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Can City Folk Play Country Music? New Oral History App Tests Folk Wisdom

San Francisco, California - Urban musicians proved their country credentials at the first-ever Battle of the Bands at the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival. In post-performance interviews, five city-based participating bands explained how they discovered country roots music. All interviews, song clips and photos for this historic contest were captured using Memoir Tree (http://www.memoirtree.com), the free oral history app for iPhone that gives everyone the power to make history.

Winners, Nobody from Nashville: "It started with that George Clooney movie"
First prize went to Nobody from Nashville, a newly formed group of musicians from Oakland, Richmond, and other East Bay towns. "Before the movie [O Brother Where Art Thou], I'd never really heard bluegrass music," admits fiddler Ron Esparza. "There was something very honest about the music, and I loved the vocal harmonies." Guitar player and music teacher Jay Maddox agrees. "In an urban environment, I feel like there's a need to return to music that's more organic," he says. "On the radio...we have music that's so big, it's just music for arenas, really."

Runners-up, West County Cow-Tippers: "Like being in another country"
The winning old-time duo formed just for the event. "We met the old-fashioned way: on the internet," jokes Sonoma-based fiddler Wes Mitchell. Marin guitarist Brian Lamoreaux is a recent convert to country roots music. "In college, I was into a lot of Grateful Dead," he says. "I went to an old-time jam, or pickin' party ... you know, one of those house parties where every nook and cranny of the house was filled with people jamming until four in the morning. It was like being in another country."

Beauty Operators: "I used to play in a heavy metal band"
With their roaring bluegrass cover of '80s hit Tainted Love, San Francisco-based Beauty Operators are hardly purists. "I used to play in a heavy metal band...and then I met this woman Marilyn, who played banjo," recalls guitarist Jeremy Pollock. Fellow band member Perry Spinali came to bluegrass as a classically trained violinist. "A violin comes with some baggage," he says of the competitive symphonic world. "But when you play [bluegrass] music, you realize the voice of your instrument."

East Bay's Bluegrass Deacons: "She's in the 1%/I'm in the 99"
Other bands may have won, but the breakout hit of the battle was the Bluegrass Deacons' lament to an economically star-crossed love, with crowds singing along on the chorus: "She's in the 1%/I'm in the 99." The song features a solo by dobro player Geoff Sargent, who started out as a jazz musician. "Then I went into science," he says. "Thirty-five years later... I went to Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival and found the dobro."Mandolin player TJ Carskadon also followed a winding road to bluegrass. "My grandfather was a banjo player, but ... I listened to punk and studied percussion," he says. "When I moved out here, the drums wouldn't fit in my apartment... and I found out mandolin suits me best.

Berkeley's Lorin Station: "It's dance music"
Winning or losing was beside the point for Berkeley's Lorin Station: they came to make toes tap. "Old-time music to me is about the participation you get, when people smile and move around," says banjo and washboard player Doug Chambers. Guitarist DeeAnna Tibbs cautions that old-time music tends to turn neighbors into bandmates. "It's a very easy kind of music to pick up and play with other people," she says. "It's an amazingly rich and deceptively simple form of music."

About Memoir Tree:
All interviews, song clips and photos for San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival's historic first Battle of the Bands were captured using Memoir Tree, the free oral history iPhone app that gives everyone the power to make history. With Memoir Tree, iPhone users can capture history as it happens, and tell, show and share their story with audio and photos.

About the San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival:
The San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival is an all-volunteer, non-profit festival bringing great music to venues across the Bay Area since 1999. Headlining acts hail from across the US, and California's own bluegrass and old-time traditions are supported through local showcases, musicians' workshops and the Bay Area battle of the bands. The Festival is sponsored by the Northern California Bluegrass Society, and underwritten by generous donations from Bay Area music fans.

Memoir Tree is in the final phase of beta testing, and will be released in March, 2012 to the Apple Store; preview releases are available to press upon request.

Memoir Tree
San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival
Song Samples and Musician Interviews


Memoir Tree is the free oral history app for iPhone that gives everyone the power to make history, capturing events as they happen with audio and photos. To organize an oral history project for an institution, school or event or for more information on partnering with Memoir Tree, please visit them online. Copyright (C) 2012 Memoir Tree. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.