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A decade of bluegrass with the High Mountain String Band

Having fun and making music

Make your way to Stones Throw Brewery on Dec. 2 to celebrate High Mountain String Band's 10th anniversary. The Bellingham-based band plays a mixture of traditional bluegrass standards
Make your way to Stones Throw Brewery on Dec. 2 to celebrate High Mountain String Band's 10th anniversary. The Bellingham-based band plays a mixture of traditional bluegrass standards (Photo courtesy of Brian Bates)
By Jesse Stanton CDN Contributor

High Mountain String Band is a Bellingham-based progressive bluegrass band. The ensemble is celebrating its 10th anniversary Friday, Dec. 2 with a show at Stones Throw Brewery.

As anyone who’s ever played in a band knows, a decade is a long time to keep a band together! I checked in with band founder Kurt Gisclair to get a little bit of their history. 

Gisclair started the band with guitarist Shayar Valandro, banjo player Ian McLelland and bassist John Daughtrey. From that lineup, only he and McLelland remain, now joined by guitarist and vocalist Andy Bunn, Michael Medler on bass, Kian Dye on fiddle, and Chris Norman on dobro. They play a mixture of traditional bluegrass standards, Bunn’s originals and the occasional unexpected cover. 

Their style starts with the foundation established by Bill Monroe but also incorporates the progressive style of bluegrass associated with folks such as Bela Fleck or David Grisman. They use Stones Throw as their home base, typically playing there on the first Friday of every month (the brewery will have a beer brewed just for the occasion on Dec. 2). They also love to play bigger outdoor events. Gisclair mentioned the Stringband Jamboree, the Elizabeth Park summer concert series, and the Boundary Bay beer garden as other favorite spots.

Perhaps unusually for a group that’s been together so long, the High Mountain String Band has yet to make a studio recording. If you want to get a sense of their sound you can check out a series of live videos they have posted to their website. As far as the secret to their longevity, Gisclair mentioned three rules they try to always abide by: Everyone in the band has an equal voice in all decisions, any member can veto any song suggestion, and most importantly, everything they do has to be fun. That’s all outstanding advice for newer bands out there. 

In other news, the Shakedown just announced a massive series of metal shows for December. Called “7 Nights of Metal,” one pass gets you into all seven events. I’ll have lots more details on this next week.

Local guitar hero Miles Harris has, like so many others before him, made the move to Seattle. He’ll be touring all over the place soon but has an evening show up here Friday, Dec. 2, at WinkWink with his sister Ebony. 

The Downtown Busking Program is back for one last round this year, and it’s a big one. Friday night on the streets of downtown look for blues and folk on banjo and fiddle from Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, beautiful Celtic tunes from the gathering known as the Goods Gals, and poetry from Robert Lashley and Rena Priest. You can check Bellingham First Friday Busking on Facebook for the locations, or just wander downtown until you hear something intriguing. 

Live music listings 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Jimmy Wright
Boundary: 6 p.m., Aaron Guest on piano
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
Rockfish: 6 p.m., Conrad Gruener (country)
Stones Throw: 6 p.m., TBA

Thursday, Dec. 1

Blue Room: 6 p.m., Open Mic/Jam
Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
Farmstrong: 6 p.m., Chris Eger & Friends
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Yankee Drivers (bluegrass)
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Jazz Jam
Mount Baker Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Storm Large (holiday spectacular)
Shakedown: 8:30 p.m., Proud Failures, Meece, Failed Abortions (punk)
Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., J.P. Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)

Friday, Dec. 2

Aslan: 8 p.m., Dead End Rhythm Section (jam rock)
Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Wicked Timing (acoustic covers)
Beach Store Cafe: 5:30 p.m. Chuck Dingee (acoustic covers)
Birdsview: 6 p.m., Lauren Napier
Downtown Busking Program: 6:30 p.m., Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, Goods Gals, Robert Lashley and Rena Priest (exact locations TBA)
Eagle Haven: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid (acoustic covers)
Fireside: 7 p.m., Chuck and Carr (acoustic covers)
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., North Country Highway (country/rock)
Guemes Island General Store: 5:30 p.m., Handsome and Gretyl (folk)
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Jules Auston, Sunflecks, Angel’s Eyes (indie folk)
Karate Church: 8 p.m., Duos, Drayton, Sun//Aram (rock)
Shakedown: 9 p.m., Captured! by Robots, Kurly Something (grindcore played by robots)
Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Badd Dogg Blues Society
Stones Throw: 6 p.m., High Mountain String Band (bluegrass)
Welcome Road: 7 p.m., Gallowglass (Celtic)
WinkWink: 7 p.m., The Harris Twins
Vault: 7 p.m., Anna Katarina (singer-songwriter)

Saturday, Dec. 3

Beach at Birch Bay: 4 p.m., Cory Vincent (acoustic rock)
Blue Room: 8 p.m., WWU Jazz Night
Birdsview: 6 p.m., Jack Parker
Brown Lantern: 10 p.m., Fanny Alger (rock)
Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method (blues/rock)
Fireside: 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., The Moving Hats (Celtic)
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., West of Roan (folk)
Lincoln Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Curtis Salgado (blues)
Main Street: 8:30 p.m., Still Kick’n (classic rock)
Make.Shift: 8 p.m., Lucy Blue, Lily Potter, Charlie Angel (singer-songwriters)
Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., Mark Dufresne Band (blues)
Shakedown: 9 p.m., Coven 6669, Goat Sanctuary, Skinned Alive to Death (metal)
Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Ryan Sandholm (acoustic rock covers)
Twin Sisters: 6 p.m., Cardova (R&B/funk)
Wild Buffalo: 5:30 p.m., The Talbott Brothers (roots rock), 9 p.m., SpaceBand (pop/R&B covers)

Sunday, Dec. 4

FireHouse: 6:30 p.m., Josh Cook Collective (jazz)
Kulshan: 5 p.m., The Devillies (Irish folk)
Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., The Pour Boys

Monday, Dec. 5

FireHouse: 3:30 p.m., Community Ukulele Players
Foundation Lounge: 7:30 p.m., Open Mic
Kulshan: 6 p.m., Mom Sport (rock)
Shakedown: 8 p.m., Theories, Other (metal)

Tuesday, Dec. 6

Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
Boundary: 6 p.m., Paul Klein on piano
Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Open Mic
Wild Buffalo: 8 p.m., The Young Dubliners (Celtic rock)
Zeeks: 7 p.m., Open Mic

Before heading out to listen to live music, check with individual venues to make sure the event is still taking place as scheduled. 

Jesse Stanton’s music column, The Beat Goes On, runs Wednesdays. Email: or Twitter: @JSBhamMusic.

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