Ragged Union Exports Colorado’s Beer & Bluegrass Culture to China

By Lauren Stovall

In just a few days’ time, CBMS’s own Ragged Union will be standing on the main stage of China’s “Asian Oktoberfest,” tuning up their instruments for the first of 54 sets, all crammed into a span of roughly three weeks.

Qingdao city, in China’s Shandong Province, site of the Qingdao International Beer Festival.

The Qingdao International Beer Festival, running from July 26 through August 18, is in its 29th year and this year’s event is expected to be the biggest one to date. With over 100,000 attendees per day, the festival is so large that it occupies two locations: an “East Coast Venue” at Laoshan Beer City & Century Square and a “West Coast Venue” at Huangdao Golden Beach WanRen Square. This year, the “Beer City” based festival will feature a new theme: Denver Beer Festival.

Joining Geoff Union (the founding member and front man of Ragged Union) will be Todd Livingston on Dobro, Elio Schiavo on mandolin, Sam Guthridge on banjo, and Andrew Bonnis on upright bass. Featured as this year’s headliner, the band will bring Colorado’s beer and bluegrass culture to the Golden Sands Beach stage.

The Qingdao International Beer Festival began in 1991 as a celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary, nearly a century after the Anglo-German Brewery Company launched China’s first brewery, which is now known as the Tsingtao Beer Factory, one of Asia’s most popular beer brands. This year, over 200 breweries from around the globe will be serving millions of pints as patrons enjoy games, acrobatic performances, concerts, drinking contest, carnival rides and more, with spectacular opening and closing ceremonies to round out the party.

In addition to playing American music for the masses, the band is looking forward to a bit of time off to explore the area.

“We’ve heard it’s a really nice city and that there are some national parks nearby,” Geoff says, “and Elio is particularly excited to add the Yellow Sea to the list of seas he has swum in.”

During their month in China, Ragged Union will be housed in a village near the venue along with about 100 other international performing artists. After drinking plenty of delicious beer, delving into the local culture and adventuring between sets, it seems highly likely that they will return to the States with a long list of new friends made and many great stories to share.

CBMS Note: Geoff Union is unsure whether he will have regular access to the Internet while in China, but will certainly be updating us afterwards. Watch the Ragged Union Facebook page for possible posts during the next month.