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Picking with Friends

Cascade Crescendo is changing the way you think about bluegrass

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Shattering the traditional notion of bluegrass while still honoring its traditions, Cascade Crescendo embraces high energy and brings an outstanding show to the Volcanic on Jan. 29. "We love it when crowds are up dancing and having a good time," says lead vocalist Hunter White. "We try and keep things upbeat."

Formed in 2013, the quartet has a unique feature: all members are songwriters who bring varied musical experiences to their sound. Folky singer-songwriter songs are blended with complex harmonies, traditional bluegrass and faster, alternative rock beats. What emerges is a cross between funk, jamgrass, Americana and bluegrass—or newgrass, as they call it—a sound you can't help but dance to. In addition, a cover of "Disarm" by the Smashing Pumpkins might even make an appearance.

"It's crazy to think that a few years ago we were just fans, hanging out at the Northwest String Summit festival, picking away with friends in the campsites. Now we're playing in it. It's surreal," says White. A feat, indeed, considering the band released its debut album, "Caught in the Rain," just seven months ago.

White credits their evolution to idols Greensky Bluegrass, a band that's helped develop the genre and taken it to new heights. He notes, "We realized that although we may be playing these bluegrass instruments onstage, we weren't really playing any traditional sounds. We use a lot of dynamic sounds throughout our set that pull us more into jam band, funky stuff."

He continues, "I think what many people think of as bluegrass is more closely related to country music and some of the old twangy sounds. So it's cool to be a part of a movement of modern bands who are bending the genre and therefore bringing a lot of new fans in. I think that is happening all over the country— there's even a big bluegrass revival in Japan."

As Cascade Crescendo continues to grow, expect to witness complexities in their songwriting. White credits his ability to weave vocal harmonies to a peculiar musical phase of his life: African drumming. "I think some of those choral harmonies have ingrained themselves in my singing, and our abilities to find different harmonies. And our banjo player has a high register, so we're able to do even more harmonies than before."

Cascade Crescendo is supported by Useful Jenkins, a Midwest band that White says are veterans of the scene and pioneers of bluegrass. Fans can expect a few on-stage song collaborations at the Bend show, true to both the traditional bluegrass and jam band spirit.

"It really is that community, collaborative aspect that makes bluegrass music so fun to play," White says, "I'm excited to see where the evolution goes."

Cascade Crescendo and Useful Jenkins

Sun. Jan. 29. 8pm.

Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr., Bend.

$8 adv., $10 door.

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