Grasshoppah’s original material consists of diverse influences from folk, rock, funk, blues, island, and bluegrass, sometimes staying in a certain style for a song, sometimes changing styles within the composition. This mixture of catchy lyrics and intense instrumental jams lends to remembrance. Grasshoppah’s main musical influences would be Bluegrass with an injection of pure Funk mingled with classic traditionalism. Throw in a bit of Reggae, Folk, and Blues and you’ve got it.
More About Grasshoppah
“Oh young Grasshoppah you must concentrate and practice for the discipline to achieve string picking enlightenment.” Although they do not practice the ancient art of Kung-Fu (yet), Grasshoppah does use some of the same techniques. Their success stems from their high level of musicianship and vocal ability to the undeniable, one-of-a-kind physical structure of the group. From just hearing their unique eclectic sound, it is hard to envision a trio. Acoustic guitarist and lead vocalist Glenn House has perfected the ability to play drums with his feet using a series of pedals and contraptions, while simultaneously playing guitar and adding improvised harmonica solos, which requires somewhat of a meditative level of concentration. Brian Oberlin enlightens the higher octave of their sound with his ecstatic mandolin solos and rhythmic chug, in addition to lead/tenor vocals. Never to settle for a mediocre show Brian uses highly progressive effects on the mandolin creating new atmospheres. Shane Bullis provides the lower frequencies by playing electric and stand up bass adding insightful solos and a solid lead/baritone vocal creating incredible three part harmonies. Shane also throws in an occasional freestyle rhyme, putting the hip-hop in Grasshoppah. Their large repertoire of folk-rock, traditional jazz, swing, and foot stompin’ bluegrass. They also have what they call “novelty tunes,” which are innovative bluegrass versions of existing rock and roll. All of these characteristics ensure an impressive performance to the young student as well as their master.
Starting in 2001, Grasshoppah has steadily increased their schedule of live shows, including all of Michigan and the mid-west, Colorado, even frequently touring Alaska almost every six months.
In 2002 Grasshoppah put out their first studio album titled Oh So Young. Later that year, to no one’s surprise, they walked away with the coveted 2002 Folk Album of the Year and well as the 2002 Album of the Year for the annual Jammie Awards sponsored by radio station 88.1 FM WYCE in Grand Rapids, MI. Their consistent performances have also earned them a growing reputation of a great band to see.
Grasshoppah’s original material consists of diverse influences from folk, rock, funk, blues, island, and bluegrass, sometimes staying in a certain style for a song, sometimes changing styles within the composition. This mixture of catchy lyrics and intense instrumental jams lends to remembrance. Grasshoppah’s main musical influences would be Bluegrass with an injection of pure Funk mingled with classic traditionalism. Throw in a bit of Reggae, Folk, and Blues and you’ve got it. The set lists never fail to diversify even if some of their songs have roots so deep the original artist isn’t known. Musicians that especially lie heavily on the brains of Grasshoppah might include Jethro Burns, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Wonder, John Hartford, David Grisman and even David Lee Roth!
While Grasshoppah has been the headliner many times they also have been honored to share the stage with some great musicians. In July of 2004 they got the opportunity to back up one of the bluegrass worlds most famous fiddle players, Vassar Clements, in an improv grass jam. This took place to an attentive crowd at Bliss Fest in northern Michigan. Some other honors include, Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Mammals, Merl Saunders, The Duhks, John Cowan Band, The Brave Combo, Ekoostik Hookah, Tim O’Brien, and Norman Blake. Ever changing and always entertaining, witnessing what they do is a great way to truly know what is Grasshoppah.
MEET THE BAND
Glenn House (guitar, drums, vox, harmonica, percussion):
Musician/Songwriter Glenn House has a sturdy foundation amongst the roots of American music. For two decades he has been writing and performing original music built from such styles as folk, blues, bluegrass, rock n’ roll and old school country. Merging these various genres he has constructed his own modern sound while still giving a respectful nod to his traditional influences. His 2012 solo debut, Doublewide Vision, begins another chapter of eclectic song writting steeped with lyrical metaphor and innovative twists. This recording captures this new sound drivin by his finger picking ragtime guitar style, but also reflects on both of his previous projects, Grasshoppah (progessive bluegrass) and Karmic (folky alt.Country)
A self-taught left- handed guitarist, his approach involves playing a right-handed guitar (not restrung) left-handed (upside down). This technique has evolved from primarily a rhythm player to an improvising soloist and avid flat-picker. The more recent addition of a thumb and finger picks was inspired from the legendary Elizabeth Cotten and her signature alternating bass style also known as “cotten picking”. This position requires the fingers to play the bass lines and the thumb to play the melody.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI Glenn started playing drums at a very early age and by the time he turned 16 he was playing the local blues club in (primarily) a Grateful Dead cover band, During this time he was also learning to play guitar and formulating his own song writing. In 1992 (his senior year of high school) he started the band Karmic releasing there first album which was an all acoustic folk rock sound. Over the course of 8 years, a couple more albums, and many incarnations of every other member besides himself, the band transformed into an full on electric jam band. Eventually becoming part of the Homegrown Network, they toured the midwest and the east coast extensively.
In 2001 Glenn began performing solo as what some have referred to as a simultaneous instrumentalist, playing bass drum and highhat with his feet while playing guitar and singing or adding harmonica solos. This was inspired by the one man band stylings of Jesse Fuller, a famous street performer from the bay area. With the addition of a bass player and a mandolin player this acoustic trio came to be known as Grasshoppah and they played everything from old traditional bluegrass songs to Charlie Parker along with a long list of original tunes. In 2002 they won best album and best folk album of the year from WYCE’s-Jammy awards. In there true festival form they became a quartet with the addition of a flute/sax player and had the honor of performing with the legendary fiddle player Vassar Clemens at Blissfest in the summer of 2004. He has also shared the stage with Richie Havens, Jonathon Richman, Merle Saunders, Leftover Salmon and The Samples to name a few.
Above and beyond these unique multi-instrumental, upside-down and backward techniques Glenns performances have a heartfelt delivery and genuine character.
Brian Oberlin (madolin, vox):
BIOGRAPHY (IN SHORT)
Brian Oberlin is an internationally acclaimed mandolin player and educator. During his 12-year professional career, Brian has been playing swing, bluegrass, and Italian classical as a solo mandolinist and vocalist. Along with the myriad of award-winning bands and ensembles he has collaborated with throughout the United States and Europe, Brian is also the founder and director of the River of the West Mandolin Camp and the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra. When he is not performing, Brian teaches music to children and adults at art centers, cultural events, festivals, camps, music schools and academies. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brian now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Since 2006, Brian has been taking the stage as a solo act to satisfy his passion for the challenge that only a solo concert can offer. On stage, Brian delves into the music that has inspired him over the last 15 years of performing. While crooning an old Irvin Berlin or George Gershwin song and swinging out the melody and solos on his acoustic mandolin, he will switch gears and blast out a plethora of fast-paced lyrics to a western swing tune or play the electric (slide or 5-string) mandolin with a Stevie Wonder or Allman Brothers tune and then transition into a piano rag. Since 2011, Brian has incorporated Italian solo mandolin pieces, including virtuosic music from Calace, Marucelli, and duo style techniques, in his repertoire and has plans to record a classical solo album in 2013. To round out Brian’s new-found love of classical music, he is often a featured soloist with string orchestras and mandolin orchestras playing Baroque and Romantic era mandolin solos. Finally, Brian adds his originals that swing, stomp, waltz, and ease into his personal style. In 2011, Brian rounded out his solo career by releasing a double album: Solo Swing andSolo Swing Christmas. Both albums feature Brian singing and playing live in studio. Don Stiernberg wrote in the liner notes of the album Solo Swing….. “I was going to thank Brian for making a record that shows what can be done with just a mandolin, for being a champion of the instrument’s capabilities. I realize now that what we’re tapping our feet to here is a document of HIS capabilities. It’s a swinging good time, all done by one musician with a big sound and a great voice”.
Brian has a passion for teaching and has been sharing his knowledge with hundreds of students since the year 2000. Along with instructing students on a one-to-one basis, he has contrived dozens of unique mandolin workshops, time-tested at many national festivals and camps (Classical Mandolin Society’s Annual Convention, International Mandolin Academy in Ferrara, Italy, and the River of the West Mandolin Camp, to name a few) and designed for teaching any student, despite age or skill level, a means of navigating the mandolin. Brian brings a special and unique perspective to all of his students because he is, remarkably, a self-taught musician, spending hours playing, listening, and pouring over hundreds of books and scores of sheet music. In 2009, Brian started the River of the West Mandolin Camp which is held in the Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland, Oregon. The annual Camp, held each June and lasting four days, has hosted world renowned teachers and players such as, Don Stiernberg, Carlo Aonzo, Radim Zenkl, Rich Delgrosso, Marijke Wiesenekker, and Peter Ostroushko. In 2011, Brian released his mandolin instructional website (www.mandoberlin.com) which contains over 150 free, downloadable documents of song charts, chord progressions, techniques, and tutorials. Currently (2013), Brian is working on an instructional DVD series for folk and swing mandolin.
Growing up in Rockford, Michigan (just North of Grand Rapids), Brian Oberlin started playing music in grade school. His first instrument was the alto saxophone, which ignited his quest for more . . . drums, guitar, tenor banjo, fiddle, piano, concertina, and, of course, mandolin – his central instrument. One day, while listening to Diamond Rio, he heard an instrument that reminded him of trickling water and, upon reading the liner notes, wondered if the word “mandolin” was a misprint, having never heard of one. At the age of nineteen, he bought his first mandolin and immediately absolved himself by attending every bluegrass festival that he could and procured all the recordings and books financially available to him. Hungry to be part of a band, he started Slack String, a five-piece bluegrass band. This band later transformed into Northern Accent which would eventually travel all over the Midwest playing bluegrass festivals and exclusive concerts with the likes of Rhonda Vincent and Larry Sparks.
In 2001, Brian teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Glenn House, and they started the band, Grasshoppah, with Brian on electric mandolin, saxophone, tenor banjo, and vocals; Glenn on guitar, vocals, harmonica, kick drum, and high hat (all of which he plays simultaneously); Shane Bullis on bass and vocals; and, Dan Giacobassi on flute and tenor saxophone. Together, these musicians created a unique blend of styles of music. The band has played more than seven hundred concerts covering the United States from Alaska to Pennsylvania. Some of their accolades include 2002 Jammie Award for “Local Artist of the Year” in Grand Rapids, Michigan; several weeks in the top-ten position of listener-sponsored radio stations across the country; a band with Vassar Clements; and, two albums, one of which was award-winning. Brian was also the leading member of Portland’s bluegrass and swing trio, Ida Viper, and a member of the band, Caravan Gogh, Portland’s original mysterioso band which was featured in “Sing Out” magazine.
One of Brian’s current projects is playing with upright bassist, Josh Feinberg. The two collaborated in 2010 and decided to write music and arrange classical music for bass and mandolin. Since then, their duo, BassMandolin, has played all over the Pacific Northwest, filling small concert halls and house concerts. In 2011, they traveled to Europe to play as soloists with ONI, the Dutch mandolin orchestra, and played concerts in Germany as well. Their repertoire consists of Bach Inventions, Calace, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Miles Davis, Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, swing, and several dozen originals.
Brian is a member of the world-renowned Ger Mandolin Orchestra. Resurrected by Californian, Avner Yonai, and headed by mandolin luminary, Mike Marshall, Ger has played concerts in the United States and at the Singer Festival in Warsaw, Poland.
Brian’s other musical ventures include tours with the Michigan-based trio, The Journeymen, with Brian’s longtime friend and guitarist, Luke Gitchel, and a California-based country trio with Brian, Pat Campbell, and songwriting king, Joe New.
OREGON MANDOLIN ORCHESTRA
In January of 2010, with his wife, Elizabeth, Brian started the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, based in Hillsboro, Oregon. Since then, the Orchestra has remained 25 members strong. The Orchestra plays eight concerts a year in the Portland area. The repertoire consists of Baroque and Romantic era music, contemporary music from classical composers and arrangers, Italian music, American folk music, and music from around the world.
Brian placed in the finals at the 2003 National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas, and, in 2009, his song, “Carbondale,” won the songwriting contest at the Festival. Brian’s songwriting has earned him an honorable mention at the Woody Guthrie Song Contest, and, in 2002, his band, Grasshoppah, won the Artist of the Year, “Jammie,” in Grand Rapids, Michigan.