North Adams, MA -- FreshGrass, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MASS MoCA) 3-day bluegrass and roots music festival announced the second round of bands set to play its annual September festival. Festival favorites The Del McCoury Band, Indiana alt-country rockers Houndmouth, Malian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Vieux Farka Touré, Boston-based trio The Ballroom Thieves, and acoustic roots band Cat and The Moon join an already-robust lineup, featuring headliner the Punch Brothers, a late-night hoedown by Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas presents Earls of Leicester, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, festival favorite Alison Brown, Peter Rowan, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, Flatt Lonesome, Darol Anger’s Mr. Sun, Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, and 2014 FreshGrass Award winners Twisted Pine and Quiles & Cloud. FreshGrass, to be held on September 18-20, 2015, features bluegrass traditionalists and trailblazers on four stages and throughout every nook and cranny of MASS MoCA’s 28-building, 16-acre campus.
FreshGrass veteran The Del McCoury Band will be returning to the festival for the third time this September. For fifty years, Del McCoury’s music has set the bluegrass standard of authenticity while maintaining its relevance: “Del epitomizes the bluegrass musician from a previous era, and also from this one,” says acclaimed guitarist and 2013 FreshGrass performer Jerry Douglas.
Oft-compared to swaggering folk-rock legend The Band for its group vocals, narrative songwriting, and larger-than life stage presence, Houndmouth, after forming in the summer of 2011, played small, local venues in Louisville and Indiana until its big break at SXSW in March 2012. According to legend, Geoff Travis, head of the tastemaking Rough Trade Records, heard the band at the music festival and offered Houndmouth a contract on the spot. Despite its UK representation, Houndmouth’s distinctly Americana sound shone through on its first album, From the Hills Below the City. The album was a critical success (NPR Music called it “near perfect”) and led to several performances on the late-night circuit and several major festivals (SPIN and Esquire magazines named Houndmouth a “must-see” at Lollapalooza 2013). The band recently followed up its debut album with Little Neon Limelight, released on March 17, 2015, showcasing the same signature blend of classic Americana sensibilities and raucous, rollicking, rock ‘n’ roll delivery that the band will be bringing to FreshGrass 2015.
Last year, Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí brought his solo act to our FreshGrass stages. His raw, unapologetic traditional Irish influences and instrumentation made him an instant festival favorite (so much so that he returned to the museum for a special St. Patrick’s Day show this month). Like Ó Maonlaí before him, Malian singer-songwriter Vieux Farka Touré offers an unexpected and global perspective to the FreshGrass lineup, although Touré’s sound is an eclectic meld of blues, world, rock, reggae, soul, and Malian folk music. Touré has received critical acclaim from an equally eclectic array of sources, he’s no stranger to the top of the world-music charts, and his own father, Ali Ibrahim "Farka" Touré, is one of Africa’s most internationally renowned musicians to date. Vieux Farka Touré has collaborated with the likes of Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Dave Matthews, and, of course, his father, and in 2010 he performed alongside Shakira, Alicia Keys, and K’naan at the opening celebration of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Touré’s diverse array of musical influences and collaborators, his soulful, groove-ready tracks, and his firm roots in folk are sure to catapult him to FreshGrass 2015 fame.
The Ballroom Thieves bring their city heritage and country feel to this year’s FreshGrass lineup. The Boston-based threesome boasts a stripped-down, acoustic, organic setup — so that the show goes wherever they do — and amidst their rollicking guitar riffs, emotive cello, and pulsating drum beats is the crown jewel of the trio: their breathtaking three-part vocals. Their unique sound strips the conventions of pop and folk to their core and builds them back up again with renewed vitality, which explains why acts such as The Lone Bellow, Dispatch, the Wheeler Brothers, and fellow FreshGrass 2015 performer Houndmouth have all toured and collaborated with the band.
Cat and The Moon, a dynamic acoustic roots band, rounds out this wave of announcements with its strong Celtic and bluegrass influences. After forming at the Berklee College of Music, the band quickly rose to prominence in Boston’s world-class Irish music scene. The band features the musical stylings of San Francisco banjoist, Ricky Mier, who takes a multi-faceted approach to his instrument. Inspired by the musical traditions of bluegrass, jazz, traditional Irish, folk, and classical, and motivated by an academic interest in the banjo (Mier is still an active contributor of tablature and transcriptions to the Banjo Hangout), his diverse and compelling banjo skills made him winner of the 2014 FreshGrass “Best Banjo” contest. Now returning to FreshGrass 2015 with Cat and The Moon, Mier’s unbelievable banjo prowess finally gets the staging it deserves.
In addition to concerts, contests, workshops, and the festival’s legendary jam sessions — during which professional musicians pick and play among the crowd, many of whom bring their own instruments — festival events include camping, located a short distance from MASS MoCA’s campus, and children's programming. Admission to MASS MoCA's galleries is included with a festival pass, and festival-goers enjoy dozens of pop-up concerts set among dramatically scaled exhibitions of contemporary art.
Advance 3-day adult tickets are now available for $93, with student tickets priced at $83, $46 for kids 7-16, and free admission for kids six and under. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount on festival ticket prices. Single-day tickets may be offered closer to the event, as space allows. FreshGrass details will be updated on the festival website, FreshGrass.com, and on Facebook at FreshGrass Festival. FreshGrass is held rain or shine.