Folk music and bluegrass shows move to outer East Portland

UPDATED! If you liked these shows way out at the Gresham Little Theater, see why you’ll probably love this closer-in venue! Find out about the upcoming show on January 16 …

Listening to her play, we understand why they say the show’s MC, Kathy Boyd (who plays with the Phoenix Rising Band), is described as having a “ten gallon soul in a two pint body”. Here, she’s plucking her string bass, adding a lively baseline to tunes played during the jam session held before each Eastside Bluegrass Music Series show.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For several years, folk and bluegrass music impresario Sharon Sandgren produced monthly shows at the Gresham Little Theater – way out east, near Boring. But, when Sandgren moved on to other efforts, the shows were discontinued.

“You might say I’ve picked up where Sharon left off,” Mason Smith, the promoter of the new Eastside Bluegrass Music Series. “We’re putting on shows on the third Saturday night of the month through June this year. It’s going pretty good; people are saying they like the shows here.”

Mason Smith, organizer of the Eastside Bluegrass Music Series, says he enjoys the music and loves the musicians who come to the jam sessions and shows that are now held each month in outer East Portland.

Alternative to the ‘bar scene’
Smith said he took on producing the shows because he enjoys the genre of music, and loves being around the musicians. “If you’re not into the bar scene, there aren’t a lot of venues where you can find good, live acoustic, folk, and bluegrass music. That’s what our programs are all about.”

When we asked Smith if he’s also a musician, he conceded, “I do play mandolin and guitar. Although, that being said, after seven years, I still consider myself a beginner. I like to sing and perform a number during the show with my daughter. Then, we let the professional bands to the rest.”

Provides family entertainment
For a modest price, the Eastside Bluegrass Music Series shows provide good entertainment, Smith commented. “The bands are really top-notch; they are some of the very best in the Pacific Northwest. And the music is presented in a family atmosphere. You’ll feel comfortable having your kids here.”

They offer a full-service snack bar, open before and during the show. There’s no booze, but the event is so much fun, you won’t miss the liquor.

Some folks say they enjoy listening to the jam session before the show as much as to the bands on stage later in the evening.

Full evening’s entertainment
A typical evening starts with a jam session at 5:30 p.m. It’s hard to describe the feeling one has when surrounded by 20 musicians all jamming on one of their favorite songs! Musicians join in as they arrive. By show time about 7:00 p.m. the two-dozen or so musicians are having a regular folk music jamboree.

The formal program is in the same format as the Little Theater shows, Smith said: Two full 50 minute sets, and one 20-minute short set.

Come hear the Roundhouse Bluegrass Band at the January Eastside Bluegrass Music Series program. Band supplied photo

At their January 16 snow, Roundhouse Bluegrass Band starts off with music from a variety of genres, using bluegrass instruments – bass, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. They sing along in duets, trios and quartet harmonies.

Performing next will be the duo of Joan and Fred Coats.

You’ll find out why they say music by The Urban Monroes is “fashioned from the heart of tradition and infused with adrenaline, combining the skills of some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest talent.” Photo by Marie Vecchio

About the show, Smith remarked, “You won’t find better old-time, Bluegrass, and traditional American music anywhere, at any price.” That price is relatively inexpensive – a suggested donation of $8 per adult; kids are free.

The Eastside Bluegrass Music Series is held at 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, contact Mason Smith via e-mail at or call (503) 307-2993.

Mason Smith reported that about 150 folks turned out to see this show!  They’ve got plenty of room in the hall; so if you like Bluegrass music — plan on seeing their next show on February 20!

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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