Virtual Stangers

The Virtual Strangers, 2007 Arizona Bluegrass Band contest winners, bring a great mixture of traditional and progressive songs. Their sound is a mixture of the traditional with Stanley, Monroe, and Flatt & Scruggs material along with more progressive material from Blue Highway, Lonesome River Band and Del McCoury. They have shared the stage with Rhonda Vincent, Bluegrass Etc., California, the Dillards, Lonesome River Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, and others. Virtual Strangers perform in numerous events & festivals in San Diego and throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, among others. In addition, Virtual Strangers lead the annual Cruise2Jam Carnival Line Catalina/Ensenada Cruise each February where they teach passengers about jamming etiquette and hold onboard jam sessions.

Virtual Strangers also has an alter ego – the Tatar Patch Bluegrass Buddies. Several times each year, the Strangers morph into this kid-friendly persona and go into classrooms to educate school-age children about bluegrass music and how to start playing it. They have performed in schools and kids camps at many festivals.

Mike Tatar Sr., on banjo, holds down the lead vocals. He’s played with In Cahoots, Snowy River, Full Deck, LeRoy McNees, and was made an honorary Piney Creek Weasel by the late Rick Abrams.

Jon Cherry plays mandolin, and sings harmony/lead vocals. Jon’s played with Union Creek and Snowy River, and proudly plays his handmade Cherry Mandolin on stage.

Yvonne Tatar plays the acoustic bass and sings harmony. She is a proud fourth generation string player and has accompanied many old time-fiddlers. She’s played with In Cahoots, Full Deck, LeRoy McNees, and sitting in with many other bands.

Kit Birkett plays guitar and also sings lead vocals. His credits include the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers and Down the Road, 2001 Southwest Bluegrass Play-off Winners.

Mike Tatar Sr. – banjo, vocals; Jon Cherry – mandolin, vocals; Yvonne Tatar – bass, vocals; Kit Birkett – guitar, vocals

Hot October

With their debut album receiving notable acclaim, this acoustic quintet is already making waves as one of the few true crossover bluegrass bands. Recent main stage performances at the Northwest String Summit, Mateel Summer Arts Festival, and Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest have cemented Hot October as a SoCal favorite.

While it might not be that uncommon for a bluegrass band to have all five musicians singing in harmony, what sets this group apart is the clear and apparent virtuosity of each individual working towards the greater composition. Together the band seamlessly creates a deep rooted pocket while trading sweeping, flat-picked lines for David’s unmatched bowed solos. Yes, the groups collective improvisations are something to be marveled at, but what is most exciting is seeing where the new generation of bluegrass music is headed, and looking at what Hot October is bringing to the table, let’s just say that it’s a very exciting time to be a bluegrass fan.

Paul Fuller – banjo, vocals; Jesse Olema – fiddle, vocals; Craig Ferguson – mandolin, dobro; Sasha Birrittella – guitar; David Tranchina – bass

Bluegrass Brethren 2021

In 1977, three men from Long Beach, Don Anderson, Craig Furlong and Tim Bryant were leading music in their adult church class. It was their custom to invite someone, once a month, to do special music there. After a few months, the three thought “why don’t we work up some music for class and be the special music one time.” All three played guitar, but Don was taking banjo lessons. Tim already played bass from his “rock” days, and Craig, originally a drummer, elected to play guitar. And so the three men worked up the singing and playing of three songs for the “special” music for their class. In April of 1977 the day came for them to “perform” for their one time appearance. Quite to their surprise, their music received an overwhelming response. After the class was over, the folks in the room next to theirs, having heard their music through the walls, approached them and said, “Of course you are going to play for our class next week, aren’t you?” Not wanting to disappoint anyone, the men with a repertoire of three songs said, “Sure, we will be glad to.”

The next week while Don, Craig and Tim were doing a sound check for the other class, the church Minister of Music heard them rehearsing. He quickly approached them, and said, “You guys have just got to play for the whole church.” Shortly after that, the fellows played for a congregation of around 2500 people, again receiving a highly enthusiastic ovation. Before they knew it they were being asked to play for other classes, socials, and finally as their “word of mouth” reputation grew, for other events outside their own church.

They quickly began to expand their repertoire so they could play full concerts. One of the first songs they learned was one they heard on a Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys record. It was called “When The Angels Carry Me Home.” As they looked to expand their repertoire back then, it was hard to find gospel bluegrass that said things the way they would like to hear them said, so they began to write and perform their own songs.

Since the early days, the Bluegrass Brethren have seen quite a number of changes, but have always maintained their passion and enthusiasm for their music and their audiences have been blessed in the process. The band has contributed over 150 original songs to the bluegrass gospel field.

Their original compositions have received national songwriting awards as well. In 2003 Bluegrass Brethren was a main stage “showdown” band representative at Huck Finn’s Jubilee in Victorville, CA. Besides keeping a busy concert schedule, they have appeared at festivals, including, Huck Finn’s Jubilee in Victorville, Julian Bluegrass Festival, Gospelgrass / Colorado, The Temecula Bluegrass Festival and many others. That little trio, that started 30 years ago, with really no expectation of becoming a permanent group, today has expanded to a band of five.

Tim Bryant – guitar, vocals; Jim Henderson – banjo; David Dickey III – mandolin, vocals; Rebekah Woofter – bass, vocals; Gwen Koyanagi – fiddle

Clinton Davis String Band

Clinton Davis is an old-time folk musician based in San Diego. A fifth-generation Kentuckian, Davis grew up in Carroll County with faint residues of old-time music lingering in the air and in his family’s past. He currently performs on guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and piano. He has performed at folk festivals across the country including Wintergrass (WA), Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival (WA), National Jug Band Jubilee (KY), Brooklyn Folk Festival (NY), the Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Competition (CA), and the Santa Barbara Fiddler’s Convention (CA).

Davis’ skills across instruments and genres have earned him acclaim at home in Southern California and across the country. In 2015 renowned Americana publication No Depression called his work “a joyous and soulful restoration of one of the lost treasures of American musical tradition.” That same year, his album with the G Burns Jug Band was awarded “Best Local Recording” at the San Diego Music Awards. At the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddler’s Convention, Davis has been awarded first prize on banjo in 2018 and first prize on fiddle in 2019.

Davis performs as a soloist, with his own string band, or backing up other kindred spirits devoted to traditional American music such as Brooklyn’s queen of the blues, Mara Kaye, and San Francisco’s powerhouse string band Skillet Licorice.

Davis is an official artist of the Deering Banjo Company. In 2017 Davis and Deering partnered with San Diego’s Center for World Music and the San Diego Music Foundation to launch their “Banjos in the Classroom” program, which brings group clawhammer banjo lessons to San Diego’s public schools.

Davis curates the Southern Pacific Sessions, a concert and video series which aims to help cultivate the next generation of audiences for traditional music in San Diego and Southern California. They have hosted some of the nation’s finest performers representing a broad diversity of American traditions: national award-winning banjo and fiddle players, grammy-nominated cajun musicians, and southwestern hispanic musicians that have performed at the Kennedy Center.

Drought Tolerant Bluegrass

This well-seasoned band brings a powerhouse of local artists known in the bluegrass circles of Southern California. Playing throughout the Southwest, Drought Tolerant Bluegrass is known for their musicianship, their traditional and progressive set lists, along with their respected vocals and harmonies. DTB will quench your bluegrass thirst and leave you smilin’.