This weekend's Ameriserv Flood City Music Festival headliners include a familiar name to Johnstown music lovers: Greensky Bluegrass.
The up-and-coming quintet has made the city a frequent tour stop since forming in 2000.
"When we first started touring, Johnstown was one of the first venues that we played," said Michael Arlen Bont, banjo player in Greensky Bluegrass. "We played Dively's [Tavern]. We've probably played there 10 times - it really is one of the first places we really played."
Members of Greensky Bluegrass are (from left) Dave Bruzza, Paul Hoffman, Michael Arlen Bont, Michael Devol and Anders Beck.
Greensky Bluegrass will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday at the festival and then headline Sunday's final day with a show at 8:30 p.m.
The other headliners for this year's festival are Trombone Shorty (9:30 p.m. today), a Grammy nominee and a regular at the New Orleans Jazz fest in his hometown, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band (9:30 p.m. Saturday), a critical darling known for Randolph's virtuoso pedal steel guitar.
This year's festival will open at 1 p.m. today (performances from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and continue at noon Saturday (performances from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and 1 p.m. Sunday (performances from 2 to 10 p.m.). All performances will be held on a series of stages set up at People's Natural Gas Park in downtown Johnstown.
If you go
What: Ameriserv Flood City Music Festival
When: 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. today (gates open at 1 p.m.); 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday (gates open at noon); 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday (gates open at 1 p.m.)
Where: People's Natural Gas Park, Johnstown
Admission: $22.75 per person for today and Saturday and $11.75 per person for Sunday
More information and to buy tickets: www.floodcitymusic.com
Shelley Johansson, communications director at the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, the nonprofit organization which presents the Flood City Music Festival in conjunction with Ameriserv Financial each year, said the festival's appeal grows every year.
"I think the festival has become more and more of a regional event, bringing people from farther and farther away," she said. "Every year, I talk to people who call in and it's really exciting to talk to someone from Canada who's excited about some band in the middle of the card."
That sort of die-hard fan may come away with more than just a good show, she explained.
"What I think is really fun is that a lot of times people come to the festival to see one band and then suddenly they find this other band that they wouldn't have found on their own. And then they have another favorite," she said.
In 2013, perhaps that new favorite band will be Greensky Bluegrass.
Consisting of Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza, mandolinist Paul Hoffman, bassist Michael Devol and dobroist Anders Beck, Greensky Bluegrass is based in Kalamazoo, Mich., where Bont, Bruzza and Hoffman started the group.
Though he helped found the group, Bont, 37, was far from a bluegrass specialist when they started.
"I kind of stumbled upon bluegrass through Jerry Garcia," he said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Utah. "I was a big Deadhead in my early 20s."
"[And] I was like a punk rocker in high school!" he added with a laugh.
Greensky Bluegrass's seventh album, 2011's "Handguns," reached No. 3 on the Billboard Bluegrass charts. It seems as though the band, all of whom are in their 30s, has begun to peak at the right time. Their sound fits right in with the current wave of folk and bluegrass- influenced popular music performed by bands like Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers.
Bont says the band has grown out of the more traditional bluegrass box.
"We used to do a lot of traditional stuff," he said. "It's more like rock 'n' roll, singer/songwriter and jam influence that has ultimately influenced our music. We can play pretty much anything."
They hope to show that on their next album.
"We recently just finished up recording material for a new album," Bont said. "We hope to have it out in the fall. I think it's our finest work to date. It feels like a very mature album for us. ... I think there's 12 songs on it and I think they're all different."
Some of that music will be debuted at the Flood City Music Festival this weekend. The group has been specializing in festivals this summer, then they'll embark on a three-month tour in the fall.
"It's really fun to do festivals," Bont said. "You get a lot of new fans that way. It's great to be outside and enjoy the nice weather."
Greensky Bluegrass will have plenty of opportunities to gain new fans this weekend; The festival has an average attendance of 7,000 to 10,000, according to Johansson.
"One thing that I think people really enjoy about our fest is that it's an intimate atmosphere," she said. "You can get close to the stage [and] the stages are apart, but not so far apart that you're going to get tired walking from stage to stage."
And hopefully during those walks, festivalgoers will take a look at what's around them, she said.
"We want to continue growing our festival and let people know about all the good things there are to do in Johnstown," Johansson said.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.