Well, it’s been a great year for bluegrass music in western New York.

2019 brought national acts to our doorstep. Banjo players were treated to Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Tony Trischka and We 3 Banjo. Guitar players marveled at Tyler Grant, Trey Hensley and Billy Strings. Dobro players were thrilled to see and hear the great Rob Ickes.

by Mark Panfil

The Mayville Bluegrass Festival was revived at a great new venue, Big Inlet Brewery. The Springville Bluegrass Festival keeps on delivering great local bluegrass bands in July for free! The Borderland Music Festival in East Aurora brought in national acts, bluegrass, jazz and jam bands and is proving to be one of the premier music festivals in the northeast. Borderland 2019 brought us the Infamous Stringdusters and Green Sky Bluegrass among others.

Our live music music clubs, Buffalo Iron Works, Babeville and the world famous Sportsmen’s Tavern continue to bring in national bluegrass acts and the Sportsmen’s offers a bluegrass lunch twice a month all year long with the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars! In 2019, we were able to see Monroe Crossing, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mandolin Orange and the Slocan Ramblers right here in our own backyard.

Two churches, the Community Fellowship in Gasport and the Clarence Center Akron Mennonite Church, both present excellent bluegrass concerts. Some of the acts they brought us were Sideline, Remington Ryde and the Kevin Prater Band as well as local favorites Mountain Run, Higher Mountain, the Band Anastazja and Creek Bend.

Sadly, the doors closed for the last time at the String Shoppe in Buffalo. Owner Ed Taublieb catered to high-end bluegrass instrument shoppers. Also joining the angel band from our neck of the woods were bass player John MacPherson and banjo players Dick Beohm, Mike Sweeney and Joe Dady of the Dady Brothers.

An all-star lineup at the Sportsmen’s Tavern last May: (l-r) Rich Schaefer, Mark Panfil, Phil Banaszak and Doug Yeomans.

I counted the bluegrass jam sessions in the great Buffalo area and I come up with 11 open bluegrass jams every month, from beginner to advanced. Professional workshops from Ithaca to the Tonawandas abound. With help from the International Bluegrass Music Foundation and the Sportsman’s Americana Music Foundation, BuffaloBluegrass.com runs a free bluegrass music club and ensemble that meets twice a month for all middle and high school age string musicians who want to learn to play, sing and jam bluegrass songs and tunes.

My apologizes to the many venues and bands that I didn’t have room to cover in this article. We have an amazing bluegrass scene here in western New York. I really have to admit on a personal level, though, playing the Sportsmen’s and the Appleumpkin Festival with the Panfil Family Band were certainly the highlights of my entire year.

How about a suggestion for a great New Year’s resolution? No matter how old you are or how much experience you have musically, find a friend or teacher in this local bluegrass community and let them help you begin making music. It’s good for your body and soul.

Happy 2020 and may you have a great new year. My thanks to our JAM editor and chief, Elmer Ploetz, the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation and all of you for reading my Bluegrass Roundup.

See you on the out and about, and remember, there’s nothing quite like live music.

Mark Panfil


Elmer Ploetz

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