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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

March 1, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Bellevue plays perfect bluegrass host | Wintergrass review

Don’t try to see everything.

At Wintergrass, where there are always four stages going simultaneously at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue, it is advice to live by. Organizers of the four-day bluegrass festival — which concludes Sunday — keep things jam packed so they can feature as many artists as possible across the genre’s ever-widening spectrum.

On Friday, the choices were tough, with acts like Mollie O’Brien and her husband Rich Moore playing in the Grand Ballroom at the same time as the dynamic Scott Law took the stage a floor below in the Evergreen Ballroom.

Those who chose to see O’Brien and Moore weren’t disappointed. Despite the enormous size of the Grand Ballroom, the sound was crisp and helped highlight O’Brien’s luminous voice. The duo usually play alone but were joined Friday by a rhythm section, which helped drive up-tempo songs like “Sunday Street” and “Don’t Let The Devil Ride,” both off 2014’s “Love Runner.”

O’Brien’s brother, Tim, and longtime collaborator Darrell Scott had the Evergreen Ballroom overflowing later in the evening. They threw down the gauntlet with a raucous version of “Long Time Gone,” which the Dixie Chicks made famous on their multiplatinum album “Home.”

The contemplative, tender “Memories and Moments” was a nice counterpoint to the energy with which they started their set off, while “Keep Your Dirty Lights On” gave Scott and O’Brien a chance to speak out on mountaintop-removal mining.

While it might not seem it, the Hyatt Regency is proving an ideal host for the festival. The four stages are close enough together to allow for darting back and forth but far enough apart that sound doesn’t bleed over, and there is plenty of space for vendors and impromptu jam groups.

Quite a few people, like Seattleites Alex Klivecka, 29, and Gabriel Marowitz, 27, have their instruments in tow. The pair met Bellingham resident Arielle Luckmann, 29, and spent a bit of time together working through some old Irish folk songs.

“I just moved back to Washington from Chicago,” Luckmann said. “I knew I would make like 50 new friends if I came down here with my fiddle. I think I’ve made 51 so far.”

- Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails

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