by CHRIS ROGERS
As crowd gathered at Prairie Island for the big shows at this year's Boats and Bluegrass music festival, a score of lucky viewers slipped off to the nearby John Latsch shelter to be serenaded by the festival's top acts in a cozy space. On Wednesday, Boats and Bluegrass and many of the participating artists will celebrate the release of an album recorded during the small and personal shows: the Latsch Sessions.
"Most festivals are growing larger; we've always looked for ways to set ourselves apart," said Boats and Bluegrass organizer Tom Fassbender. "We thought it would be neat to give people an intimate setting to see the artists."
"It had this small, cabin-like kind of feel," said Parker Forsell of Ocooch Mountain Music who helped record the album. "There were all these candles on the hearth in there. It definitely had this feeling like you drove out to the country and had this cabin and you're a stone's throw from the Mississippi."
He continued, "It was almost like these people came out to this rural cabin and were sitting around and playing some music for friends." It was like that, except for the friends were top notch musicians.
The Lowest Pair, Elephant Revival, the Orange Mighty Trio, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, and other acts graced the little John Latsch Shelter with amazing performances, Fassbender said. Forsell said that the setting brought out a different side of the artists than a big stage does. The musicians picked up hand drums instead of drum kits and explained the inspiration behind their songs to the little audience crowded around them. "It pushed them in a direction of doing quite intimate recordings, not the rock out kind of thing," Forsell explained.
Connecting people to music and the outdoors has always been part of the mission for Boats and Bluegrass, which often features surprise sand bar shows for canoeists. Paying tribute to Winona's outdoor recreation hero, John Latsch, seemed like the perfect fit for the project, Fassbender said.
Boats and Bluegrass will hold a CD release party for the Latsch Sessions recordings on Wednesday, December 17, at the Historic Masonic Theatre. Kendl Winter and Travis Palmer will perform in a theater in the round along with the Orange Mighty Trio, and a duo from Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Tickets are $12 in advance on Boats and Bluegrass' website or $14 at the door. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Izaak Walton League, a preservation group. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Music will start at 6:30 p.m. For more information visit www.boatsandbluegrass.com.