The inaugural Steamboat Stringband Jamboree, happening this weekend, is kind of an accidental music festival.
Olympia string bands The Pine Hearts and The Oly Mountain Boys decided to ask a few friends to join them for an all-ages show, and the idea took off.
“I reached out to all the bands that I thought might be interested, and every band I contacted was like, ‘Yeah, it sounds like fun,’ ” said festival co-organizer Tye Menser of The Oly Mountain Boys. “It just kind of snowballed.
“Pretty soon, we had 12 bands, and then we thought, ‘This is going to be really fun if we make it kind of festivally.’ ”
“It came together within 24 hours,” said co-organizer Joey Capoccia of The Pine Hearts. “It was almost like serendipity.”
The final lineup includes 17 bands from as far away as Portland and Bellingham. Some — including Crow and the Canyon, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, and Max’s Midnight Kitchen — have never before played in Olympia.
Others will be familiar to fans of old-time music, particularly The Blackberry Bushes, originally based in Olympia, but now in Seattle.
Although the styles of music at the festival will range from bluegrass to folk to pop, rock and even a bit of dance music, all of the bands use traditional instruments such as fiddles, mandolins, banjos and acoustic guitars.
But it’s friendship as much as musical style that unites the participants.
“It’s acoustic old-time stringband music, but it really is based around the community,” Capoccia said. “This is really a community of acoustic musicians getting together and putting together a festival.”
Capoccia and Menser were inspired to do this show after they put together a show in October at the McLane Grange.
“It was a dark, rainy Thursday night at the end of October, and it turned out pretty good,” Capoccia said. “We thought if it turned out that good, let’s do something in May when it’s nice out with more bands.”
As the thought of a second show turned into a festival, they sought help from experienced event organizer James Varner of Rainshadow Running/Rainshadow Arts. They made plans for food, crafts and beer and other beverages.
Organizers said there is no on-site camping this year.
And everyone is welcome to join in the music making.
“The acoustic music community really encourages other people to bring instruments,” Capoccia said. “Late at night, there’ll be a bonfire or something like that, and people will be playing music.”