Upright Bassist Brings Bluegrass to Eugene Communities

Local Eugene band member finds alternative settings from the normal concert hall to share the complex melodies of Bluegrass

By: Whitney Highfield

Saturday afternoons in mid-February in Eugene, Ore., are usually questionable for outdoor activities. However the Saturday before Valentine’s Day this year was perfect for Kyle McGonegle. “Bluegrass requires a more intimate setting, like a barn,” McGonegle says. The storefront of Sundance Natural Foods in the Amazon neighborhood is not quite the barn setting McGonegle was describing, but it worked as an outdoor venue for the band to play.

The band playing on Saturday wasn’t his regular band that he practices with four times a week, though Saturday was still an opportunity to play and entertain. Opportunities are exactly what McGonegle looks for. After meeting the bluegrass band Mossy Top nearly a year ago he continued to attend their shows. During a show Mossy Top’s mandolin player was out and McGonegle happened to bring his mandolin to the show, so he sat in with the band.

Later that year in October, McGonegle joined the band as their new upright bassist.

McGonegle’s interest in the complex melodies of bluegrass music began recently when he picked up the banjo. Before getting into bluegrass, McGonegle laughed about the funk and punk bands he had during high school and college.

His experiences with music have been as numerous as the places he has lived. After being born in Lincoln, NB, McGonegle’s parents, and two older siblings moved to Souix Falls SD. While unhappy going to college in South Dakota, McGonegle saw a picture of Eugene and decided to move. “I didn’t know anyone, but I convinced my roommate at the time to come along,” McGonegle says.

A year later McGonegle met his future wife and decided to move to Hawaii with her. After nine months of living in what McGonegle referred to as “a strange culture, where it was off putting to be the minority” he and his wife returned to Eugene.

Having lived in Eugene for five years now, McGonegle has started to establish himself. Mossy Top has been able to book consistent shows, and McGonegle has worked in the produce section at Sundance for two years.

“We have a lot of inertia,” McGonegle says, referring to the band’s strategy of booking shows. “People just hear about us,” he added. The band performed with the Water Bucket Boys, another local band. It was a sold out show that created great energy for Mossy Top and their reputation.

The band plays at different venues around Eugene and also does benefit concerts. The revenue from its performances goes towards the band’s expenses “I don’t make any money from the band—at this point. We are still trying to establish ourselves,” McGonegle says.

As for the band’s future, McGonegle has been putting more of his time and energy into the band. “I see this band has a lot of potential,” said McGonegle. “It would be ideal to have the band be able to be sustained financially, or whatever keeps us going.”

McGonegle didn’t seem too concerned with the financial aspects of the band. He was optimistic about their future and happy to be able to share his music with others.

“It’s the feeling, not necessarily of total control, but when the music just comes out. That’s the best,” said McGonegle.

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