Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-9-2004


In this study, I examine the social context surrounding the revival of bluegrass music in the New American West. Drawing on six years of participant observation of bluegrass musical performances and festival settings and interviews with over a hundred bluegrass festival participants, I explain the underlying draw o f these festivals to residents of and travelers to the American West. I contend that bluegrass festivalgoers identify with the traditional imagery and symbolism of bluegrass music as a way to cope with and respond to social and cultural modernization. I argue that participants in bluegrass music and festival culture in the New West use the festival experience as a way to perform an alternative sense of place, identity, and community not readily available in their hometowns and communities. They fuse the symbolism of Old Appalachia in traditional bluegrass music with the imagery of the Old West to mediate the oppositional tensions that they experience between tradition and postmodemity. Participants use the festival site as a space in which they can reclaim and reconnect with a slower, simpler, and perceivably more authentic style of living that they find increasingly difficult to create in their home environments.