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KVMR Tent Jam Sparks A Reunion After 7 Years For Sawmill Road; Alternative Stream Offers 'No Banjos Required'

There's something pretty special about KVMR 89.5 FM's broadcast tent at the annual Father's Day Bluegrass Festival.

Just about every year -- when the main stage is empty or between acts -- a band or a jam, often impromptu, creates a sort of aura that  Eric Rice (in his 32nd year as volunteer broadcast producer) wishes he could bottle. Okay, the crew does record it, at least.

About a decade ago, for instance, a new band came into the tent and just tore it up musically. Only a few months later, the Infamous Stringdusters got more infamous as they won the International Bluegrass Music Association's award for Emerging Band of the Year. 

Last year, well, it happened again, but a different angle. 

Eric had heard rumors the original members of the band Sawmill Road -- Bruce Johnson, Dick Brown, Mark Miracle, Charlie Edsall and Steve Spurgin --  were jamming at the campgrounds.

Considered a premiere west coast bluegrass group (with band credits including Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lynn Morris Band, Lost Highway, Byron Berline, Laurel Canyon Ramblers among others), they broke up in 2010 when day jobs and geographical distances interfered too much, according to Rice. 

Yup, Eric found them, all right, and it didn't take long to whisk them away  to the KVMR booth where 

"They had so much fun playing in our tent.  They were havin' a ball."

A crowd, duh,  formed around the jam.

"It figures," says Rice. "When they all get together, it's simply magic."

Magical enough, in fact, that California Bluegrass Association officials in the crowd invited the Sawmill Road Reunion to this year's main stage. They're also playing four or five other festivals, according to Rice. 

This year at the tent?

"Who knows?" says Eric, with that mile-wide grin of his. 


KVMR will broadcast the Bluegrass Festival live from the Nevada County Fairgrounds from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (June 15-18).

It'll air on 89.5 FM and be streamed worldwide via the station's main website, kvmr.org

KVMR News and Democracy Now will air 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. 


 The Nevada City radio station's new "off the dial" streaming service -- KVMRx at kvmrx.org -- is starting to flex its wings a little, according to KVMR Music Director Sean Dooley-Miller. 

It features both original and automated music programming geared to millenials and a "young audience", and Dooley-Miller smiles when he says, "There's been a record amount of young people in the building."

"It's allowed people to have a more open-ended approach to radio," notes Dooley-Miller. "Essentially, these new broadcasters get to experiment with what radio should sound like now and in the future." 

This weekend, particularly Saturday, KVMRx will offer an alternative to the thirtysome hours of bluegrass on the main signal, starting with Smokin' J's "Wake'n'Bake Radio" 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, with modern urban hip hop and r&b. 

And, yup, "No Banjos Required" is one of the show names. 

"The rest of the day will offer a montage,  a mix if you will, of shows from throughout the week," according to Dooley-Miller. 


--Sugar Shack with DJ SugaTroll, always thematic.

--Bing Bong with Jeanne, unpredictable.

--Come Up Screaming! with The SaeHeyKid

--Miss Jiff & Mayhem, KVMR broadcaster-turned-rebel when free from her Thursday format.

--Groove Sessions with the Guitar Mama, hip hop, soul and r&b.

--The BeatSlinger with DJ FatFinger, new & classic electronica. 

That's just the tip of the proverbial KVMRx iceberg.  More strange titles, illustrated DJ images, etc. at www.kvmrx.org


The young, young-at-heart and adventurous are being sought for KVMRx's next training class, which takes place Saturday, June 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the KVMR Community Room, 120 Bridge Street at Spring Street, downtown Nevada City. 

Information and applications are available at kvmrx.org/class ,  by calling 530/265-9073, extention 1012, or emailing music@kvmr.org