Good things do come in small packages.
This proverb holds true for those of us, present company included, who prefer their live music up close and personal, seated on beach chairs under a magnificent blue sky, with a choice of tasty farm-to-table culinary items accompanied by a selection of pristine beverages.
Oh, and no ear plugs required!
Welcome to one of the Napa Valley’s best-kept musical secrets — “Bluegrass-fed” Long Meadow Ranch (LMR) weekend summer concerts. I recently heard of this little gem, now in its fifth season, through a friend of a friend, and of course, I had to experience it firsthand.
Monday, July 4, afforded the perfect (and celebratory) opportunity to do so. I thoroughly savored a two-set performance by Sierra Hull, the multitalented, 24-year-old Nashville-based singer who was as comfortable excelling at mandolin and guitar as she was crooning traditional bluegrass tunes, country standards and original songs from her just-released album, “Weighted Mind.”
Curated by Chris Hall, son of LMR owners Ted and Laddie Hall, the self-sustaining series has a refreshing and welcomed “bent” in its musical menu: acoustic, emerging, West Coast-based, stellar string players and bands with names you won’t necessarily find at larger indoor/outdoor festivals. Its setting — a grassy field behind Farmstead restaurant — is user- and family-friendly, accommodating up to 300-plus concertgoers spread out on blankets and low chairs (children 12 and under are free).
The 2016 season features an impressive roster of contemporary bluegrass/folk bands and continues with the following schedule:
— Fruition, Saturday, Aug. 13, 8:30 p.m.: Portland, Oregon-based quintet that has grown from a rootsy, string-centric band to one that also plays rock, soul, blues and British Invasion-era pop;
— The Brothers Comatose, Sunday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m.: Expect this high energy, San Francisco-based band, playing their unique blend of bluegrass and folk, to jump around, dance in place and leave the stage to walk through the crowd and serenade their fans;
— Trout Steak Revival, Friday, Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m.: Bluegrass-inspired mountain music from Denver, the band won the 2014 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition with their soulful narratives, heartfelt songwriting, tightly woven instrumentation and harmonies rooted in years of friendship;
— The Lil’ Smokies, Saturday, Sept. 3, 8:30 p.m. (at Native Sons Hall and benefiting the Timothy Hall Foundation): This Montana-based band weaves seamlessly through genres, playing a unique blend of traditional bluegrass and newgrass with sheer raw energy and exquisite musicianship;
— David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Saturday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m. (recently added): Grisman – composer, writer and extraordinary mandolinist – is a legendary pioneer in the world of bluegrass. Emulated by many an aspiring musician, he started his own record label, Acoustic Disc, in the ‘90s to help spread acoustic and instrumental music;
— LMR All-Star Big Band, Sunday, Oct. 2, 4:30 p.m.: The annual season closer features an acclaimed big band comprised of 20 players drawn from an internationally accomplished group of musicians that have performed jazz across the world (benefiting the Timothy Hall Foundation).
“I enjoy music quite a lot,” said Hall, a saxophone player, “and it has evolved over the years we’ve been doing it. We enjoy bringing great live music to St. Helena and the Napa Valley. “
Be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen for sunny afternoons and a jacket for cooler evenings. Small beach chairs and blankets are allowed. Access to seating is available usually two hours prior to concert times, and advance reservations for concert tickets and dinner (if you plan to eat in the restaurant) are advised — these shows will be popular!
For information, visit longmeadowranch.com/bluegrassfed or call 707-963-4555.