Bluegrass music series continues in outer East Portland

See why hundreds of folks who enjoy Americana and Bluegrass music head out to the Centennial neighborhood every month – to have a toe-tapping good time …

Jim Hart and Larry Beach do some pickin’ and playin’ during the “jam session” that precedes the East Side Bluegrass Music Series shows.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Perhaps the number one reason so many people are supporting the East Side Bluegrass Music Series, we hear, is that they can enjoy a great full-evening show featuring top-notch bands – and, do it in a venue other than a bar room or cocktail lounge.

“We’re starting our third season,” smiled the organizer and MC for the musical series, Mason Smith. “It’s gratifying to see that so many folks enjoy the programs we put on. It’s a continuation of the music series started many years ago by Sharon Sandgren in the Gresham Playhouse.”

East Side Bluegrass Music Series organizer Mason Smith, and music series originator Sharon Sandgren, share a joyful moment before the September show begins.

While the monthly concert series has “gone dark” during the summer months in past years, Smith told us that their new mid-week shows this summer were a success.

“Audiences grew month by month, for our midweek programs,” Smith added. “Now we’re back on every third Saturday night of the month. It’s clear that there’s an audience for music acts ranging from borderline country to folk music – as long as they have deep roots in bluegrass.”

Mason Smith welcomes the audience to the September East Side Bluegrass Music Series concert.

“Hardshell Harmony” plays.

Asked why he’s taken up the challenge of producing these shows, Smith replied, “I do this for the fun of it. It’s for the love of the music. And, the bands say they enjoy playing here because get an audience that is attentive – unlikewhen they play pubs and bars.  People are actually coming here to see, hear, and specifically to enjoy, bluegrass music.”

With that, the group, “Hardshell Harmony”, based out of The Dalles, launched into its list of traditional bluegrass music, featuring great musicianship and tight harmony vocals.

October 15 show announced
If you haven’t been to one of their programs, we suggest you come early. From 5:30 to 7 p.m., enjoy as many as 20 musicians play in an acoustic jam session.

Then, on October 15, at :00 p.m., it’s The Howdy Boys from Seattle. They play the music they love from the early days of Bluegrass, and mix it up with Honky-Tonk, Old Time Country, and original songs and tunes.

Then, Steve Blanchard will play a short set while the next band sets up.

At 8:45 p.m., Northern Departure, a quartet playing guitar, upright bass, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle – coupled with flawless picking, earnest harmonies, and an unsullied Northwest perspective – takes the stage.

Members of Hardshell Harmony say they enjoy entertaining folks who love Bluegrass music.

The suggested donation is $10 per person (children are free). A full snack bar (no booze, you won’t need it!) will be open before and during show.

As the show got underway, Smith pointed out that their December 16 show is on the third Friday night of the month. “We’ve got a good Christmas show planned, featuring Roundhouse and Corral Creek Connection.”

All concerts are in the Freedom Foursquare Church auditorium located at 660 SE 160th Avenue (behind the Su Casa store), just south of SE Stark Street. For more information, see their new website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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