The group comprises of some heavyweight NZ Music Talent – all are from other groups and songwriting careers. They recently came together for a Creative New Zealand Project. The Barnyard Bangers are Gavin Dowling on Banjo; Krissy Jackson on fiddle; Cat Tunks – songwriter/Vocalist; multi-instrumentalist/guitarist and percussion player Mike Barker from ‘Swamp Thing’; and NZ’s iconic Kara Gordon on cigar box guitar.
Shindig Trio (New Zealand)
Kiwigrass expands to include Old Time String music with the magnificent band Shindig Trio. 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.
BB Bowness and Alex Rubin (New Zealand/USA)
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
Hot Diggity Bluegrass Band (New Zealand)
When it come to band photos the blokey bands try, but Hot Diggity are way more photogenic. Could it be that they smile and laugh and generally give the air of real live fun?
Hot Diggity is the only all female bluegrass band in New Zealand, but that is not why you should go see them at Kiwigrass. You should listen to them because they are one of the best bluegrass bands in New Zealand and as the photos imply, their shows are lots warm-hearted fun.
They play original songs by Heather Carrigan (mandolin, guitar and vocals) and Deborah Mackenzie (guitar and vocals) along with plenty of bluegrass favourites. If you were not told who wrote these songs you would probably go home and Google them to see where they came from because they totally sound the part.
Kiwigrass identity Jenine Abarbanel supplies bass and vocals, with Sue Drake on banjo and vocals and Krissy Jackson fiddle and vocals, combining to make a powerful five piece with a lively sound, hot chops, and tight harmonies.