2017 Al Ras Bluegrass and Old Time Festival

This report on the Al Ras festival in Barcelona comes courtesy of Lluis Gomez.

The 16th annual Al Ras Bluegrass and Old Time Festival, Spain’s oldest bluegrass festival, occurred this past November 9-11th. This year the festival expanded activities over three days, with concerts and workshops in Barcelona, and the main event in Mollet del Vallés (a town nearby). Local and international acts offered a quite diverse lineup, headlined by American artists Jake Schepps & Round Window and clawhammer banjo innovator Michael Miles. Jake’s sets featured the screening of The Scarecrow, a 1920 silent film by Buster Keaton, with the quartet playing a live score composed by Schepps.

Saturday, November 12 was the main event taking place in the Mercat Vell, an antique market turned into a beautiful concert venue in the center of the old town of Mollet. Spanish artists included Howdy, a band from San Sebastián (Basque Country), a standard bluegrass band yet including the colorful addition of “trikitixa,” a traditional Basque diatonic accordion. Lluis Gomez’s Quintet opened the show, backed by Jake Schepps (banjo), Mike Robinson (guitar) and Joe d’Esposito (fiddle) from Round Window, Oriol Serra (fiddle), and featuring Michael Miles in a couple of numbers. They played various tunes from Lluis Gomez’s latest album, Dotze contes. Th’ Booty Hunters is an electric punkgrass band from Barcelona, and Toni Giménez, a Catalan legend of the folk banjo, rounded out the bill.  

The concerts were full of fans of American roots music fans of all ages. The bluegrass scene is alive and kicking in Barcelona, not just due to Al Ras Festival, as there is an active community of musicians organizing bluegrass jams every fortnight, and a very successful Bluegrass Camp (the next coming in March 2018) covering all bluegrass instruments.

Here’s a video overview of the weekend’s festivities.

More information can be found online, with photos from the festival on Facebook.