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Bluegrass band Ironweed returns from tour of China

Saturday, August 25, 2007 | 4:04 p.m. CDT; updated 6:02 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Photos courtesy of Ironweed
Alan Loshbaugh, who plays bass for the Columbia bluegrass band Ironweed, and Jake Clayton, the band’s fiddler, play to a crowd in Laiyang, China.

COLUMBIA —Following a 24-hour flight to Missouri on Tuesday after two weeks in China, members of the Columbia bluegrass band Ironweed have begun to settle back into their routines. Although they are excited to be home, the four musicians already miss the country they just left.

During the trip, the band traveled to 10 cities in the Shandong province and performed in five of them. It became a task of balancing their desires to soak in the culture while still making sure they were able to perform well for their new Chinese fans.

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Perhaps the band’s greatest pleasure was seeing the looks on their audiences’ faces.

Jane Accurso, lead vocalist and guitarist for Ironweed, said she most enjoyed seeing “the looks of discovery” while the band played its sets. Most of the locals the band encountered had never even seen an American before, let alone heard music as unique as bluegrass, banjo player Dierik Leonhard said. As much as Ironweed was interested in learning everything about China, the locals were just as interested in things such as Leonhard’s banjo, which many people saw for the first time. But that was what the entire trip was all about: sharing new experiences with a different culture. Leonhard said the focus of the trip was cultural exchange, and the musicians tried to give audiences a good impression of listening to real American bluegrass performed live.

The band members acknowledged it took some time for the Chinese people to get into bluegrass, which has a significantly different sound than Chinese music. But once they had been given the opportunity to process it, the concerts took on the same atmosphere as if the band were playing back in Columbia. People could not help but clap, dance and have a good time to Ironweed’s lively tunes, Leonhard said.

The band played for anyone and everyone, with locations ranging from big cities to small towns. They even had the opportunity to play for usually private Taoist monks.

By the end of the trip, the members of Ironweed said they could relate easily to the Chinese citizens. “Music is the international language,” said Jake Clayton, the band’s fiddler. By sharing their music, the band members connected with a new type of audience and made unforgettable memories, they said.

Now that Ironweed is back in the United States, the musicians plan on hitting the global road again soon, possibly next time to Europe.


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