Aug 19, 2023
EGANVILLE — When a band has been together for 20 years, you know they have something special. The bluegrass band Concession 23 enjoys that remarkable longevity. They are friends, bandmates, and
EGANVILLE — When a band has been together for 20 years, you know they have something special.
The bluegrass band Concession 23 enjoys that remarkable longevity. They are friends, bandmates, and performers who, year after year, are invited back to festivals and concert venues across Canada. Just this summer, they received an award from the Ottawa Valley Bluegrass Association for their significant contribution to the bluegrass community. It was the first time the award has been given to a band, rather than an individual.
On Saturday, September 9th, this quartet will kick off the Fall Concert Series at Off the Grid Productions in Eganville. This home-based concert venue supports Canadian musicians and has been hosted by Lynne and John Epps for the past six years.
Concession 23 has unquestionably made its mark on the bluegrass scene since 2006 when they were named most promising bluegrass band at the Central Canada Bluegrass Awards. Since then, they have won awards and garnered nominations in each performer’s instrument category, as well as composer, male and female vocalist, overall group, vocal group of the year, and best recording. They are one of the most sought-after bluegrass groups on the festival scene; their obvious love of the music and relaxed demeanour establishes an immediate rapport with audiences.
Although seemingly straightforward in form, the bluegrass genre is very complex. The voices must blend in a very particular style of tight harmonies, and the arrangements made with only a handful of specific stringed instruments. The rhythm and timing must be spot on, and the musicians themselves should be virtuosic in ability, able to highlight their own particular instrument with an occasional lead solo.
Concession 23 checks all these boxes. When not broken down into this technical format, what you hear is a smooth melding of voices that sound like one, instruments that complement one another, and driving energy and heartfelt songs that keep the audience’s attention. Although all bluegrass bands play within the same boundaries, each band develops its own distinctive and recognizable sound. Concession 23 is proud of making traditional bluegrass songs their own, and equally proud of their original material that feels like it was written decades ago, deep in the heart of bluegrass country.
The band members Jonathan Ferrabee, Kevin Golka, Sherry Philp, and Nick Strachan, each took different routes into bluegrass. Jonathan was drawn to the full resonant sound of the bass and is a respected player in the bluegrass community. His hard driving approach to rhythm and inventive bass lines create a strong foundation for the sound of Concession 23. He has also earned a reputation outside of bluegrass music, playing with different jazz combos and backing up jazz, folk, and country rock singers.
Mandolin player Kevin Golka’s introduction to bluegrass began when he travelled with bands as the babysitter for the performers’ children. Along the way, he soaked up both the music and the lifestyle and is still passionate about bluegrass today. He began by playing banjo in the early 1980s before finding his way to the mandolin. He eventually joined the band Maple Hill where he gained a strong respect for the rhythmic foundation of bluegrass, and subsequently played mandolin with The Northern Sons for several years.
Ever since she was a young girl, people have loved Sherry Philp’s melodic voice. She first sang publicly in church on Sundays, accompanied by her mother on piano. She took up piano herself, but in her 20s, developed her true musical obsession when a friend loaned her a beat-up banjo. The instrument that she would come to master eventually led to the formation of Concession 23, and Sherry’s impeccable lead vocals and harmonies have earned her loyal fans wherever she has played. Sherry is also recognized for her work in the studio, such as her recent banjo and vocal contributions to Canadian singer/songwriter Trevor Alguire’s recent project.
Guitar player Nick Strachan got his first, very cheap guitar when he was a young teenager in India and remembers it as the most frustratingly difficult instrument he ever tried to play. He decided to switch to banjo and met Sherry in a banjo class in the 1990s. After practicing and playing together, Nick eventually moved back to guitar to better serve Sherry’s banjo playing. It turned out to be a wise decision; now Nick’s lead guitar playing, both intricate and spontaneous, strongly supports the story of each song. He has also found his second calling in writing, contributing much of the original songwriting to the band.
Celebrating 20 years together in October 2023, this accomplished bluegrass band will fill the Off the Grid concert space with fun, energy, and great music. From traditional bluegrass, folk/roots type ballads, and original songs to fast-driving, lively tunes, Concession 23 are entertaining on every level.
“We’re really excited to be bringing Concession 23 to our home venue”, said concert organizer, Lynne Epps. “Audiences really enjoy our intimate setting where the music totally envelops you, and you get that ‘front-row seat’ feeling no matter where you sit”, she continued. “Concession 23 will definitely be ringing the rafters of our home. We are looking forward to welcoming both the band and some new audience members as well”.
A limited number of tickets are remaining for the Concession 23 show. Tickets are $40 and include refreshments with a buffet sampling of locally produced foods. Other Off the Grid concerts this fall include the already sold-out show for blues performer Suzie Vinnick; folk/roots Juno Award winner David Francey on November 10; and opera singer Claire Hafner on December 3. Limited tickets for each concert may be purchased at the Eganville Off the Grid Productions’ website: www.offthegridproductions.ca. Call 613-628-5897 for more information.
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