Wood and Wire

Photo by Brandon Aguilar

Bluegrass band Wood & Wire headlines the Whiskey Rebellion Festival Saturday.

The gulf between Frank Zappa and Bill Monroe, between “Baby Snakes” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” is considerable.

Tony Kamel, the leader of the bluegrass band Wood & Wire, bridged that gap.

A Zappa enthusiast before entering the University of Texas at Austin, he deeply immersed himself in bluegrass as an undergraduate. Some of the fascination was sparked by an interest in jam bands like Phish and String Cheese Incident, who have been known to venture into bluegrass.

It was also instilled by parents who took him to bluegrass festivals when he was young.

“I eventually became an avid fan,” said Kamel, on the phone last month while traveling to a date in Memphis, Tenn.

By 2011, Kamel had transitioned from aficionado to practitioner with the formation of Wood & Wire, a four-piece group that also includes bassist Dom Fisher, banjo player Trevor Smith and mandolinist Billy Bright.

Wood & Wire are the headlining performers at this year’s Whiskey Rebellion Festival in Washington, appearing Saturday at 8:30 p.m., at the Main Street Pavilion.

No one in Wood & Wire is getting extravagantly rich by playing in the band, and their trips this summer to shows in Des Moines, Iowa, Denver, and Huntsville, Ark., will be undertaken in a van, rather than a private plane.

Kamel explained, “Basically, we’re all getting by. We’re determined.”

Wood & Wire’s most recent album, “North of Despair” is its third studio outing, and Kamel believes, the best work yet by he and his bandmates.

“The first record was the first record,” he said. The second was made at a time of shifting personnel. “North of Despair,” in Kamel’s estimation, finds the band hitting on all cylinders.

“’North of Despair’ is our best record because it’s the first record we’ve made after extensive touring and writing together,” Kamel said. “It represents what we sound like that this moment in time, after having collaborated heavily over the last few years. I also just really love the tunes.”

Although Wood & Wire is building a national profile, they’ve managed to build a loyal following in Austin, which is no small feat given that city’s thriving music scene.

“Austin is not a bluegrass town, so I’m quite proud of that,” Kamel said.

For information on the Whiskey Rebellion Festival and other musicians that will be playing at the event, go to whiskeyrebellionfestival.com.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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