2023 events are listed below 

(either page down or click on specific event for more detail)

Changes on jam sessions for 2023!
To date, the jam sessions have run on the second Sunday of the month, year-round, alternating old-time and bluegrass month about.  It’s time for a change, and for this year onwards, both old-time and bluegrass jam sessions will happen monthly! The time slot has been increased to now be 2:00-5:00pm, where the old-time jam will be the first half, i.e. 2:00-3:30pm and bluegrass jam the second half, i.e. 3:30-5:00pm.  You can come for one. or the other, or both! The Banjo Workshops (booking essential) are between 2pm and 4pm.

Second Sunday – Old Time and Bluegrass Music Jam Sessions 
Second Sunday – Banjo Workshop

27th May – Frank John and Erin Manu
19th May – The Bitter Brothers
6th May – The Mitchell Twins – postponed
21st April – Holloway Inmates
15th April – Fiddlesticks
1st April – Tango Dance – La Wellington Típica
17th March – Port Hillbillies
4th March – New Valley Stompers
18th February – Sassafras Bluegrass Band (USA)
17th February – a Blackboard Concert
28th January- Harvest Moon
14th January- Criú
13th January- Bidibids


Second Sunday each month – Jam Sessions and Banjo workshop

Held on the second Sunday afternoon of each month between 2pm and 3:30pm for the Old Time Music jam session and 3:30pm to 5pm for the Bluegrass Music jam session – at the Petone Community Centre.

And Banjo Workshops are available – needing advance booking for a  2pm to 4pm workshop – at the Petone Community Centre.

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Saturday 27th May – concert – Frank John and Erin Manu

Originally from Amsterdam, Frank John brings his technical brilliance to this New Plymouth-based duo, while his Taranaki-born wife, Erin Manu, provides the driving rhythm guitar and has a reputation for her unique style on the banjo – described by Albi (of Albi and The Wolves) as having ‘a kinda swagger’.

The couple hit the festival circuit in 2012 as founding members of The FEDZ, with Cameron Dusty Burnell. By 2014 the band expanded with the inclusion of Wellington Bluegrass Society President, Andrew Bicknell, resurfacing as The Federal String Band. Current projects include an all-female Eagles Tribute folk instrument band for Erin, aka The Eagals, and the pair are busy working on a studio recording of Frank’s originals. Frank continues to support local musicians in his role as Manager of the New Plymouth Rockshop. Erin teaches guitar, banjo and ukulele.

Whether it’s a sizzling acoustic instrumental or the soulful delivery of a ballad, they capture the essence of “guitar and song”, through the variations of the acoustic genre – folk, blues, country, bluegrass, swing, classical. All wrapped into a neat Kiwi-Dutch package. They perform some hidden gems, well-known standards, and their own compositions.

For this concert, Frank and Erin will be joined by Robert Greenfield on bass.

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Friday 19th May – society night – The Bitter Brothers

The Bitter Brothers are a fictional musical family. Sometimes comic, sometimes deadly serious, we play traditional and original, folk and country hits.

Playing and writing both traditional and original music found within the realm of what would often be called Americana, we design our shows such that we offer more of a variety performance, bringing a touch of theatre to the mix, whilst constantly changing the mood and sound, so that we don’t force the audience to have the same boring entrée over and over again and instead we offer a more entertaining variety of musical fare; sometimes guitar songs, sometimes banjo, sometimes accordion, fiddle, ukulele, harmonies and differing vocal arrangements. With our line-up somewhat fluidly changing as we from time to time discover new Bitter family members, we bring a variety of different musical backgrounds and thus push along the edges of the Americana genre, sometimes more honky-tonk, country and western, sometimes a touch of swing, but we generally tend to play and write music in an old time American style. Every show, every family reunion, is one that you can most certainly be assured will be an entertaining one.

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Saturday 6th May – concert – The Mitchell Twins – postponed until later date

“We are so gutted that due to unforeseen circumstances the Wellington show is being postponed till a later date.”

At just 18, The Mitchell Twins have a clear musical vision – a blend of folk and country music. Raised in a home full of Dolly Parton, Tom T Hall and Kacey Musgraves, Maegan and Nicola have spent years honing their blood harmonies. They’ve toured through Aotearoa and Australia, supporting and playing with artists including Nadia Reid, Barry Saunders, Delaney Davidson, The Topp Twins, Fanny Lumsden (Australia), and their big sister – Jenny Mitchell.

In 2021 they were crowned the Intermediate Duet Winners of the NZ Gold Guitar Awards and one of their proudest musical achievements is their leadership roles in their local Kapa Haka group. With more than a decade of stages and green rooms already under their belt, Maegan and Nicola have crafted an original body of work, a collection of songs co-written with and produced by Tami Neilson.

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Friday 21st April – society night – Holloway Inmates

The Holloway Inmates are a ragged assortment of questionable individuals whom have been incarcerated in Holloway Road for over a decade.

For identification purposes, the motley group are (left to right):
Andrew Campbell – guitar
Zane Oosten – lagerphone and harmonica
Verena Watson – violin
Simon Carryer – banjo
Don Franks – bass
Odessa Owens – guitar

They’re permitted outside of their Holloway Road confines about once every five years, with good behaviour. All are considered recalcitrant recidivists and should be approached with due caution.

They are pictured outside of what used to be the Post Office, then later a general store, back when Holloway Road had a village.

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Saturday 15th April – concert – Fiddlesticks

Fiddlesticks present twin fiddles, a melting pot of styles, originals, vocals, bass and guitar.

“On our honeymoon, Fiddlesticks was the name we came up with for our musical vision, a twin fiddle duo being, us Karen and Alistair (Jacko) Jackson. Since then what a journey! Fiddlesticks played professionally for ten years as a duo, inevitably developing into a family band as sons George and Mackenzie accompanied us around the country. Fiddlesticks and Double Trouble toured NZ and Australia for another ten years until the boys flew the coup. Whilst living in Alice Springs Australia, Fiddlesticks morphed into a four piece band. Now back in NZ, Fiddlesticks are a trio which includes wonderful Carol Rose.

We loved our sixteen years in Australia, cherished the many challenges and opportunities that presented with music, partnerships and influences. Some of the highlights of our time in Australia include: performing and touring r the Queensland Arts Council; being very involved in the Fiddle Club community around Australia; founding and directing the Sunshine Fiddle Camp; in 2018 running the Fiddlers Rally at the National Folk Festival and having been members of the Shetland Fiddle group Hjaltibonhoga in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo the two times it toured Australia.

Our last six years in Australia saw us settle in the Northern Territory and we were surrounded by music, culture, and opportunity. Karen worked as a strings teacher and founded the Desert Fiddle Club. The Fiddlesticks Band had a residency at a local recycle café, which seemed fitting. Jacko found a new passion in Klezmer music whilst Karen rekindled her passion of Traditional Scottish music.

Since arriving on the West Coast we have settled into the vibrant culture of Barrytown. We met up with fellow West Coaster Carol Rose, who became the third member of Fiddlesticks, and is a well known and valued Kiwi Folkie, who with her husband Steve, ran the Tui Music Festival for nineteen years and was a founder and member for twenty years of the claimed Celtic singing group Cairde from Nelson. Carol joins us on bass, guitar and vocals.

In addition we are excited to confirm Marg Collins from Australia will join us for our NZ gigs throughout April 2023. She will be joining us on piano and accordion, adding spice to the Klezmer and Scottish Flavours.

We have guested at the Wellington, Waimate and Hamsterfest Folk Festivals and are energised to keep enjoying the wonderful magic of music!”

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Saturday 1st April – Tango Dance – La Wellington Típica

Presenting “a night in Buenos Aires without the air fares”.

Bringing a lively tango dance troup to perform many of their great dance moves, including traditional gaucho dance. The band “La Wellington Típica” will be featured as well – it means the Typical tango band of Wellington. Featuring violin, bass, bandoneon, piano and guitar, and a singer from Buenos Aires, presenting an authentic and complete showcase of a milonga of Buenos Aires. Tango is all about the bandoneon so it is great that this instrument is included. There are only four 142 Argentinian bandoneons in NZ, and perhaps only three players, so this will be a special night indeed!

The non dancing audience will get a real show and flavour of a milonga in Buenos Aires, very authentic,  and they will still see and hear the band and singer, who is from Buenos Aires, and so is the guitarist and bandoneon player.

Here is a writeup about the milongas in Buenos Aires:
“Buenos Aires has many milongas (tango dance clubs), where the true spirit of tango comes alive. Ranging from informal, beginner friendly affairs to sophisticated upmarket venues where experts dominate the floor, there is a milonga in Buenos Aires for everyone.
One of Buenos Aires’ best known milongas, La Catedral is famous for its relaxed and informal vibe. Classes are held everyday at 6 pm which are especially popular with beginners. It’s the perfect place for tourists as the casual dress code means no fancy clothes are required, while most participants are of a low to intermediate skill level. La Catedral is busiest on Wednesday and Saturday, although there is something going on every night of the week.
The city’s number one late night milonga, La Virtua doesn’t really get going until about 3 am. It’s
unpretentious though lively, especially on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday when it draws the
biggest crowds. La Virtua is Buenos Aires’ premier tango after-party, the place people go to keep dancing when other milongas have closed. The best dancers don’t rock up until 4 am when they put on some spectacular live performances to show the crowd how it’s really done.”

7:00pm – beginners dance lesson
7:30pm – doors open for general admission
8:00pm – show starts with demonstration dances, then floor opens to one and all

Band and DJ alternate throughout the night

Continuous bar, eatery, water, tea and coffee throughout the evening

Come along to dance, or watch, or both!

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Friday 17th March – society night – Port Hillbillies

Emerging from the shadows of the Port Hills, one American Justin Rogers on mandolin, guitar and vocals, one Aussie Gary Elford on guitar, acoustic bass and vocals, met up with a six-toed Kiwi singer, banjo and guitar player Steve Stern to share their love of bluegrass, old-time and Americana music.

The Port Hillbillies formed out of the Christchurch Folk Music Club’s open mic concerts in 2016, where the duo of Steve Stern (banjo) and Kris Brown (guitar and vocals) were joined by Gary “always-looking-for-a-retirement-gig” Elford and recent arrival Justin Rogers. The group started life as a four piece with guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin, getting together each Tuesday night to trade tunes. As with some good happenings, they often morph. The dark shadow of change was cast upon the group when the lead singer/guitarist (Kris Brown) accepted a job opportunity in upstate New York. The three remaining Hillbillies decided to continue as a trio based around guitar, banjo and mandolin.

After playing together for over four years, they have formed into a well balanced trio, driven by Steve’s banjo playing and Justin’s sympathetic and innovative mandolin ornamentation. Gary’s contribution on guitar and bass pulls it all together, forming the tight unit that is the Port Hillbillies. They play a range of songs and tunes from toe tapping recognisable standards to obscure songs from neighbouring genres that are given the once over by the Port Hillbillies.

The band’s repertoire is based on the principle of shared vocals and variety in both instrumentation and style. Whilst each player often plays to their strengths, a song is occasionally mixed up by rotating instruments, or swapping in a bass or harmonica for variety and a more textured performance.

The Port Hillbillies have been a popular addition to various festivals over the last few years building up a wide band of followers from the deep south, where they have performed at the Niagara Falls Bluegrass, Blues and Roots Festival and the Riverton Harvest Festival. Closer to home in Canterbury they have performed at the Christchurch Folk Music Club, Balcairn Hall, Oxford Town Hall, Lyttelton Farmers Market as well as the very popular Canterbury Folk Music Festival held every Easter at Waipara.

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Saturday 4th March – concert – New Valley Stompers

The New Valley Stompers are one of the longest running ensembles in New Zealand with the original line-up being formed in the Hutt Valley circa 1969. They play traditional jazz, blues and dixie.

The repertoire includes a mix of both classic and unfamiliar gems made famous by artists such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Merline Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, WC Handy and many more.

Songs include classics like: Darktown Strutters Ball, Basin Street Blues, Atlanta Blues, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, St James Infirmary, Do Your Duty, Hesitation Blues [covered by Janis Joplin], It Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do, and many more.

The line-up for the New Valley Stompers are:

Bill West – trumpet, cornet, vocals
Dave Thompson – clarinet
Chris Caudwell– trombone
Graham Kelly – piano
Daryl Prowse – banjo
Frances Prowse – vocals, percussion
Marian Price-Carter– saxophone, vocals
Barry Carter – washboard, guitar
Graham Parker – bass

But wait, there’s more!
Not satisfied with being the biggest lineup ever featured at the WBS,
Neil Billington will be joining the band for this night!

“Mike Green, who retired from playing trumpet about two years ago, is adamant that the Valley Stompers formed on April first 1970. There are other opinions about this. I expect the same musos had been playing together in various other combinations before that date. The dates for our 30 and 40 year anniversary gigs at the Wellington Jazz Club were based on 1st April1970.

That makes the Valley Stompers brand name 52 years old by my count. I joined the band in 1999 and am the longest survivor since Roger Metcalfe (sousaphone) pulled out a few months ago.

After Mike left, We had gone through such a major reshuffle, that we decided to add the word “New” to our name.

People of my generation generally remember the band from student days in the seventies performing at the Western Park tavern in Thorndon Wellington, or from the nationally televised Telethon charity fund raisers around the same time.


Chris Caudwell
16th July 2022

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Saturday 18th February – Concert – Sassafras Bluegrass Band (USA)

Sassafras are based in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Sassafras are a bluegrass band who pay homage to the Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs era, but also enjoy pushing the edge of progressive Newgrass music as well. Their repertoire includes a range of musical styles including ole-time, country, folk, western swing and originals. Members are Wes Tuttle (mandolin and fiddle), Randy Gambill (guitar), Gray Tuttle (banjo) and Zeb Gambill (bass and guitar).

Sassafras have performed on stage and recorded in studios with a wide range of prominent bluegrass and Americana artist including: Doc Watson, Jack Lawrence, Jim Lauderdale, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Mark O’Connor, Kristi Cox, Mason Via (Old Crow Medicine Show), Darin and Brooke Aldridge, Zach Smith (Town Mountain), Mike Rogers (Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder), Aaron Burdett (Steep Canyon Rangers), Josh Graves, Kenny Baker, Benny Martin, Mac Wiseman, Tut Taylor, Russell Moore, Ronnie Bowman, Doug Jernigan, Jim Buchanan, Kruger Brothers, Wyatt Rice, Justin Moses, Terry Baucom, Pete Wernick, Steve Dilling, Wes Golding (Boone Creek), Kim Gardner (Larry Cordle), Wayne Henderson, Steve Lewis, Roy Huskey Jr. and others.

Sassafras band members have performed at a long list of festivals and venues nationally and internationally including: Merlefest (Wilkesboro, North Carolina), Walnut Valley Festival (Winfield, Kansas), Song of the Mountains (PBS Television Series), Albino Skunk Festival (Greer, South Carolina), Mean Fiddler (London, England), Bass Mountain Festival (Burlington, North Carolina), Denton Bluegrass Festival (Denton, North Carolina), Okeechobee Fest (Florida), Vanceburg Festival (Kentucky), High Mountain Hayfever Bluegrass Festival (Westcliffe, Colorado), IBMA (Raleigh, North Carolina), AGEC Bluegrass (Paris, France), Didmarton Bluegrass Festival (England), Ironbridge Bluegrass Festival (England), Scottish Bluegrass Association (Edinburgh, Scotland), Hamishes’ Hoose (Paisley, Scotland), Nelson McGee Memorial Bluegrass Festival (San Angelo, Texas), Midsummer Bluegrass Festival (Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin), Güglinger Bluegrass Festival (Germany), Wyoming State BBQ and Bluegrass Festival (Worland, Wyoming), Susanville Bluegrass Festival (Susanville, California), Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival (Wickenburg, Arizona) and the Station Inn (Nashville, Tennessee).

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Friday 17th February – society night – a Blackboard Concert


A blackboard concert is an evening of floor spots, i.e. where anyone can come along and perform two numbers – bluegrass, old time, country or Americana.

Each act must come up with a special name for the night – one they haven’t used before, and not your own personal name. If anyone is unable to come up with a name, the audience will be consulted for suggestions.

1. Two numbers per act
2. bluegrass, old time, country or Americana
3. every act must come up with a name, one they haven’t used before

Doors open at 7:30 pm

now free entry for anyone performing a floor spot! After the floor spots, a jam session follows.

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Saturday 28th January – concert – Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon are a six-piece Wellington based band that comprises multi talented and well known musicians who have been playing together for the past four years, however have individually been performing for well over 50 years.

Their signature style is synonymous with a diverse collection of American music broadly within the country genre, featuring covers from such great songwriters including Vince Gill, Buddy Miller, Neil Young, The Beatles, Marshall Tucker and Mandolin Orange.

Their music is timeless and features a dazzling array of country genre instruments including pedal steel, mandolin, guitars, banjo, accordion and resonator guitar. Harvest Moon are on the rise!

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Saturday 14th January – concert – Criú

The five piece Irish band Criú combine the sounds of wooden flute, fiddle, guitar, accordion, tin whistles and Uilleann pipes (the Irish pipes) These musicians weave together melodies that have survived in the Irish music tradition, sometimes for hundreds of years. The music is full of life, mystery, playfulness and sometimes sorrow. It will have your toes tapping or your feet stamping at one moment, then the next transport you to some faraway place of deep joy or sadness.

Headed up by Irish flute player Rennie Pearson, Criú are made up of some of Wellington’s very best traditional musicians, with James McNamara (fiddle), Duncan Davidson (accordion), Kris Neilson (Uilleann pipes) and Tui award winning guitarist Bob McNeil. The band was formed with the purpose of bringing the music of Ireland to the stage, with tight arrangements, interesting sounds, driving rhythms and stories and history behind the tunes.

The first seeds of the band were sown in 2011 when Rennie, Bob and Duncan were all teaching at the Celtic music summer School ‘CelticANZ’ in the North Island. They were thrown together along with a few other musicians, including Emily Roughton and Kathleen Wojick and asked to put on a tutors concert. They had all played together quite a lot in jam sessions but this would be the first time they had performed together on stage and how it would go was rather up in the air. Bob McNeil reports having low expectations, however the music just clicked and they locked in from the word go. Partway through the night, lightning struck the power lines plunging everyone into darkness. The sound gear was also rendered useless. Someone brought out a large number of tea light candles and everyone shuffled closer and the concert continued acoustically. It turned into one of the most magical nights which remains in the memory of all who were there.

After the show they talked about forming a band, but it wasn’t until seven years later that they finally reconvened. This time with local Wellington fiddle player James McNamara. The four of them had played together a lot over the years at the late Kitty O’Sheas bar on Courtenay Place. Many a night had been spent over frothing pints of beer playing jigs, reels, polkas, hornpipes, slides and all manner of traditional Irish music. Their first outing as a band was at the Hanging Ditch Pub on Leeds St in Wellington. At that point they were more of a glorified session than a band, with lots of energy and a lineup of very skilled musicians, but with very little rehearsal as a group, they lacked the tight arrangements and variety that they showcase in their concerts now. The original idea was that Criú (meaning Crew) would be an interchangeable lineup that would be able to do various gigs with any good musicians who were available. There were many different iterations of the band as members came and went. With just a few shows each year they weren’t refining the tunes as the members were constantly changing.

In 2021 following another tutors concert, this time at Ceol Aneas, New Zealand’s main Irish music festival, in which both Rennie and Bob were teaching, Rennie was inspired to rekindle the fire behind Criú and take over the band again. Though no longer living in Wellington, he reassembled the original Crew of Bob, James, Duncan and himself and set about organising to play at Auckland folk festival along with a few other shows in the Wellington area. With Duncan Davidson flaking on Auckland folk fest due to family responsibilities, Rennie arranged to add Uilleann piper Kris Nielson to complete the lineup. Once they heard Kris playing in the band it was decided he needed to be a permanent member and Criú became a five piece. The lineup was locked in, no more changing around. The plan was to get the band tight and play awesome shows around the country, bringing an amazing experience to audiences that was rare to find outside of Ireland. All the Wellington shows sold out and the following year they toured the South Island with backing from the Irish Embassy. Later that year they all taught their respective instruments at Ceol Aneas and headlined the final concert as Criú.

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Friday 13th January – society night – the Bidibids

The Bidibids are Sarah Urwin (Paperbats) on banjo, Simon Carryer on cello-banjo, and Brendan Schenk on mandolin and guitar (Simon and Brendan previously of Barry and the Crumpets). They are another product of the fertile folk melting-pot that is the Wellington Folk Festival, where the Bidibids were formed through late-night jam sessions in a shared cabin. They came from separate groups, but left with the seeds of a new band stuck to their shoes.

It took a couple of years for those seeds to take root, but now they’re flourishing and the band are producing music that’s as catchy as their namesake. The Bidibids explore what it means to play folk music in New Zealand, knocking out some traditional and Americana standards, whilst also delving into the rich material that is grown closer to home. You will hear some familiar New Zealand hits, some contemporary Kiwi covers and a few originals as well. Always looking for that blend of the familiar and the new, that feeling of recognition and belonging but also reinterpretation and revelation that makes folk music so exciting. Sweet harmonies and some slick playing round out their set to ensure everyone will find something to enjoy.

Come and check out what the Bidibids have sprouted, and they’ll make sure you carry a little bit home with you.

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