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Bluegrass at the Barn in Saskatoon: Good, clean, wholesome, family fun (June 3/2023)

by Scott Roos

photos by Scott and Deanna Roos

photo editing by Deanna Roos

Mary Liv and Emmy Lou played a very engaging tweener set (pic by Scott Roos)

This past Saturday, June 3rd, the Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Society presented their third annual "Bluegrass at the Barn" music festival at the Barn Playhouse near Martensville, Saskatchewan (*note: there was also one in Regina but we didn't go to that one. sorry to all you folks in the Queen City).

This was the first year that the festivities were moved indoors at this particular site. There was a threat of a thunderstorm and, for once, the people who report on the weather were actually right. Around six o'clock, just as the final act was taking the stage, some real "wrath of God", "dogs and cats living together", "mass hysteria" rain started to fall from the sky. So I'm glad no one had to scramble to cover up all the expensive sound equipment and worry about what the apocalyptic weather would do to their precious fiddles or something... Anyways, I digress...

In general, the Barn Playhouse was a pretty vibey establishment. Events are literally held in an old barn with a bunch of old timey stuff littered about on shelves. It's been fixed up for live events which is cool,though. For this particular event, the indomitable Jamie Peever of Peever Productions was on hand to run the board and make everything sound tip top. Thank you Jamie!

Deacon Creek - all I can say is WOW.. (photo by Scott Roos)

The day began with a charming duo from Manitoba called Deacon Creek. Two observations here... First of all, usually when an act is opening things up you get ready to enjoy the music but also don't usually have high hopes for how awesome they will be as opening slots are often reserved for lesser known or less experienced acts. Well, I'll just say that this festival damn near might have saved their best for first. Deacon Creek's musicality was nothing short of STUNNING. Secondly, it's insane how much these two draw you in with their musical sensitivity, and intimacy on stage. Like, it's just two people. How diverse and varied could they possibly be? The answer is VERY VERY diverse and varied. There's this cute story about their meeting and being musical soulmates. Ten seconds in and you know that everything in their bio is 100% true.

Aisha Belle's fiddle playing was so spot on. It was in tune, something that many fiddlers struggle with, and her note choices in her solos were unique and interesting. Banjo, mandolin and guitar picker Donovon Locken held everything together neatly. Deacon Creek's quaint fusion of bluegrass, roots and folk got things off to a good start.

Lucas Welsh in the house... or should I say BARN (photo by Deanna Roos)

Next up was Meadow Lake's Lucas Welsh. As previously reported, Welsh planned on doing a solo show, which, as he explained during his performance, was something new to him. Welsh is a first class fiddler in his own right. He can also pick a mean guitar and sing. He told stories in between each song. In short, Welsh is a first rate entertainer and showman and an all round good dude.

As Soil n Grass play more shows and become more immersed in the bluegrass genre they continue to improve (photo by Deanna Roos)

Regina's Soil n' Grass played next. This quartet, formed during the days of the COVID lockdown to pass the time, has been steadily improving since their formation. Made up of Nick Day (vocals/guitar), Karley Parovsky (fiddle/vocals), Quinn Legare (banjo/vocals) and recent addition Brent Gelsinger (bass), the group sonically performs a more traditional bluegrass take on the genre. It's cool because they went to the Northern Lights and Old Tyme Music Camp in Big River last year and, during their set at Bluegrass at the Barn, played a song out of the camp songbook. It's nice to see former camp students out there doing their thing.

Solid stuff from the "up and comers" in the province's scene. Of note, both Parovsky and Gelsinger have a steady gig playing with the Regina Symphony Orchestra which is pretty pretty pretty cool. Hey, by the way, the Bluegrass Camp will run this summer from August 14th to 18th and you can still get early bird pricing until July 1st. CHECK IT OUT.

The Barrelmen doing their thing. (pic by Scott Roos)

The Barrelmen, from Saskatoon, were up after Soil n' Grass and they were nothing short of AMAZING. I'm honestly surprised that I haven't written anything on them until now. They have a nice blend of country, roots and folk. Not really bluegrass... but cool to add these guys to the lineup here for, if nothing else, the sake of variety. They'll also be playing the summer festival at the Ness Creek site too (Note: the summer festival, on the Ness Creek site August 18th-20th, has a lineup this year that is OFF THE FREAKIN CHAIN. Check it out by clicking HERE.).

Anyways, The neat thing about The Barrelmen is that they seamlessly switch instruments and still sound the exact same level of awesome. Their songs are varied and interesting too. Hook laden with chill vibes. I dig them. I dig them a lot. They were a pleasant surprise and hopefully I'll get to write a longer feature on them before the summer is out. Hint hint guys!

The Bix Mix Boys (photo by Scott Roos)

Last but not least were The Bix Mix Boys from Edmonton, Alberta. These guys, like Soil n Grass who preceded them, presented a very traditional bluegrass sound to end off the day. As opposed to their Regina peers, however, The Bix Mix Boys were the cagey veterans. One look at them and you can tell this ain't their first proverbial bluegrass rodeo (note: it's a metaphor. This was not an actual rodeo. Probably pretty obvious but you never know who might misconstrue my words here and then send a strongly worded email asking if there was an actual rodeo happening when, in truth, there wasn't). The Bix Mix Boys were great and will also be playing the festival in the summer, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing them again.

At the end of the day, Bluegrass at the Barn continues to be a fantastic, family friendly event. Good variety in the music. Super chill environment. Awesome food and fun activities for the little ones to enjoy. Thumbs up!

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