I was planning to head up Weber Canyon on June 23 for a wedding anyway, so when I received an email from Mike Iverson saying his band was performing at the Beer, Brats and Bluegrass festival in Evanston, Wyo., the same day, I decided to take a detour.
Beer, Brats and Bluegrass is a one-day festival, held on the city's historic Depot Square. Admission is free, which makes it one heck of a great deal even if, like me, you only have time to catch one band. I'd been wanting to see Blue Sage Deluxe perform for quite some time, but there were always scheduling conflicts -- this time, I was able to squeeze in a show between family commitments.
Blue Sage Band, made up of Harrisville's Mike and Shauna Iverson, with their daughter Heather Blaisdell and fiddler Rob Ricks, specializes in western folk music. With extra players in the "deluxe" version, they also venture into more bluegrass and even rock music; the extra players are Ken Sager, who plays mandolin and dobro, and Jake Workman on guitar and any other stringed instrument needed.
I went to the show knowing it was Blue Sage Deluxe minus one, but didn't know who would be missing. Unfortunately, the missing musician was Rob Ricks who, in addition to being a fantastic fiddler, adds depth to the band with vocals as a soloist and back-up singer.
I've known the Iverson family for about two-thirds of my life, so I'm not going to claim to be unbiased. Still, I like to think I know good playing when I hear it. In my opinion, Blue Sage Deluxe offered a solid performance, featuring a wide variety of music.
The show started with the band's rendition of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil." For Wyoming residents at the festival, the band performed the University of Wyoming's fight song, "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" (which, as Iverson pointed out, was originally a song about an Arizona cowboy).
Iverson also sang his own version of the traditional bluegrass number "Old Joe Clark." Iverson's new words to the old music were written in a Rawlins hotel room, where he was staying while performing at the old Wyoming State Penitentiary. Near the end of the show, the band rocked the stage with Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," featuring Ken Sager on electric mandolin.
If I'm not too busy next year, I'll try to be in Evanston for more than one performance at the Beer, Brats and Bluegrass festival. The event was smaller than the Ogden Music Festival, making it great for those of us who aren't into crowds.
It seemed to me that with the exception of one family, the audience was respectful and attentive, instead of talking loudly. It was a hot day, but Evanston's usual soft breeze and typically cooler temperatures made it a pleasant afternoon.
The rest of the lineup this year included the Red Desert Ramblers, Greenbriar Connection and The Patti Fiasco Band. Earlier in the day, there was a Pop, Dogs and Songs fest, with music activities to introduce kids to bluegrass.
As implied in the name of the adult and kid versions of the festival, there were a few food and beverage booths lining the depot walkways. Beer and brats were the main offering, but I also saw pizza, pretzels, ice cream, pulled pork sandwiches and even a little Cajun food. Prices were pretty fair for a festival, and vendors didn't overcharge for bottled water. The arts council handed out popcorn for whatever donation a person wanted to give.
There were also artists showing and selling paintings, pottery and other items.
If all that's not enough, you can feel good knowing that a portion of funds raised at the festival helps the local Build African Schools partnership.