Note: Garden City’s annual Tumbleweed Festival will light up Lee Richardson Zoo’s West Green this weekend with music, art, children’s shows and Flat Mountain Brewhouse beer gardens. This week, we’re featuring different performers leading up to the festival. Once the music starts Friday, let us know who your favorites are at or @GCTelegram on Twitter.

Musician Martin Gilmore remembers listening on the sidelines when his dad would play bluegrass tunes with his band at weekend gigs or with his friends at their home. He listened so much that when he finally picked up a guitar at 14, he realized he already knew plenty of the classic songs of the genre.

It was his first taste of a music genre and community that would follow him throughout his life: the warm, welcoming community of bluegrass.

“The bluegrass community is a really nurturing music community. It’s one of the real few genres of music where you can meet all the people who are the best, who are at the top of the industry in that genre,” Gilmore said. “I ended up as a kid getting to meet all of the people who are my heroes when I was younger. It’s so cool to get to play music with those people and have them be so supportive.”

Now an instructor of bluegrass at the University of Northern Colorado, Gilmore is passing along that knowledge and generosity to his students, a handful of whom have been Garden Citians showing up for his songwriting workshops at Garden City Community College. Gilmore will host another musicians workshop at the Tumbleweed Festival this weekend as well as perform at the festival for the second time.

In bluegrass, new players learn by playing, Gilmore said, so he’s glad to share what other players have shared with him. He remembers a hero of his, prominent bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien, taking the time to talk to him about songwriting. It was five or 10 minutes, Gilmore said, but it mattered.

When he played with members of the bluegrass band Hot Rize, he “learned everything.” They taught him the feel and groove of the music and how to engage an audience, he said.

“Anybody can play a song. It’s those little, tiny nuances that make a song better,” Gilmore said. “The way that it feels and the way that it grooves and if you play it at this speed it goes different than if you play it at this speed. It’s how to make those decisions — how to pay attention to the arrangement of the song so it doesn’t get stagnant and boring.”

Gilmore’s own music, both alone and joining mandolin player Nick Amodeo and bass player Ian Haegele as the Martin Gilmore Trio, seeps beyond bluegrass into swing, jazz, blues and honky tonk country, covering the “whole spectrum” of Americana music, he said. A fan of America’s history of music, a lot of the songs dive into stories of American history, he said.

Bluegrass players sit down to play with each other everywhere, he said — at festivals and conferences or just among friends. At some bluegrass events, some musicians are more excited to play together than watch the acts. So when Gilmore gets together with Amodeo and Haegele to swap ideas and spend time with one another and just play, it’s fun, he said. It’s what the genre is about.

Martin Gilmore will perform a solo act at 1:15 p.m. Saturday on the East Stage and with the Martin Gilmore Trio at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the South Stage. The trio will also play backup to KC Groves at 11 a.m. Saturday on the South Stage and Gilmore will hold a musicians workshop.

Festival wristbands are $15 for Friday, $20 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday or $35 for the whole weekend and can be purchased at or in person at Dillons East, Dillons West, Garden City Arts, Patrick Dugan's, The Corner on Main, The Safari Shop, Family Bookhouse, Golden Plains Credit Union and High Plains Public Radio in Garden City, Dillons in Dodge City, Dillons and Golden Plains Credit Union in Liberal, and Golden Plains Credit Union in Ulysses. The entrance to the festival will be to the south of the zoo.


Contact Amber Friend at