06 October 2007

Bluegrass (festival and species)

Went to the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival" today. The weather was perfect and the bands were a joy to see. Thanks to E. and J. for letting me share their tarp at the Rooster Stage.

However, as it is my duty to cover the wild grass beat, I offer a few words about the bluegrass species (shown above) and how it came to refer to a musical genre.

The term "bluegrass" is named after Bill Monroe and his "Blue Grass Boys," who pioneered the acoustic musical style. Monroe's band was from Kentucky, famous for its bluegrass pastures. Monroe once said of bluegrass, “There’s not a prettier name in the world.”

The common grass name bluegrass (Poa) refers to a large family of two hundred grasses and it is also known as meadowgrass and speargrass. It is native to the United States as well as Europe and Asia. There are 36 varieties seen in California and it is especially important as livestock forage.

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is used throughout the United States and is especially popular for ballfields, lawns, and golf courses. Although I have not identified the species in San Francisco, I have read that one can find it in the Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park.

According to the New York Times, bluegrass is never blue when it is used as a lawn or in a golf course. In these settings, all one sees are the very green leaves of bluegrass. It is the blue-tinged seedhead that gives bluegrass its name. Thus, only when the lawnmowers are put away and bluegrass is allowed to grow to its mature height of two to three feet, can one truly see the blue fields of bluegrass that gave Kentucky its name.

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