliott. Joe Wilmhoff (bass) and Don Share (guitar) provide a rhythm section and groove that will grab your attention.
Saturday - 2:30pm, Sunday - 1:00pm
Friday - 8:00pm, Sunday - 2:00pm
Kevin Pace's pure bluegrass tenor voice has often been compared to that of Vince Gill. Raised in Georgia, Kevin grew up in a family of talented musicians and singers. His Dad was part of The Pace Trio, a gospel group that traveled around Georgia in the late 50’s and early 60’s and sang in concerts with southern gospel greats such as Hovie Lister and the Statesman Quartet. When Kevin relocated from the southeast to the northwest, he wanted to put together a group of guys who could play and sing solid traditional bluegrass and gospel music. The band was immediately very well received and were soon approached and hired for two festivals for later that year. Since then they have enjoyed several successful years of traveling around the northwest festival circuit and opening for such acts as Chis Jones & the Night Drivers, the Boxcars, the Gibson Brothers, Junior Sisk, and many more. The band has three CDs out and records on the Poor Mountain Record label. Their latest album won the IMEA bluegrass album of the year in 2016.
The 4th installment of our *Blue Waters Tribute Series* will be a special tribute to the legendary Doc Watson. Doc came to national attention during the folk music revival of the early 1960s, injected a note of authenticity into a movement awash in protest songs and bland renditions of traditional tunes. More than any other guitarist of his era, he elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass with his flashy, rapid-fire melodies normally played by a fiddle or a banjo.
Continuing the tradition we have established with our past tributes to Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens and The Stanley Brothers, this show will be an opportunity to learn about the life of one of bluegrass music's most beloved and influential artists, with biographical narration and anecdotes provided between songs by Blue Waters Music Director Kevin Brown. This year we will be doing something different and including bands from across the lineup.
Saturday - 7:00pm
Friday - 6:00pm, Saturday - 1:30pm
4$ Shoe is a trio of well-known players in the thriving Seattle Old-Time music scene: Morgan John (banjo/vocals) and Tom Collicot (guitar/vocals) both play in the Atlas Stringband, and Kate Lichtenstein (fiddle/guitar/vocals) plays in the Barn Owls, both of which enjoy wide popularity throughout the Northwest.
$4 Shoe began as a side-project but the talents of these fine folks in a smaller combo has won them a devoted fan-base. They released a CD "I'm Worried Now" a few years back. Collectively these talented folks have performed at such well-regarded festivals such as San Francisco Bluegrass Festival, Portland Old-time Gathering, Northwest Folk Festival, Bainbridge Island Bluegrass Festival, Wild and Scenic Music Festival, Olympia Old-time Music Festival, Floyd Country Store, Dare to be Square/West as well as venues and dances up and down the west coast.
Misty Mountain Pony Club is the Spokane-based duo of Sally Jablonsky and Milo Krims. Steeped in tradition, they are part of a new generation of young old-timers giving new life to old songs and old sounds to new originals. They specialize in old-timey country songs that conjure up images of outlaws, cattle drivers, hellfire and lonesome hearts.
Sally grew up playing music with her family, hiking around in the desert singing cowboy songs, and learning the old tunes at festivals and camps. Milo Krims hails from many places-New York and Southern California, among others, and started playing music as a teenager in punk bands. Later he joined up with the oldtime string band, the Peach Colored Jug Smugglers, and toured the country.
Stay tuned for our 2019 lineup!
Under the able leadership of legendary fiddle instructor Jaydean Ludiker, "Blue Camp" is a two day music workshop offered by the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival to youth ages 20 and under, regardless of musical ability. Students on any of the standard bluegrass instruments -- guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and bass -- are welcome. Over the course of the two days the students will be instructed on some basic tunes and bluegrass jamming conventions and etiquette. Blue Camp culminates with an onstage showcase opportunity. Participants work with top notch, inspiring bluegrass musicians who give them something new and exciting to take away from their experience.
To learn more, click the link below to download the Blue Camp registration and information form:
The Wernick Method Jam Class is an opportunity for pickers of all levels to improve their skills using a proven, hands-on teaching method created by bluegrass legend Pete Wernick of the band Hot Rize. Pete's method has been shared with instructors all across the world, and we are proud to offer a Wernick Method class at Blue Waters, taught by Spokane's own Kelly Bogan.
Kelly Bogan is a multi-instumentalist, accomplished songwriter, and has taught privately for 25 years. Kelly is also active in the Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association, which has named his band Molly & Tenbrooks Band of the Year, with Kelly winning Dobro Player of the Year. He has taught workshops in banjo, Dobro, and vocal harmony at the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival and at the Sacajawea Bluegrass Festival in Washington. Kelly is very comfortable with new students and enthusiastic about introducing them to the wonderful world of bluegrass.
More information about the Wernick Jam Class is available by clicking here.
Volunteers are an essential part of the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival. We are so fortunate to have a large group of generous, enthusiastic, friendly, and hard working volunteers. The volunteers are the first to greet visitors when they arrive, and set the tone for a fun filled weekend.
If you are interested in being a part of our volunteer team, click the link below to download our volunteer form:
In addition to all the fine music during the weekend, folks can get some great eats and browse through our crafts vendor area. We limit the number of unique food vendors so each unit has a chance to do well for the weekend; craft vendors have prime space and all are welcome! All the vendors are outside the festival fence line, so anyone using the park has access which contributes to your success! Please download the form below or contact us for more information.
Weekend camping passes are only $40, and are available online or at the festival gate. Please note that a weekend festival pass is required of all campers.
Blue Waters offers two camping areas:
For those out-of-town guests who are not interested in camping, there are several quality hotels within a short drive of the festival. We encourage you to check out the establishments below. Several of these hotels have become friends and sponsors of our festival and we can wholeheartedly recommend their establishments.
Other nearby hotels:
You are welcome to bring your own picnic food, although we also have plenty of food vendors. There are picnic tables available near the back of the viewing area. Bring your own blankets and/or chairs for festival seating, but please do not bring high-back chairs or umbrellas or anything that might restrict the viewing of folks behind you.
Children under 12 are free with their parents.
Medical Lake, WA is located just west of Spokane, WA. Waterfront Park is on State Highway 902 just south of Medical Lake, WA, about 15 minutes west of Spokane, and about 3 1/2 hours east of Seattle. The park is enclosed by a canopy of tall ponderosa pines, providing cool shade for those warm and sunny Eastern Washington days.
Note to Travelers: The Spokane-Medical Lake area is on the dry side of the Cascades. A national magazine rated Spokane's summer climate as second best in the nation. Days are normally dry with temperatures in the 80's or low 90's. Nights are cool and you might need a light sweater for late jamming.
Northbound and southbound travelers should get onto I-90 and head East or West as the case may be and take the appropriate exit indicated above.
Additional offsite parking is available at West Medical Lake, which is just west of Waterfront Park. Watch for additional parking signs as you near the park from either direction.