Terrific Write Up of the Festival

On Sunday, we were visited by Te Awamutu Courier reporter Caitlan Johnston.

Her write-up of the festival was reprinted in Stuff and on the New Zealand Herald website. We’ve reprinted it below:

Weekend full of banjos, mandolins and jams at Karāpiro Kiwigrass Festival

The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, who got their start on the 1960's television show The Country Touch, played at the festival. Photo / Ian Fisk
The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, who got their start on the 1960’s television show The Country Touch, played at the festival. Photo / Ian Fisk

Bluegrass musicians and enthusiast of the genre from all around New Zealand and from as far as America all convened in Karāpiro over the weekend for the second Kiwigrass music festival.

Over 500 people attended or took part in the three-day festival at the Sir Don Rowlands Event Centre. Festivities included concerts, workshops, camp concerts and jamming sessions all weekend long.

Organiser of the festival and bass player for Hot Diggity Bluegrass band, Jenine Abarbanel, said the Kiwigrass festival gave the New Zealand bluegrass music community a place to call their own.

“We’re usually just lumped in with the folk community but we really wanted to have a home of our own and so that’s what this festival is supposed to be – for our bluegrass community,” said Jenine.

Organiser of the festival, Jenine Abarbanel says Kiwigrass is a place for the New Zealand bluegrass music community to call home. Photo / Ian Fisk
Organiser of the festival, Jenine Abarbanel says Kiwigrass is a place for the New Zealand bluegrass music community to call home. Photo / Ian Fisk

The performers included three bands from Australia, one from New Caledonia, two from America and 10 from New Zealand including the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band which set the foundation of bluegrass music in New Zealand after their debut on the late 1960s show, The Country Touch.

It was Hamilton County Bluegrass Band’s banjo player Paul Trenwith who approached Jenine about running the Kiwigrass festival.

“I just thought it was time to show people what bluegrass music was and get it on the rise again,” said Paul.

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band member Paul Trenwirth hopes the Kiwigrass festival will prompt a resurgence of bluegrass music. Photo/ Ian Fisk
Hamilton County Bluegrass Band member Paul Trenwith hopes the Kiwigrass festival will prompt a resurgence of bluegrass music. Photo/ Ian Fisk

The headline act for the festival, Lonely Heartstring Band, had come from America and it was their third year on tour in New Zealand.

The band formed six years ago in Boston and is made up of Maddie Witler on the mandolin, Gabe Hirshfeld on the banjo, lead singer and guitarist George Clements, singer and bass player Charles Clements and Patrick McGonagall on the fiddle.

Until recently the band played together full-time but now only get together for the occasional event.

Lonely Heartstring Band headlined the festival and it was their third time touring New Zealand, they hope they'll be back again next year. Photo / Ian Fisk.
Lonely Heartstring Band headlined the festival and it was their third time touring New Zealand, they hope they’ll be back again next year. Photo / Ian Fisk.

Jenine says each year the band visits their audience grows.

“Everyone just adores them, they’re really good musicians, really good people and so generous with their time,” said Jenine.

“All the internationals just keep going on about how much fun they’re having here and that they’d love to move here.”

Maddie said the highlight of the weekend for the band was a camp concert they played at and she hopes the band will be able to come back next January.

“The camp concert was out on the porch and it was just such a beautiful evening. We just love the audiences here. They’re so enthusiastic,” said Maddie.

Australian Bands Announced

Silly map of Australia labelling it as the west island of New Zealand

Kiwigrass is the home of bluegrass for all of New Zealand, and that of course includes the little spoken of West Island.

It is with much pleasure that we bring to you our Australian bands for Kiwigrass 2020:

The first two bands will be familiar to returning Kiwigrassers: Bluegrass Parkway and Nine Mile Creek! Bluegrass Parkway bring their strong traditional bluegrass performance and impeccable style. They will also be joining us as instructors for Academy once again, with one small change in the line-up. Mick Patrick (formerly of bluegrass super-group The Company) is taking over duties on the fiddle. Mick is an outstanding mandolin player and vocalist as well, so he brings an immense bag of skills to this legendary band.

Nine Mile Creek bring the more contemporary side of bluegrass with an excellent blend of original songs and canon covers.

Coolgrass
Coolgrass

And finally, we are so excited to announce that Coolgrass will be at Kiwigrass 2020. Yes, the sultans of silly, the lords of hot licks, the chiefs of chops! Bruce Packard, Jim Golding, Doug Wallace and Angus Golding are packing up their hats and their deep repertoire of parody and tradition to share the lighter side of bluegrass with us. Don’t let the comedy fool you, this foursome are masterful pickers and singers as well. Coolgrass are the highlight of any show or festival, and we’re sure they’ll feature among your favourites at Kiwigrass.

Reporting to you from Cambridge

Yesterday I went to the new Kiwigrass venue, Lake Karāpiro. It’s lovely and I’ll tell you more about that soon, but first I want to talk about what has long been one of my favourite New Zealand small towns: Cambridge. I don’t know what it is, but I have always found Cambridge absolutely charming. Even after the Highway 1 bypass went in, I would detour back into Cambridge on that long drive between Auckland and Wellington, just to visit the Super Loos.

While I was there, I stopped in at the iSite and talked to Karina. I know many of you are already calling around the area looking for accommodation. Karina is your woman. Give her a call or e-mail (+647 823 3456, info@cambridge.co.nz), she can help you out. She has seen over 95% of Cambridge accommodation and they have 145 accommodation members on their website, www.cambridge.co.nz. They can cater for any budget or group size, and can give you options to meet any requirements.

If you’re planning on camping, you can book that directly through Lake Karāpiro.

My tip for Cambridge is to make sure you take some time to walk across the Victoria St bridge, the river gorge is quite spectacular there.

Barry, Nat and I are off to the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, North Carolina this month. I’ll write again in a week or so with more exciting Kiwigrass news. In the meantime, get that accommodation booked for Kiwigrass (30 January – 2 February 2020) and Kiwigrass Academy (29-30 January 2020), and consider a couple extra days to explore Cambridge and the rest of the amazing, fun, beautiful, adventurous Waikato region.

– Jenine