Friday, March 27, 2015

Little bit of heaven in Lotus


THE AMERICAN RIVER Music Festival offers great music, food and refreshments, art, kid's activities and fun in the Coloma Lotus Valley. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

From page B1 | September 13, 2013 |

Grisman, Thorne, headline American River Music Festival

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to and start your online subscription


Music lovers of all ages and ilks have come to know Coloma and Lotus as home to a friendly, well-run music festival with enthusiastic crowds, charismatic campgrounds, fantastic food and a stretch of crisp blue water beside an idyllic park; an end-of-summer music tradition that gets better every year.

A large grassy lawn, a cloudless sky, the clear blue American River and a thousand or so like-minded souls make for something special. That’s the American River Music Festival.

There’s also some really good music. Come on down to Henningsen-Lotus Park, 950 Lotus Road in Lotus, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14 and 15 and you won’t be disappointed. Record the football game. The yard work can wait.

Kids’ activities, merchandise booths, live art, fresh food and local libations are all in the mix. Unlike larger festivals, a couple tickets won’t set you back a car payment.

Best of all the American River is right there, sparkling in the sun, like God’s own Frigidaire. It’s a family festival, a place to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

The festival lineups have particular appeal to boomers who grew up with rock and roll, then expanded into related genres such as southern rock, folk rock, bluegrass, blues, Cajun, Latin and world music, all of which have found a home in the “Americana music” stadium.

Festival coach Matt Semonsen fields a team of recognizable names and rising stars that can hit one out of the park from anywhere in the lineup.


Hidden treasures

Some of the best performances each year are intimate affairs at local campgrounds and eateries within the “friendly confines” of Coloma Lotus.

Anyone who witnessed Dangermuffin burn down Gringos or heard Nina Gerber’s haunting accompaniment of Ray Bonneville at Camp Lotus last year can attest that some of the festival’s best moments are after the sun goes down.

The Dangermuffins confessed that they’d never set foot in California before that week. Semonsen discovered these guys, who were complete unknowns in these parts, brought them to California to headline his Saturday show. He watched them knock it out of Henningsen-Lotus park, then do it again in extra innings at Gringos.

Semonsen also entices leading touring acts into the El Dorado County hinterland, bands like James McMurtry, Jackie Greene, Taj Mahal and Roy Rogers that often require a rural audience to travel great distances and endure an expensive urban nightclub experience, or travel even greater distances for a more expensive and crowded large festival experience.

There won’t be any of those hassles this weekend. Come on down with your lowback chair, bring the kids and get your smile on.


Everyone likes Lotus

The American River Music Festival has remained pleasantly uncrowded and completely, delightfully, unpretentious in its eight year run.

The long lines and the sometimes-ugly competition for stage-front real estate found at larger festivals are not a concern in Lotus.

There’s plenty of room for everyone to get close enough to see the performers up close and personal, and also room to spread out and move around. Toss a Frisbee, try a hula hoop. Take a plunge in the river.

The musicians also succumb to the event’s charms. Rarely spotted outside the CD booth or the main stage at larger festivals, many bring their families to Lotus and mingle in the audience before and after their performance.


Lineup and dance

This year’s lineup might be the most eclectic yet. Sunday’s headliner is Tupelo, Mississippi-based Paul Thorne, a natural storyteller and the son of a Pentecostal preacher. NPR described his songs as “part narrative, part parable and part plainspoken desire.”

Thorne once went six rounds with Roberto Duran in a nationally televised bout in Atlantic City, and came away with a vaguely Woody Harrelson weirdness to him. He describes his music as “going to church with a six-pack.”

Saturday’s headliner is the big Dawg himself, David Grisman, who mastered bluegrass at an early age, then morphed it with jazz and sprinkled it with international seasonings. He named the new genre Dawg music, but that’s not what you’ll hear on Saturday.

About nine years ago Grisman came full circle and surrounded his young son Sam with a Northern California A-list of bluegrass talent, including El Dorado County’s own Keith Little.

The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, or DGBX for short, demonstrates the raw power of bluegrass performed by those steeped in the tradition. There are no pickups on their instruments and they sing harmonies around a shared microphone, just like Bill Monroe did.


More to hear

The rest of the lineup is just as eclectic.

Sean Hayes played some memorable and addictively weird sunset performances at David Girard Vineyards in the past and returns to El Dorado County on Saturday at 3 p.m. His hometown SF Weekly described his voice as a “wandering troubadour’s coo … with a wounded, wavering tone” who “gets his groove on, laying his buttery, quavering voice over swinging drum patterns, mellifluous piano and funky horn parts.”

The festival has enjoyed some memorable outlaw country Texas troubadours over the years, including Slaid Cleaves, James McMurtry and Jimmie Dale Gillmore. This year’s edition is Ray Willie Hubbard, who’s touring in support of his latest release, “The Grifter’s Hymnal,” as gritty as the back seat of a Cadillac with the top down on washboard gravel.

Flat-pick guitar virtuoso Jim Nunally is working both ends of the Saturday lineup, opening with harmonist Nell Robinson at 11 a.m. and closing with DGBX. He and Robinson are an acclaimed folk duo.

Festival-goers will get a chance to get up and shake their stuff a little earlier this year.

Two of the west coast’s leading jam bands play mid-day sets. Expect some serious turf trampling when New Monsoon hits the stage Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and again when Hot Butter Rum kicks off the jams Sunday at 3 p.m.

Poor Man’s Poison plays on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. The new generation of jammy string bands play incredibly well in the festival atmosphere. Same goes for Tahoe’s Dead Winter Carpenters, which play on Sunday, same time, same station. Both are guaranteed to make you smile.

In fact, everyone smiles at the American River Music Festival. Maybe it’s all those ions coming off the river.

Negative ions have been shown to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, increasing alertness and clarity, according to Dr. Pierce J. Howard, of the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.

They also stabilize brain function to help you silence the chattering monkeys between your ears. Howard notes that roughly one third of people are noticeably sensitive to these “anions,” or negatively charged ions, and suffer their absence with moodiness and lethargy.

No wonder everyone’s happy in Lotus.

Single-day tickets are $45 at the door and $15 for kids. A two-day pass will set you back just $59 for adults and $20 for kids. Kids 7 and younger are free. Purchase tickets on site at Henningsen-Lotus Park.

Parking and ions are also free. Doors open at 10 a.m. The music runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Nevada City public radio station KVMR has set up shop in Camino, and will simulcast the festival on both stations, 89.5 and 88.3.

For more information visit the festival Website at



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .


    Heard over the back fence: Dance the night away

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

    Harris unemotional in interview until affair discussed

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Threat locks down schools

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Gold and boots found on Main

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1

    EDWPA continues debate on water rights application

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Discover More Than Gold

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A3

    Community meetings ongoing in Dollar General proposal

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Best in Basin nominations accepted through March 31

    By Tahoe Regional Planning Agency | From Page: A4

    Grand opening for new animal shelter on Sunday

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A4

    EDH road work at Francisco Drive

    By News Release | From Page: A8

    Small fires sparked off Highway 50

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Dead deer has neighbors crying ‘foul’

    By Julie Samrick | From Page: A9

    Citizens can report wildlife mortality to CDFW online

    By Caifornia Department Of Fish & Wildlife | From Page: A9

    Water providers urge continued conservation

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A15



    Fire Fee returns inadequate

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A6

    Home country: Fly tying and love advice

    By Slim Randles | From Page: A6



    Chris Daley’s opinion on open carry

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

    State of Jefferson

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

    Save your sunscreen money, buy a hat

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

    Man’s best friend, or victim?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7



    Today’s Cougar Relays draws big field

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A11

    Griz wins big ‘Diehl’

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Lady Trojans three-hit

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A11

    Lady Diamondbacks slip past Galt’s Warriors

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A11

    Cougar squads remain undefeated

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Roundup: Mar. 25, 2015

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A12



    Hilarity is nonstop in ‘Spamalot’

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Things to do: March 27, 2015

    By Democrat Calendar | From Page: B2

    Light-amber liquid is golden

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    ‘The Whipping Man’ plays at STC

    By Sacramento Theatre Company | From Page: B3

    Audiences to appear magically at show

    By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B3

    Flowers and recycled art

    By El Dorado Arts Council | From Page: B3

    InConcert presents Alessio Bax

    By Inconcert Sierra Foothills | From Page: B3

    Dinner shows start in Diamond Springs

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B3

    Surf’s up at MontBleu

    By Montbleu | From Page: B4

    Lauren and Lisa in concert

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B4

    Special concert at Capital Stage

    By Capital Stage | From Page: B4

    Time to register for Sugarloaf Stampede

    By El Dorado County Office of Education | From Page: B4

    Celebrate spring season with Folsom Symphony

    By Folsom Symphony | From Page: B6

    Cap Stage announces ‘Blackberry Winter’

    By Capital Stage | From Page: B6

    Sacramento series to culminate in feature film

    By The Alternative Arts Collective | From Page: B6

    Night Ranger plays Hard Rock

    By Hark Rock Hotel And Casino | From Page: B7

    Museums offer Telepresence

    By Fine Arts | From Page: B7

    Foothill Foodie: An appetite for history

    By Emilie Mimolette | From Page: B9 | Gallery

    Priceless performance at Harris Center

    By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B14

    Sierra Rep to present ‘The Honky Tonk Angels’

    By Sierra Repertory | From Page: B14

    Pink Floyd Experience returns to Harris Center

    By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B15



    Building Permits: March 9-13

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2



    Barbara Maddox

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Carolyn Ruth (Ulmer) Gorman

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    John J. Teresi

    By Contributor | From Page: A2


    Real Estate

    Finding the right agent

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Spring cleaning fever: Clean where the sun shines

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS8




    By Contributor | From Page: A13


    By Contributor | From Page: A13

    Long Story Short

    By Contributor | From Page: A13

    TV Listings

    By Contributor | From Page: A13

    Speed Bump

    By Contributor | From Page: A13


    By Contributor | From Page: A13


    By Contributor | From Page: A13

    New York Times Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A14

    Horoscope, Sunday, March 29, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A14

    Horoscope, Saturday, March 28, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A14

    Horoscope, Friday, March 27, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A14


    Home Source

    Finding the right agent

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Spring cleaning fever: Clean where the sun shines

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS8