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.
Like the powerful mandolinist and composer at its helm, John Reischman & the Jaybirds fashion a stylish take on bluegrass that seamlessly blends original songs and instrumentals with Appalachian old-time music for a truly unique band sound. Now in their 20th year, with seven acclaimed albums and two Juno nominations, the Jaybirds are simultaneously innovative and unadorned, sophisticated and stripped-down, happily old-fashioned and 21st-century contemporary.
Bluegrass Unlimited calls John Reischman “one of the world’s undisputed masters” of the mandolin, famed for outstanding tone and taste. Many of his dozens of original instrumentals have become popular favourites for sessions and covers, such as the jam standard Saltspring. He has three critically-acclaimed solo instrumental albums and has recorded on many other projects, including the Grammy-winning True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe. John also plays Latin-based jazz and choro music with highly regarded finger-style acoustic guitarist/composer John Miller; the duo has released three superb albums.
Saturday - 9:00pm, Sunday - 2:00pm
Friday - 9:00pm, Saturday - 3:30pm
The Lonesome Ace Stringband is a Canadian old-time band with bluegrass chops that play some righteous folk and country music. There's a depth of groove and sense of space not often heard in bluegrass today, a level of instrumental interplay and vocal blend uncommon in old-time, and an on-stage rapport that transcends all of this. Band members Chris Coole (banjo), John Showman (fiddle) and Max Heineman (bass) are each journeyman musicians and veterans of some of Canada's top roots music acts (New Country Rehab, The David Francey Band, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Fiver).
Instrumentation alone instantly sets LAS's sound apart: consisting of just fiddle, clawhammer banjo, and upright bass, the band moves freely between having a sound so powerful that it doesn't seem like it should be coming from a trio, to a sparseness and fragility that draws the listener in and refreshes the ear. All three are compelling lead singers, each with his own character and range. This allows for the vocal texture to shift depending on how the song needs to feel - and what the song has to say. When those voices come together the power of the harmonies is unshakable. It's clear to anyone who's heard LAS that they just don't sound like any other band.
It’s always illuminating to ask an artist how they understand music, but Eli West’s perspective is nothing short of ground-breaking. A trained designer, he sees music architecturally, visualizing his compositions spatially. It’s a highly unusual way to think about music, tied to his verdant natural world of the Pacific Northwest. On his new album, Tapered Point of Stone, West lays out original songs and tunes like houses built by hand, weaving their melodies into the setting of acoustic roots music that first inspired him. Recorded in 2020, just before everything shut down, the album brings together West’s favored quartet of musicians: Andrew Marlin (Watchhouse) on mandolin and guitar, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglas) on fiddle, himself on mandolin, guitar, and banjo, and Clint Mullican (Watchhouse) on bass. This is the third album this quartet has built, including solo albums for Marlin and Sedelmeyer, and at this point they operate on a near-magical wavelength. As both a noted arranger, songwriter, performer, and composer, West has been crafting a Northwest-centric roots music aesthetic through earlier collaborations with Cahalen Morrison and John Reischman, and recordings with Bill Frisell and Dori Freeman. Tapered Point of Stone showcases West’s collaborative nature.
Joining Eli will be Forrest Marowitz on bass (Rain City Ramblers) and Patrick McGonigle on fiddle (Lonely Heartstring Band).
Friday - 8:00pm, Saturday - 4:30pm
Saturday - 8:00pm, Sunday - 4:00pm
The Onlies began as a trio of lifelong friends and musical collaborators who realized early on that they shared a fascination with traditional fiddle music. Leo Shannon, Samantha Braman, and Riley Calcagno started making music together at age seven (2005), and quickly became immersed in fiddle music and tradition in their home of Seattle, down the West Coast, and across the world. In recent years, they have developed their sound with the addition of Vivian Leva, an acclaimed talent of old-time, country, and Americana.
Their albums have charted on radio stations around the country, and they have had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with Elvis Costello, Darol Anger, Bruce Molsky, Laurie Lewis, Altan, Tristan Clarridge, and John Herrmann. Their fiddle, banjo, and guitar playing have become a fixture in a wave of young people who are studying and engaging with the old time tradition with a deep respect for the history of the music and people who make it, as well as a curiosity about how old time music fits into contemporary sounds and culture.
The 5th installment of our "Blue Waters Tribute Series" will be a special tribute to a true American Original: John Hartford. Between the 1960s until his death in the early 2000s, Hartford was a regular guest and contributor on the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour and the Smothers Brothers Show, Ken Burns’ landmark Civil War series, and the hugely popular “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. He won Grammy awards in three different decades, recorded a catalog of more than 30 albums, and wrote one of the most popular songs of all time, Gentle On My Mind. But that hardly explains John Hartford.
John Hartford was a multi-talented old-time musician, a riverboat captain, a satirical songwriter, a one-man showman of exceptional talents, and one of the founders of both progressive country music and old-time string music revivalism. He was a prolific recording artist who's recordings ranged across old-timey fiddle music, bluegrass and newgrass, folk, blues, jazz, and country. He also invented his own shuffle tap dance move, and clogged on an amplified piece of plywood while he played and sang.
The Tribute Series has become one of the most popular and unique features of the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival. Continuing the tradition we have established with our past tributes to Bill Monroe (2014), Hazel Dickens (2015), The Stanley Brothers (2017), and Doc Watson (2018) this set provides 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. The songs will be performed by artists and bands from across our lineup.
Saturday - 7:00pm
Saturday - 2:30pm, Sunday - 3:00pm
Formed in 2020 to satisfy New York City's urge for tight harmonies in Bluegrass music. The Grass Messengers combine for over 40 years collectively of professional bluegrass experience, and feature 3 of NYC'S finest musicians. Seattle native two-time Grammy nominee Chris Luquette (Dirty Kitchen), has teamed up with banjo player Ellery Marshall, and guitarist Christian Apuzzo. Ellery hails from LA and has lived in NYC nearly 20 years. His playing echoes the greats from Earl Scruggs to Tom Adams. Long Island native Christian Apuzzo is one of the finest tenor singers in bluegrass music. A fine flatpicker, he is an instructor at Jalopy school of music in Brooklyn, and plays with the great band The City Pickers. Together they've joined forces to present fine harmonies with slick pickin'. They host the Thursday bluegrass session at Brooklyn's Luckydog Tavern, and can be seen regularly at music venues in Manhattan's East Village and Upper West Side.
Joining them in August 2022 is bassist Andrew Knapp, a familiar face to the NW music scene, Andrew plays with The Warren G Hardings, along with Nick Dumas and Chris Luquette."
Monroe Bridge is a group of bluegrass veterans who have been playing music together at shows, festivals, and fairs throughout the Pacific Northwest. They share a deep love of the traditional bluegrass music of Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and, of course, Monroe. Individually, the members are experienced musicians and have played bluegrass and country music in bands throughout the land before coming together in the Inland Northwest in 2018. Today they perform a finely honed blend of traditional, contemporary, and original bluegrass, country and gospel music. With tight vocal harmony and dynamic instrumentals, we think you’re sure to love this band. Whether you're young, old, or in between, you’ll have a great time listening to Monroe Bridge! Noel Taggart on mandolin has gained a reputation as one of the finest lead vocalists around. Kent & Karen Riggs are on guitar, singing lead and harmony vocals. Jean Ballhorn on fiddle is a veteran of the Colorado bluegrass scene and has performed and recorded with Charles Sawtelle, Open Road, Camptown and many others. Dan Gore is a versatile multi-instrumentalist. He has played mandolin and guitar in several bluegrass bands in the region and has produced the annual Spokane Mandolin Congress. Dan is playing bass fiddle for Monroe Bridge.
Sunday - 12:00pm
Sunday - 1:00pm
Northwest native Jenny Anne Mannan began her musical education at a tender age, touring with her family’s bluegrass band, The Bullas, and garnering awards at fiddle contests along the way. In 1998 she moved to Nashville with her brother Luke Bulla, where the pair co-founded a band and became fixtures in the Nashville bluegrass scene. Jenny Anne toured with country songwriter Paul Overstreet, and was often a guest of artists such as Ricky Skaggs, Chris Jones, and Jim Lauderdale.
Karli Ingersoll is quite simply one of the backbone figures of the Spokane Music scene. A talented singer, songwriter, venue owner, bandleader, and passionate advocate for local music and arts, she has been recognized with a YWCA Women of Achievement Award for Arts and Culture, as well as numerous articles and accolades for her talent and influence.
"Buck 99" is a new Bluegrass group, from the North Idaho Panhandle. These four pickers have been enjoying music together since 2012. They are: Larry Easterly on bass, Steve Allen on banjo, guitar & vocals, Randy Engle on mandolin, guitar & vocals, and Dan Howard on guitar & vocals. Their craft in blending acoustic instruments and vocals to promote Bluegrass, Country, and Gospel music is impressive. Buck 99" made their debut in January 2019, at the monthly INBMA Showcase, in Spokane Valley, Washington. They play weekly at the Silver Lake Mall, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and at a variety of other events in the Inland Northwest.
Friday - 7:00pm
Saturday - 1:30pm
King Trouble and the Cherry Pickers are an up and coming young string band from Spokane. The band features Ethan Lotrario (15) on bass, Everett Skubinna (15) on mandolin and guitar, and Siena Lotrario (13) on fiddle and vocals. They have played together since almost forever, but have played music as a band for nearly six years now (almost half of Siena's age!).
KT&TCP have performed at numerous festivals and venues, such as The Fall Folk Festival, Spokane Public Library, and the INBMA showcase. During Blue Waters they can often be found helping at Blu Camp, jamming on their own in a hidden corner somewhere, or paddle-boarding on the lake. Their unique sound comes from a traditional and old-time background which is supported by their classical training. It all adds up to superior musicianship, a diverse repertoire and an infectiously fun sound!
The Eyer Family Band loves playing music together. They play kid tunes, folk songs, bluegrass numbers and American classics. Both girls started playing their instruments at four years old, taking lessons from amazing music Inland Northwest teachers. The band, won 1st place in the band competition at the 2019 Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.
Friday - 6:00pm
All performances will take place rain or shine!
Sign up at the front gate on Friday after noon.
|6:00pm||The Eyer Family Band|
|9:00pm||Lonesome Ace Stringband|
|1:00pm||Youth Camp Performance|
|1:30pm||King Trouble & The Cherry Pickers|
|2:30pm||Chris Luquette & the Grass Messengers|
|3:30pm||Lonesome Ace Stringband|
|7:00pm||A Tribute to John Hartford|
|9:00pm||John Reischman & The Jaybirds|
|1:00pm||Jenny Anne Mannan, Karli Ingersol & Caroline Fowler|
|2:00pm||John Reischman & The Jaybirds|
|3:00pm||Chris Luquette & the Grass Messengers|
Workshops are held in the picnic shelter along the walkway west of the swimming area. Just follow the walkway past the bathrooms and you will find it near the 2nd ballfield.
The workshop schedule will be posted this summer.
"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:
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.
Washington State has closed the West Medical lake Resort and the area is fenced off; there is no camping or RV services anymore. Parking West Medical Lake will be limited to the main lot (which requires a Discover Pass permit) or along the roadside. We will continue to monitor and serve the area with golf cart transportation to/from the festival site.
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:
NEW to the area is a beautiful new RV resort at Northern Quest Casino; pool, lounge, 1-2 bedroom cabins and easy access to all the restaurants and services at the casino. There is also a Movie & Dinner theater with 8 screens! Visit WWW.NQRVRESORT.COM for more information and to reserve an RV spot or cabin. . Norther Quest is only 10 minutes away from Waterfront Park and the festival.
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.