Bluegrass Holiday Show Coming to Lakeville
'Monroe Crossing' returns Dec. 17 to Lakeville Area Arts Center for its annual show.
Lakeville loves bluegrass music.
The band has a holiday show on Dec. 17, and the group's mandolin player, Matt Thompson, said Lakeville is a place the band always puts on their tour schedule.
"The audience (here) is incredible," Thompson said. "It's just a great place. We even recorded one of our CDs there. We took all our equipment down there and recorded in front of all the empty seats because Lakeville and the facility is such a good place for us. We have a good chemistry with the building and the audience there."
The five-person band features all five traditional bluegrass instruments—the mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and bass.
Art Blackburn is the group's guitarist and one of the lead singers; Benji Flaming plays the banjo; Lisa Fuglie plays the fiddle, mandolin, and guitar, and she's also a lead singer as well as a songwriter; Thompson plays the mandolin and he's also a harmony singer; and Mark Anderson plays bass and also does harmony singing, Thompson said.
"When we perform, we do it with a single microphone and move in and out as we sing and play," Thompson said. "It's great for the audience."
Lakeville Area Arts Center Coordinator Tom Barnard said the center, which seats 300, is the right size and has the right feel for the band.
"Monroe Crossing likes the space and they approach us every season about getting booked back into the program," Barnard said. "(We put them on) our playbill season after season because they always fill the house."
Barnard said there seems to be a large following for bluegrass music here in Lakeville and that the center has had success with other bluegrass groups as well. But variety is key to the center's success, he said.
"We strive to be sure that our playbill includes a variety of music genre every season," he said. "Having classical, pop, bluegrass, folk, always draws new audiences. When they see the charm of the venue and the listings in the playbill, they often return for a different concert."
Thompson said this season is Monroe Crossing's tenth year together. The group also has produced eight CDs. Their name pays homage to musician Bill Monroe and his pioneering "Bluegrass Boys" who, Thompson said, launched bluegrass as a genre in the 1940s.
"When I started playing bluegrass on the local scene years ago, people didn't know what it was," he said. "Now, it's getting more mainstream."
Thompson said he and his band mates are fortunate.
"People ask, 'When you going to hit the big-time?' We're a bluegrass band in Minnesota playing full-time. This is the big-time," he said. We're thrilled and we're very lucky. We have to pinch ourselves once in a while."
Thompson said the band tours all over the country, from coast to coast, and even travels to Canada. He said the group will also be embarking on a European tour next year.
For Thompson, he said the group's induction into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2007 gives him the most pride.
"It was an honor for us, and for bluegrass to be recognized like that," he said.
Another inductee that night: Prince.
"He didn't make it to the ceremony, but we played a bluegrass version of Purple Rain," Thompson said. "I never thought I'd do that."
IF YOU GO
What: Monroe Crossing's
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: Lakeville Area Arts Center, 20965 Holyoke Ave.
Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door.