The national bluegrass and roots music community is large enough to encompass hundreds, if not thousands, of bands coast to coast, yet small enough to make lifelong colleagues and friends after sharing a festival stage.
A traditional bluegrass band in Boston can become buds with a jam-grass outfit in Boise after playing the same festival, soon after they’re kicking around the country together and playing on each other’s records. The nationwide blue and new grass scene can be small, tight knit and musically incestuous.
It’s how local band Stillhouse Junkies hooked up with the Michigan-based musician Mark Lavengood, a jam-grass folkie and multi-instrumentalist who dabbles in blues, jam and roots rock all with a strong new-grass influence. Lavengood along with his band will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday with Stillhouse Junkies as part of their Sidecar Online Concert Series, viewed via Zoom through the Stillhouse Junkies website.
“Back when we were touring and playing live shows we would cross paths at festivals and we’d hit a venue and they had just been there, or vice versa,” Lavengood said. “It’s just a small world in that realm, especially when you are playing high-octane roots rock Americana, you tend to become aware of everyone in the scene. It’s cool to be involved in this series they put together.”
Music is something that has always been around the Lavengood home; the son of an amateur musician, Lavengood struck a fair balance between high school sports and school band, with music eventually winning.
“We started a band called Winter Sessions. We didn’t play out, but throughout college we’d meet and play in our family’s basements and attics and having sessions and writing on the spot. Then we turned that material into live music, started playing out and at that time, I was getting my feet wet,” he said. “I was also always into the exploration of instruments.”
That exploration of instruments has led him to learn and play guitar, banjo, mandolin and dobro. He’s now a full-time, all-in musician, working as a performer, instrument teacher and, most recently, studio owner, as Lavengood just completed the construction of a practice space and recording studio that sits on his property in Coral, Michigan.
His latest release is 2017’s “We’ve Come Along,” an energetic blast of rootsy new grass, folk and jam; for his performance Saturday, he’ll be backed by either a trio or quartet, dipping into songs from his latest while also test-driving a load of material he’s been working on since lockdown kicked in.
While he remains based in Michigan, his music remains ripe for festival stages nationwide, especially in the state of Colorado, a place he’s already laid down some heavy musical roots. He won the dobro competition at Rockygrass in Lyons in 2012, then played most Colorado festival stages, Telluride and Pagosa Springs included, as a member of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. Saturday’s virtual show will just further solidify his growing, statewide fan base.
“We had already gained some ties in Colorado, and of course, you cross the state line and you’re enamored and you just have to come back, or you can’t leave. And that’s one of the benefits of being a musician, you get to see the world in that way,” Lavengood said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve got my roots in Coral, the rural middle Michigan lower peninsula, and once touring becomes a thing again, we’ve got the Toyota Dolphin ready to go on the road. We’ve got the band, we’ve got new music, new releases, we hunkered down and built a stockpile of art. So I’m excited to dig into where we’re at right now.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.