Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts Focusing on the Music

by Angie Ripple

It’s only July but it’s never too early to start thinking about the beauty and smell of Sweet Pea’s in August, not just the amazingly gorgeous flower, but also Bozeman’s most beloved festival of the arts and culture, the Sweet Pea Festival. Held the first weekend of August for the past 41 years, this year marks the 42nd annual Sweet Pea Festival, August 3, 4 & 5, 2019.

Sweet Pea is so many things, juried art show, Chalk on the Walk, Bite of Bozeman, Run, Sweet Pea Parade, over 100 arts & crafts vendors, flower show, dance performances, children’s activities and of course Bozeman Magazine’s favorite - MUSIC, we’ll get back to that in a minute!

The newest items added to the festival for 2019 are Bozeman Untold; on Tuesday, July 30 the Bookmobile will be at Lindley Park for the Bogert Farmers Market, and the Bozeman Public Library will be hosting their 4th Story Slam in their storytelling series: Bozeman Untold. Participants will have 5 minutes to tell a TRUE story about something that has happened to them at Sweet Pea! On Saturday Gallatin Art Crossing will host a sketch crawl, a day of sketching and journaling (10a.m.-2p.m.) where everyone shares their results at the end. Sketchers will meet in the Bozeman Sculpture Park behind the Bozeman Public Library, materials will be provided for those interested but you are welcome to bring your own tools as well. Also making its debut will be a live sculpture build workshop will take place in Lindley Park on both Saturday and Sunday, and Batter Queens’ waffles and mimosas in the Beer Garden.

When we asked Executive Director Kris Olenicki what she was most excited about for Sweet Pea 2019 she responded; “The whole music lineup! You won’t want to miss any of the music – and you won’t be able to sit down…way too much fun. Sweet Pea has always tried to bring music you might not ordinarily hear, and in fact our by-laws state that we should bring local, regional, national and international artists to Sweet Pea, and we strive to continue to do that, although now Montana and Bozeman are regular stops for many, many artists – and that makes it a little harder. One thing is for sure though – in 42 Festivals, we have only had one band that played Sweet Pea twice! There is so much great music out there, that part is easy and our Music Committee Chair, Grant Gilmore works very hard to book the best bands possible for Sweet Pea. Of course, fees for artists go up every year, so it gets harder to book within our budget. Hopefully, we successfully make every Sweet Pea as fun to attend as it is for us to put together.”

Gilmore did not disappoint avid Bozeman music lovers, local acts we can expect this year include The Dead Yellers, Dusty Pockets and the Chord Rustlers who will make a cameo appearance on stage Friday, as well as selling their famous Tater Pigs all weekend. But really big national acts will bring it this year, solidifying Sweet Pea as a music festival in its own right; acts like Leftover Salmon, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Blitzen Trapper, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Scott Pemberton Band, and Jon Stickley Trio. 

Leftover Salmon are considered to be the architects of what has become known as Jamgrass – where bands clearly schooled in the traditional rules of bluegrass break free of those rules through non-traditional instrumentation and an innate ability to push songs in new psychedelic directions live. This has created an altogether new dimension for bands such as The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters and countless others to inhabit. Leftover Salmon’s willingness to never be boxed in by “normal” music standards has given the bands that have followed in their wake the license to do and try what they want. 

For the past quarter-century, Colorado’s Leftover Salmon has established itself as one of the great purveyors of Americana music, digging deep into the well that supplies its influences; rock ‘n’ roll, folk, bluegrass, Cajun, soul, zydeco, jazz and blues.  They are firmly settled in the long lineage of bands that defy simple categorization, instead setting their own musical agenda.  They are the direct descendants of bands like Little Feat, New Grass Revival, Grateful Dead and The Band, born of the heart and soul of America itself, playing music that reflects the sounds emanating from the Appalachian hills, the streets of New Orleans, the clubs of Chicago, the plains of Texas, and the mountains of Colorado.

During Leftover Salmon’s twenty-five plus years as a band they have headlined shows and festivals from coast to coast, released nine albums, and maintained a vibrant, relevant and influential voice in the music world. Over that time, Leftover Salmon’s sound has grown and evolved while staying true to the roots and guiding spirit of the band’s founding members –  mandolinist/singer Drew Emmitt and guitarist/singer Vince Herman. 

The evolution of Leftover Salmon’s music is influenced by Emmitt and Herman’s keen musical instincts, and follows a musical path that adheres to the deep tradition the duo started when they first formed the group along with deceased banjo player Mark Vann. The addition of new band members over the years has nurtured an unmistakable evolution and freshness in Leftover Salmon’s sound, and has added an edge to the long-lasting power of the band’s music. Today, Leftover Salmon endures as a vital and significant presence and holds an unequivocal stature as a truly legendary band.

Now fueled by the rhythm section of drummer Alwyn Robinson, keyboardist Erik Deustch and long time bassist Greg Garrison, the band is currently enjoying a creative renaissance. The front line trio of Emmitt, Herman and prodigious banjo player Andy Thorn are continually challenged and pushed in new directions as the band collectively searches for new spaces and sounds within their extensive catalog of songs.      

Leftover Salmon’s greatness cannot simply be measured through album and concert ticket sales. For a band as unique as Leftover Salmon, that measure is found in their impact on the music world as whole.  With their unpredictable approach in a live setting, their willingness to take chances by fusing disparate musical styles together and their incorporation of non-traditional bluegrass covers into their repertoire, Leftover Salmon has pushed that progressive bluegrass sound they were originally influenced by to the next level.

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Portland’s Scott Pemberton is not your average guitarist. He’s a musical nomad. His home isn’t in one comfortable bubble, but rather spread across genres. One moment, he’s shredding through the blues. Then next, he’s living in a classic rock world, or drifting melodically through an ethereal psychedelic plane. Maybe he’s leading a dirty funk jam, or experimenting with something heavier, or sitting back on a jazz odyssey.

Regardless of genre, though, Pemberton’s musical journey is marked by two unmistakeable realities: You always know when you’re hearing a Scott Pemberton song. And you’re always going to be captivated. 

For the past few years Scott’s been an emerging force on the festival circuit, with his wild approach to the guitar and nimble funky band he is immediately recognizable and undeniably original. He doesn’t use a strap, often plays the guitar like someone would play piano and performs with the uninhibited joy and intensity of someone who recognizes that every time we make music is an honor and a gift. 

Pemberton’s sound is much like the vibe of his native Portland: freaky, fun and just the right amount of weird. The best way to categorize his music is with the moniker “Timber Rock”. Scott naturally applies his own lens/stamp to the sounds of the Pacific North West, the region he has always called home. The deep jazz, NW rock/grunge, blues roots and the west coast funk. It’s all there, and often all in the same song. Listeners are finding this honest, original and to-the-point music refreshing and fun.

Sweet Pea presale 3-day wristbands are just $20 for adults, $10 for kids, available at local ticket outlets and online at sweetpeafestival.org/ Any true music fan knows that $20 for a weekend of music is unheard of, and your support goes directly to keep the festival alive and thriving! 

It take hundreds of volunteers to pull off this amazing festival year after year if you are interested in volunteering (and earning a 3-day pass) visit https://sweetpeaafestivalofthearts.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/ to see where you are needed!

Coinciding with the Sweet Pea Festival is the 9th annual SLAM (Support Local Artists and Musicians) Festival in neighboring Bogert Park. This event is FREE to the public and includes artists, musicians, dancers, thespians, food purveyors, brewers and distillers, all from the great state of Montana. A full lineup was not available before we went to print, just stop by Bogert Park August 4 & 5, 2019 to be a part of the fun. Check www.slamfestivals.org for updates.

Angie Ripple is co-publisher of Bozeman Magazine, she has been enjoying August in Bozeman since 1995.

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