By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – Gallatin Grass Project, made up of Brian Stumpf on upright bass, Ben Macht on mandolin, and John Foster on guitar, is not exempt from the local music scene’s tendency to intermingle musicians under various, changing names.
The trio premiered at the Big Sky Big Grass fest in 2012 as the Driftwood Grinners and played as such through 2015. This is the second year they will perform as Gallatin Grass Project and the fourth year they have energized the weekend crowd during the Friday après slot at Montana Jack.
“Steve has been great about keeping up with our band name changes,” Stumpf said, in the playfully sarcastic fashion that suffuses most of the band’s sentiments.
Stumpf admittedly wasn’t the biggest fan of bluegrass music, but it has grown on him and the annual festival has played a part in that.
“It’s exposed me to a lot of different styles of music,” said Stumpf, who also plays in the rock band Riot Act. “And I really look forward to that weekend—it’s turned me on to this genre that I didn’t really care for before and now really embrace.”
For Stumpf and other local musicians, it can be entertaining to see big name musicians out of their element and out on the slopes during Big Sky Big Grass.
“There was one time I got to ride up the tram with one of the guys from [String Cheese Incident],” Stumpf said. “And if you didn’t know who they were, you’d be like ‘get out of the way, gaper.’ The stage is their kingdom but the mountain is sort of my home turf.”
All kidding aside, Gallatin Grass Project takes music seriously and is honored to be part of the event and the only other local band playing the festival along with the Two Bit Franks.
“I look up to those guys—as individuals, musicians, and as a band,” Stumpf said. “They’re all-stars. I’ll say this about the Franks—that’s how we want to play as a band.”
Gallatin Grass Project will provide their own brand of eclectic originals and traditional tunes interspersed with re-invented covers that might not seem to lend themselves to bluegrass renditions—songs by Ween and Cracker, for example—but that GGP makes work.
“We’re not trying to play anyone else’s sound,” Macht said. “Even if we play someone else’s song, we do it our way.”
Macht is excited for the weekend of music at The Huntley and the opportunity to find musicians to jam with any time of the day or night.
“The whole festival is cool because it’s so intimate,” Macht said. “Most festivals are outside, so to be able to be that close and intimate with the performers is really special. And it gives you a festival fix right in the middle of winter when you need it most.”
Gallatin Grass Project performs a free show from 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at Big Sky Resort’s Montana Jack. For a full Big Sky Big Grass Festival schedule, visit bigskyresort.com.