On Friday, July 25 ,you might see a dusty shuttle bus vibrantly decorated with paintings of redwood trees, prayer flags on the side, and a giant “YES” on the back, rolling northbound on U.S. Highway 191 into Moab for a show at Eddie McStiff’s.
The van will be driven by Andy Rigby, an herbalist who serves free soup as part of his vision for community and doubles as the tour bus operator for Caitlin Jemma & the Long Gone Stringband, a bluegrass band from Humboldt County, Calif.
The band is fronted by singer-songwriter Caitlin Jemma and accompanied by Megan Graham on fiddle, Nicholas Falor on mandolin and Alex Meine on lead guitar and vocals. Meine is a somewhat recent addition to the band, having begun collaborating with the other three in the last year.
“Nicholas, Megan and I met through a Craigslist musicians’ post and began a traditional bluegrass cover band called “Our Weight in Gold” in 2011,” said Jemma, originally from the small Nevada mining town of Virginia City. “I moved to Arcata, Calif. to go to Humboldt State University. I responded to Nicholas and Megan’s ad looking for a singer and guitar player for their bluegrass cover band. They taught me a lot about what I know now about bluegrass, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Jemma said her solo project and “Our Weight in Gold” began merging together over the past year to perform songs that she had originally written and performed. The band has also recently began writing songs together.
“Our influences include John Hartford, Gillian Welch, Doc Watson, and The Cheap Suit Serenaders,” Jemma said. “We perform songs I write, but we have recently begun to write songs as a band. We also love to perform bluegrass standards to keep the tradition alive. I have been influenced by the songwriting of Bob Dylan and vocal styles of artists such as Emmylou Harris and Hazel Dickens. My songwriting comes from my appreciation of nature, living simply, and the adventures of being on the road and living the dream.”
Bluegrass is fairly new in musical direction for both Jemma and Graham, Jemma said.
“I had always loved folk and acoustic music, but bluegrass was a new avenue of music I began exploring once we started “Our Weight in Gold,” she said.
Jemma said she enjoys performing music in front of an audience.
“I love seeing the audience dance and show appreciation for our music,” she said. “It brings me so much joy to share with others in this way. I feel at most in the present moment when I’m making music.”
Graham had previously played country and classical viola since childhood in Davis, Calif. She played the instrument in the band until finding a violin at the local thrift shop in Arcata.
“Seeing that people are happy because of the music we are playing” brings Graham joy.
Falor has been a muscian of varying tastes and talents since he was a teenager in his hometown of Blue Lake, Calif. His interests include country, death metal and Jazz and he was the impetus behind the creation of the band, yearning for the sound of the old-timey string-music vinyl records he grew up listening to at home.
“I love expressing myself and being a part of the living arts and the people we meet,” Falor said.
Meine hails from Winona, Minn., where at 13, he began playing primarily punk and classic rock. A few years later after hearing Doc Watson for the first time he “promptly sold his electric guitar, bought an acoustic, and never looked back.”
“When you’re on stage, the blood gets pumping, the adrenaline flows and you end up trying a lot of new things,” he said. “It’s what keeps the music interesting.”
This tour will be the band’s third and longest tour, with about 25 shows throughout the West over a period of about a month. The band also toured the West in summer 2013 and spring 2014.
“I enjoy working when there is live music,” Eddie McStiff’s server Gabe Bastian said. “A good band has a way of making the night go by faster and the customers are happier for it. Sometimes it’s hard to witness a struggling artist completely bomb a set, but with time and practice they get more comfortable. It takes a lot of guts to play in front of people and we need more artists with guts.”
“Caitlin Jemma and the Long Gone Stringband are an up-tempo, old-time kind of twangy bluegrass group,” Eddie McStiff’s manager Caitlin Arnold said. “ Her voice has been compared to Emmy Lou Harris and they remind me a lot of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Having live music always makes it a more fun atmosphere and is a great way to draw people in, especially during the slower summer months.”
The show is at Eddie McStiff’s restaurant at 57 S. Main St and starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 25. There is no charge for entrance.
“I feel at most in the present moment when I’m making music”
What: Caitlin Jemma & the Long Gone Stringband
When: Friday, July 25 at 7 p.m.
Where: Eddie McStiff’s restaurant, 57 S. Main St.
Humboldt County brand of bluegrass plays free show