Born in the small town of Marton, New Zealand, Catherine “BB” Bowness spent her early years working and living in her family’s Fish-and-Chip shop. Although an unlikely origin for a bluegrass banjo player, New Zealand would offer BB her first introduction to the instrument, sparking a lifelong love and fascination. A world away from the heart of bluegrass, BB spent much of her childhood teaching herself the instrument, and through dedication and tenacity became New Zealand School of Music’s first banjo student. Inspired by her New Zealand predecessors, The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, BB was always drawn to the five-piece full band, and after heading to America in 2012 she co-founded her current group, Mile Twelve. Immersing herself in the traditions of bluegrass and having studied jazz performance at university, BB’s banjo playing is an exciting synthesis of new and old ideas. “She demonstrates a command of the instrument, and plays with great rhythmic clarity both in the traditional and progressive realms. J.D. Crowe co-mingles with the future,” says Tony Trischka. Her euphoric energy and love of the genre are readily apparent in any of her live performances.
Currently, BB lives in Cambridge, MA. Mile Twelve has won numerous IBMA awards, including 2020 New Artists of the Year and 2017 Momentum Band of the Year. BB won the 2015 Freshgrass Banjo contest and was a winner of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize in 2020.
A member of the April Verch Band from 2016-2020, Alex has toured extensively both at home and internationally, including performances in 49 states and a number of countries including Canada, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Australia and New Zealand. Alex’s musical interests as a youth were, shall we say, eclectic but he ultimately developed a love for acoustic and traditional music while attending Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Graduating with a degree in Neurobiology in 2011, Alex returned to the vibrant Boston music scene, studying privately with Berklee School of Music’s ineffable John McGann
Kiwigrass expands to include Old Time String music with the magnificent band Shindig Trio. Inspired by the unvarnished authenticity of early American folk and blues heroes such as Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb and Leadbelly and led by the driving clawhammer banjo and vocals of David Ward (Wheel Of Experience), vital fiddle and mandolin of Dave Khan (Marlon Williams, Reb Fountain), and solid foundation of Bassist Eamon Edmundson Wells (Ruckus), Shindig Trio present stonking takes on old-time folk, blues and country tunes from the American pantheon.
DAVID WARD is a diversely creative guitarist and banjo player who composes for theatre and original projects. He has performed in numerous musical settings, touring extensively in NZ, Singapore, Australia, India, Germany and the U.S.A. He is perhaps best known for his long time collaboration with Indian Ink Theatre Company for which he has twice won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for “Most Outstanding Composer.” David writes and performs in his original Jazz ensembles such as Onomatopoeia and Ruckus, Old-Time, Folk and Blues projects such as Wheel of Experience and Shindig, as well as numerous roles performing as collaborator and sideman with many of New Zealand’s most talented artists. In 2018 and 2019 David performed as a guest Banjoist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
DAVE KHAN is a multi instrumentalist (Violin, Viola, Guitar, Mandolin, Piano, Synths) who over the past 20 years has garnered a firm reputation as a supremely creative collaborator, sideman and arranger for some of NZ’s most respected artists including Marlon Wililams, Reb Fountain, Don McGlashan, Dave Dobbyn, Tim Finn, Gin Wigmore and The Topp Twins
EAMON EDMUNDSON-WELLS is a double bass player who has performed with some of New Zealand’s most successful musicians and international touring artists. Most known for his work in the Jazz end of the musical spectrum, Eamon explores many different genres and approaches to music, some drenched in improvisation and freedom, others in stylistic integrity and faithful reproduction. Regardless of the approach, he is a player that focuses on what’s fundamental to the music: sound, texture, rhythm, harmony, connectivity between humans, and finding peace in the process of creating. He has recently worked with Leda’s Dream, Troglodytes, Jon Pal Inderberg, Hayden Chisholm, Jeff Henderson, and Tom Cunliffe.
New Zealand’s musical world lost an inspiring pioneer who was friend or family to many of us. A founding member of Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Colleen’s fiddling was world-class and she repeatedly proved it on stages and albums. Our hearts go out to her family and fellow band mates. “No sad farewells / No tear dimmed eyes / Where all is love / And the soul never dies.”
We are very pleased that Kereru Brewing of Upper Hutt have chosen to support and sponsor Kiwigrass! Each beer purchase will go to helping support the festival so we can bring you even more music!
Kereru have an astonishingly diverse and delicious range of beers, with varieties for all tastes and occasions. Gluten free, alcohol free, light session ales, hop heavy IPAs all the way to heavy dark sipping ales, and everything in between! Kereru beers will be available for purchase at the Don Rowlands Centre. And we’d love for you to go over to their website, and sign up for their mailing list. They are the coolest, nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and trust me, their beers are AMAZING. (I know, because I tasted them all. For you. You’re welcome. You see the lengths I go to?) And they make lovely gift boxes for all occasions! All shippable overseas as well.
Kiwigrass is dedicated to everyone having a healthy and safe festival! A big part of that is making sure we all do our part to avoid another Covid19 outbreak in New Zealand. Our policies and recommendations are below. But we have a more fun way to keep health safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds:
The Kiwigrass Covid Prevention Songwriting Contest!
All songwriters are invited to compete. All you need do is send in your name, then show up to the Don Rowland’s Center for the evening concert on Saturday to perform your song for the audience. Fabulous prizes to be won! Get those creative juices flowing and help your fellow festival folk stay safe and healthy!
The Kiwigrass Commitment to Preventing Covid19
Kiwigrass is committed to running a safe festival by following all guidelines in respect of Covid19. We will be working hard to keep you all well by regular cleaning of high touch surfaces, making hand sanitiser available and encouraging great hygiene during the event. You can help by:
washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly or use hand sanitiser
sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow
avoid touching your face if possible
encourage your bluegrass buddies to practice great hygiene
Check in for contact tracing either by scanning the QR code or signing in at the registration desk.
These guidelines are a good idea in general. As many of us who have brought home bugs from festivals know, good hand hygiene and social distancing protect us from more than Covid19! So if your mate goes for the fist or elbow bump instead of the handshake or hug, don’t take it personal, be grateful that they’re looking out for their health and yours!