What does a “stagecoach in overdrive” sound like?
Grass it up with Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy as they headline Bluegrass at the Lake on June 18 at Marion County Park and Lake to find out.
Often singing about whiskey women, Civil War ballads, labor unions, and social satire, the five-piece, Wichita-based band performs an eclectic blend of punk, bluegrass, and Dixieland, with a driving rhythm section, blaring horns, and mandolin and banjo solos. Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy dips into rockabilly, ska, and New Orleans styles, too.
Calamity Cubes, a four-piece self-described “Thrashicana” band, and self-proclaimed “Nastygrass” quartet, 80 Proof Engine will join Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy for the event, as will more traditional bluegrass cover bands Fun Girls, and Reach for the Sky, a bluegrass band with a gospel twist.
Event committee member Lindsey Marshall, who regularly books bands at her Peabody restaurant, the Coneburg Inn, said each band conjures a unique bluegrass-fueled energy.
“There is a ton of talent this year,” Marshall said. “The audience can expect to stay busy and entertained listening to all the bands.
“80 Proof Engine has a laid back feel, and Calamity Cubes have a bit of a darker edge, but Carrie Nation is more of a ‘brass and grass’ with a swampy vibe. It’s very high energy, that’s for sure.”
Bill Keihl, event committee member, said booking more bands from different bluegrass genres was part of an effort to bring a larger draw to the picturesque lakeside venue.
“Last year there was a problem with publicity and crowds,” Keihl said. “This year, the earlier bands will be more family friendly, but as the night goes on the music should get livelier.”
Keihl said the committee would like to try to cultivate an atmosphere similar to the Winfield Bluegrass Festival, only on a smaller scale.
There will be no beer garden this year but patrons are encouraged to bring coolers with their own beverages, camping supplies, fishing gear, lawn chairs, and instruments for impromptu campsite jams.
Committee member Bob McCurdy said bands were picked for their reputations.
“We are shooting to get about 1,000 people there,” McCurdy said. “We feel like we know what people want. All the bands we picked because they have some sort of following.”
Donations for the lake will be accepted during the free event.
Dustin Nesser, 80 Proof Engine’s bassist and singer, called some of the more progressive bluegrass acts “acoustic rock ‘n’ roll.”
“I’m always excited to play, and playing in front of a large group at a nice lake is even better,” Nesser said. “We get to play with some of the best bluegrass bands in Kansas. It’s gonna be a nice family friendly event, but it might get a little rowdier at night.”
The free event will start with a battle of the bands from 2 to 5:30 p.m. A cornhole tournament will be held near the lake’s swimming area stage, food vendors, and a silent auction will be available.
Prize money will be awarded to the winner of the battle of the bands.
“We’re looking for legitimate, good bands to sign up and compete,” he said. “We want bands that have played around.”
Bands must sign up by 1 p.m. Fun Girls go on at 6 p.m., followed by Reach for the Sky at 7 p.m., 80 Proof Engine at 8 p.m., Calamity Cubes at 9 p.m. and Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy at 10 p.m.
“Just like I believe it’s important for us ‘small town folk’ to get out and get a feel for different music and culture, it’s equally important for people from larger cities to kick back and enjoy places like Marion County,” Marshall said.
“Our lakes, Flint Hills, small communities, and back roads are full of interesting experiences.”