Monday, January 23, 2012

Greensky Bluegrass at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT

When I checked out the music calendar for the Higher Ground Ballroom in South Burlington, VT and I saw that Greensky Bluegrass were going to be playing there I did a little dance of joy. Who am I kidding? I ran around my house shouting woohoo at the top of my lungs. Why did I do that? There is such a big beautiful buzz around this band I couldn't wait for January 21 to come so I could enjoy them live and in real life. I don't know how many of you have been to the small room at Higher Ground before, but if you have you would know that the lighting isn't that awesome. There are redish lights that light up the band and don't change for the duration of the show. That is one thing that I don't like about seeing bands in that room. Well...Greensky Bluegrass brought one sick light show with them. I understand they just hired a light guy and I am giving him a fist bump, a hand shake and a butt squeeze because he killed it. I can't wait for the time when Greensky gets to play big rooms and you can mark my words...that time is not far off.

I know that we don't go to see a band specifically for their light show so let's move on. Something I found refreshing about Greensky Bluegrass was their story telling abilities. Some musicians talk during their shows and you are kind of like, "shut up and play already!" That was not the case with this band. The way they talked to us really brought us into their worlds and made us feel that we were important. The guitarist told a story about how he was jumping from the rafters at a previous show because he got so excited and got hurt. That was the reason he was sitting down and playing during the show. We all sent him feel better vibes and I could tell that it worked:)

I also know that we don't go to see a band because of their story telling abilities. We go for the music. If you like music then you will love this band and who doesn't like music? Their original songs kick ass which makes sense because when a band is comprised of extremely talented musicians that have fabulous chemistry of course they are going rock...and rock our socks off they did. They had the sold out crowd dancing their cold Vermont asses off just as hard to their original songs as they did to some fine covers such as Prince's Little Red Corvette and Paul Simon's Gumboots.

To sum it up, this bands rules the school and beyond and they are going places. It won't be long before they are playing large rooms and selling out so don't miss out on your chance to see them up close and personal. Check out their tour schedule, listen to some music and buy some merch at

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Fest: Fun For the Whole Family

To see a full gallery of photos by Jayme Halbritter Photography click here!
The sunshine we had ordered up was delivered right on schedule. The hammock had been hung. Our bodies deposited snugly inside were gently swaying to the strum of Mike West’s guitar and Katie Euliss’s old-timey croon and bucket bass. Their sounds blended together to cook up the bluegrassy vaudevillian punk rock jambalaya known as Truckstop Honeymoon. As I peeked over the edge of my swinging cocoon I was surprised to see a rainbow colored community of tree dwellers had quickly formed, surrounding us in three-tiered splendor. We were interested to learn that our fellow arbor loving companions belonged to a group from Tulsa, Oklahoma called Let’s Hang! They were incredibly friendly, inviting us to look them up if we were ever in Tulsa and laughingly suggested that we start a Minneapolis chapter of the group. The good weather, beautiful location, great music, hammocks, and friends new and old all added up to a very enjoyable experience at Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival.
For the 2nd year in a row, Yonder Mountain String Band energetically hosted and headlined the 6th Annual Harvest Music Festival at the beautiful Mulberry Mountain Lodge and Events Center in the heart of the Ozark National Forest of Arkansas October 13-16, 2011. This 650 acre playground is capable of not only sustaining large festivals such as Wakarusa with its estimated attendance of 20,000 to Harvest Festival’s more intimate 7,500 capacity, but is also an outdoor recreationalist’s dream destination for fishing, hiking, disc golfing, canoeing, ATV and horse trails. The rugged beauty of this location is aptly paired with an equally entrancing and lively lineup of some of the best pickin’ musicians in the folk, bluegrass and americana scene today.
As we wandered through the gently falling sun dappled autumn leaves, an expertly picked line of melody wove a delicate path through the trees and into our eagerly awaiting ears. This was the Ozarks at its finest. Besides 3 foot-stomping nights of Yonder Mountain String Band, this year’s lineup included dance-inducing and awe inspiring acts by the likes of Railroad Earth, Emmitt-Nershi Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, 7 Walkers featuring Papa Mali and Bill Kreutzman, Cornmeal, Trampled by Turtles, Todd Snider, Great American Taxi, Mountain Sprout, Elephant Revival, Dirtfoot, and Split Lip Rayfield among many others.
Rock the Earth, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, national public interest environmental advocacy organization committed to the protection of America's natural resources through partnerships with the music industry, started off the festival on Wednesday along with river-rafting experts Turner Bend and the Shimon Presents Work Exchange Team to lead a "River & Road Cleanup.” Conscious Alliance also joined in on the greening and community efforts by conducting an "Art That Feeds" Food Drive to benefit the River Valley Regional Food Bank (Fort Smith, AR), which was used to provide food to nearby residents recently displaced by tornadoes earlier this summer. Conscious Alliance, a Boulder, CO-based national 501(c)(3) non-profit, operates through ongoing, grassroots food collection and hunger awareness programs throughout the United States, primarily by organizing food drives at concerts and music events.
Also adding to the charm and delight of this festival was The Roost Family and Children’s Area and Music Stage. Each day was greeted with a namaste as children and adults alike were led in a morning yoga session, followed by planned daily workshops which included interactive art, drum circles, meditation, hoola hooping and poi lessons, glass blowing, environmental responsibility workshops, and pickin’ competitions. There was also a stage in the area showcased many musical genres including rock, jam, funk, soul, hip-hop, reggae and children’s music. Many of the activities were led by Quixotic Fusion School of Performing Arts, a sister company of Quixotic Fusion and the Vibe Tribe of Kansas City.
The Roost was also the destination where you could get up close and personal to learn tricks of the trade during workshops put on by many of the amazing musicians who performed at this year’s festival. A special Q & A was held with members of Railroad Earth, a songwriting workshop with Elephant Revival, That One Guy revealed his magic, Cornmeal and Greensky explained how they turn a rock cover into a bluegrass song, and Bela Fleck enchanted us with his lightening fast fingers on the banjo.

Some of my favorite moments of the festival included getting an intimate look into Bela Fleck’s mind during his workshop at The Roost Stage, and seeing him perform with Victor Wooten and the Flecktones on The Main Stage. During his workshop, Bela wove banjo licks, stories and advice into a beautiful musical tapestry. I was interested to learn that he does his warm up to the classical music of Bach, a wonder to hear when played upon the strings of the banjo. Usually a quick paced song is selected, unless he is feeling tired and a slower but equally technically challenging Bach piece is used. He also explained that he does his warm up standing rather than sitting because most of his performances are done standing up, logically reasoning that all the angles change depending on the position of the body. When practicing, he breaks down the tunes and isolates the trouble spots. Most people, when they practice, play the parts they are already good at over and over, but his advice is to “practice the stuff you’re not good at and don’t lose heart. Don’t be afraid to go slow. Embrace slow, slow is what makes fast good.” He also reminds us to breathe, often writing the word “breathe” in his manuscripts every few measures. At times when he feels like he is sucking and struggling to get through a piece of music, he’ll get to the end and realize that he had been holding his breath. He also warns of the dangers of using caffeine before a performance, which can only lead to increased nervousness. He ended the workshop with a haunting piece of music he learned while traveling and filming the documentaryThrow Down Your Heart – Bela Fleck Brings the Banjo Back to Africa, which he described as “taking a calculus exam that went on for a month.” At the end of the month, he confessed that he didn’t know what had happened. Reflecting upon the musicians he played with in Africa, Bela excitedly said, “I got home and listened to the tapes and it sounded amazing, mostly because they were amazing!”
Another highlight of my experience was learning new tricks and making new friends while at the hoola hoop workshop led by Miss Conception and other members of the Vibe Tribe KC. While there I met an adorable little girl in a green tutu named Josie. She sassily informed me in her infectious southern accent that she had made her own hoop and proceeded to demonstrate all the fabulous tricks she knew how to do, giving me pint sized pointers as she swung her tiny hips from side to side. When I found her she looked little blue. When I asked what was wrong, she stated, “that woman has my hula hoop!” After rescuing her hoop, I hugged her and kindly thanked her for the lesson as Mom thanked me for helping to end a particularly dramatic moment in her day.
Besides being wowed by Bela Fleck and Victor Wooten, I discovered many other amazing bands that I had not yet heard of. Of particular interest, Matthew and the Atlas from London, England were currently on a 20 date US tour, spreading their lovely Brit-icana sound from coast to coast. It was a welcomed change from the foot-stomping bluegrass that permeated most of the stages thus far and led me to stop and stare in awe. The music was entrancingly, achingly beautiful and felt as it had seeped from the pores of my very own skin, breaking out to tell a story that I have lived a million times in the unique but familiar sounding gravel-filled voice of Matthew Hagerty. I am eagerly looking forward to catching them one more time at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis this November along with another of my favorites from this year’s festival, The David Mayfield Parade.
A fair amount of respect between musicians was noted as legends and mentors all joined in on a stage-sharing game of musical chairs. Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band gave a special acknowledgment of gratitude and awe to the masters he had looked up to his entire musical career with whom he now had the honor to share a stage with. How inspiring it was to witness as these amazing musical craftsmen all played together, sharing their skill, passions, and wildest dreams. The love and talent could be felt coming from the stage in waves of color, sound, and light as we did our best to take it all in, letting it flow through our bodies and out through our tapping toes, creating new dance steps we could only have dreamed of.

Article by Wendy O'Sunshine
Jayme Halbritter Photography
1224 Quincy St. N.E., Studio 245
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wendy's Experience at Wanderlust Tahoe

The Wonderful World of Wanderlust....

Wanderlust is a Yoga/Music festival that is becoming a movement. The main festivals are happening in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Vermont. Wanderlust is like a trip to a health candy store for conscious yoga and fun lovers of all ages from around the globe. At Wanderlust there are endless classes to choose from, taught by you from your favorite yoga teachers or teachers you’ve always wanted to study with. Your class may just be outside with fresh air and amazing views of the majestic snow peaked mountains as your Dristi. (Yogic Focal point for non yogi readers) You can share this class with 600 other great energy yogis with musicians like Michael Franti, Mc Yogi or Dj Drez playing or spinning live to you. This experience is like nothing else out there in the yoga world. Its fresh, its fun, and feels like a new wave coming up in the yoga world.

I got Wanderlust in my blood last year when I attended. The yoga roster is stellar, with an equally impressive music line up.
I am now a Wanderlust junkie. I know where ever it is, I will be. One thing I will never forget about my first experience with Wanderlust was the people who were there. They looked like they were glowing. It’s so refreshing to be in a group of people who look vibrantly alive, joyful and happy. Here people have found a place to be totally themselves, get re-energized and revitalized while having an absolute blast.

As a 25 year yoga studio owner, I find in wanderlust a refuge. A place I can go and study with some of the best yoga teachers of our time. Not only great teachers, but fresh fun and out of the box instructors. Which is so refreshing.

This is the exact outcome desired for Wanderluster’s. In an interview with Wanderlust co-founder Schuyler Grant; Grant states “I think of Wanderlust as a filling station, I want people to leave juiced up and inspired, both physically, intellectually and with pleasure.” (I found Wanderlust absolutely fulfilled on all of those accounts.) Grant emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself and keeping yourself feeling good. She says “you can’t do good if you don’t feel good.” Schuyler further emphasizes “we can get so ‘tapped and sucked dry‘ it’s so important to do what you need to do to fill up and keep you psyched as a mom, a partner, a yoga teacher, or whatever you do.” She wants Wanderlust to do that for people.

Schuler, also the founder Kula Yoga Project is dedicated to ensuring that Wanderlust offers the highest caliber of teachers. Her husband and co-founder Jeff Krasno is in charge of the awesome music at Wanderlust. Jeff worked for RCA Records before co-founding Velour Music Group, (a record label and artist management company). Wanderlust is in partnership with C3 Presents who are the creators of Lollapalooza. This partnership of “yogis meet - big time music world” was a great blend making this event immensely fun and extremely well run.

Another inspiration I am left with came from my time spent at Wanderlust with renowned Yogi Jonny Kest. In our interview Kest’s humanness and passion for vegetarianism and family shines thru. Kest is a true real family man and is frequently seen after during and after class carrying his daughter on his shoulders. During the interview he politely stepped away to change a diaper. (Being the mom of a four year old, I absolutely loved that). Kest says that his wife and family are what lights him up, and inspires him, you could really see this.

The Kest family are devout vegan’s passionate about animals and their treatment. During a class I attended taught by Kest he asked “now you all have worked up a big appetite you are hungry. If you had a dead chicken in one hand, and fresh fruit and vegetables in your other hand which would your rather bite into? Just use common sense, what would nourish you more?” A powerful question for all of us. His wife Milla and children choose not to eat animals and dairy as a matter of kindness. Milla says it is a shame how cruel humans can be to the animals. They follow the “World Peace Diet.”

You can see that Kest is a truly grounded person which he credits his daily practice of Vippasana meditation. Kest recently sold his yoga studios to Lifetime fitness a publicly traded company. They have over 100 locations. Getting authentically trained yoga teachers into over 100 locations is a pretty good move to increasing the quality of yoga delivered. This will surely set a higher standard for “gym yoga”.

Kest’s conscious and mindful way’s of living in the world was a consistent theme at the festival. Wanderlust organizers took great lengths (and costs) to reduce the impact of the 16,000 attendees gathering. Composting, sourcing food from local producers and farms, providing free filling stations were just some of ways Wanderlust showed its environmentally conscious side. They joined forces with zero hero

The “Perfect” day at Wanderlust

If yoga just isn’t your thing... there are plenty of other things to keep you busy happy and “juiced” at Wanderlust. You can play with acro yoga, hooping, and slack lining (or just hanging at the pool watching the slack-liners). If you feel so inclined, you can even try your luck at “circus camp”, where you can play in the free form zone. There are expert practitioners who are more then happy to teach you a trick or two. They even teach you various forms of circus arts including juggling, ariel dance. I saw some of the most incredible naturally athletic and talented bodies doing remarkable things!!!

Having tried Areal fabric and finding it incredibly beautiful but slightly out of my reach. I was excited to find “Fly Inspiration” created by Karen Andes it is a soft stretchy hanging apparatus for designed for yoga, fitness, rehab, and circus training.” With this apparatus I was able to get inverted with no stress on my body it feels amazing and is so much fun.

Wanderlust is a great opportunity to unplug from the world for a few days to become one with nature, be surrounded by immense beauty and inspiration. You can pick your speed, from practicing your butt off, to doing nothing but hanging out in the sun, eating good healthy food and listening to great music. Either way wanderlust will leave a “juiced” and happier person better equipped to take on and “do good” in your little slice of the world.

Written By:
Wendy Gross-Pinto
Founder and Creatrix
Peace and Blessings

Photos By:
Dana PhotoZen Nollsch

Day 3!

Yesterday was the final day of the festival, but we tried to put that out of our minds and set out to enjoy the day. I think this was the hottest day yet (music and temperature!).

More bands today we discovered include
MilkDrive, Seth Walker, Yellow Ostrich, Pernikoff Brothers, Nick 13, and Empire of the Sun.

The bands known to us who we saw were The Airborn Toxic Event, The Head and The Heart (pictured on the right), Joseph Arthur, Elbow, Fleet Foxes, Social Distortion, and Arcade Fire!

Aunt Debbie enjoying the music in sweltering heat!

We made a new friend, Dennis Ayotte, a reporter. and photographer. We spent a lot of time chatting with him in the Media tent, and he gave us some tips since we are newbies! He also gave us some insight on some new and upcoming bands who we will be looking for!

Check out his report of ACL at! He also has a blog called I Have MAN(y) Issues, so check that out as well!

So then it was time to go and it was a little sad, but we have awesome memories of discovering so many bands we've never heard of and will look up and follow in the future.

What a great festival Austin City Limits is. It's all anyone talks about anywhere you go in the city of Austin. Everyone is so proud of it, and what a great city Austin is. We loved it!!! We hope we can return next year and do it all again!

Thank you for reading this blog!

Aunt Debbie and Uncle Todd :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 2!

Day 2 brought more rain for a little bit...there must be something about the festival and rain! Texas is in a drought...hopefully some of this rain will help.

Today brought more bands we never heard of before, including Twin Shadow, Cowboy & Indian, Federico Aubele, The Antlers, and Patrice Pike. There is so much talent in Austin this weekend!

More well known bands we heard included Iron & Wine and My Morning Jacket, two of my favorites! Oh, and I can't forget City and Colour, one of my son's favorites and I love them too. Stevie Wonder also performed.


77 Kids by American Eagle:

This is an organization which gets kiddies all rock starred out -- hair, makeup, costumes. The kids looked so excited as they were getting glitter in their hair and major doses of hair spray! They then they jam out with karaoke and are given a free DVD of their awesome performance! Here is a pic of the kids getting all decked out by the volunteers doing hair and makeup!

Alex's Lemonade Stand: For pediatric cancer research...such a great cause!

Tag a Kid: No child will get lost here!

Rock & Recycle:

People attending the festival volunteer to collect cans and bottles on the ground, and if you fill up a bag you get entered into a drawing to win a new bike!

Here is one of the many recycling piles at the end of the night. There are so many volunteers who keep Zilker Park clean for all the festival guests!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 1

Today was Day #1 at Austin City Limits and we took it a little slow...this was our first festival ever! Here I am (Aunt Debbie) enjoying the fan misters on this pretty sweltering day, although it was down to 93 from the 103 of yesterday! A big gust of wind blew my hair out of control as Uncle Todd took the picture!

It was nice to be treated extra special in the Media area. This included being able to charge up my cell phone and Porta-Potties which had sinks with running water! I have no fear of the Porta-Potties anymore!

A miracle rained! Texas is in the middle of a long drought, there are wildfires, and it's dangerous! The festival brought some much needed raindrops and excellent music!

It was great to experience some unknown bands (to us, at least)... we saw An Horse, Reptar, Bobby Long, The Cave Singers, Pretty Lights, and Sara Bareilles, and then the known bands
(to us) - Ray LaMontagne, Bright Eyes, and Coldplay! It was a super hot day, and these bands made it even hotter!

Many of the people running the show are volunteers. It is amazing how many people are available to assist us to find our way, picking up garbage, and making sure everyone has a safe and fun day.

Our sons have given us a list of bands for which they would like I guess tomorrow will include a little bit of shopping!

Tomorrow I plan to visit some of the booths...I will be working hard to find some entertaining info to share :)