Cornmeal’s song “I’m Still Here” may be a perfect representation of the band’s current mood. For the last nine years, the group has treated Chicago and the Midwest to a progressive blend of roots and bluegrass music. Starting out as an all-acoustic, traditional bluegrass band and playing for free at inner-city pubs, the group has gradually evolved into a more groundbreaking act, touring incessantly and playing festivals such as Summer Camp and Wakarusa.
“It’s a very humbling thing to go through,” said Chris Gangi of the band’s recent ninth anniversary. Gangi, who now spends time off the road teaching music lessons in Chicago, feels he owes most of his band’s success to the dedicated fans within the bluegrass/jam music scene. “The kind of graciousness that our fans give is, I think, unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced with any other band or any other scene,” he said.
While initially influenced by bluegrass legends such as John Hartford and the Stanley Brothers, over the years the band has allowed more diverse influences to seep into the songwriting process.
“Everything from improvisational jam music to jazz to funk to folk and blues influences us,” said Gangi. “We all listen to music from such diverse backgrounds, whether it be James Brown or Pink Floyd or I don’t know … Iron and Wine.”
Whether they play straight-up bluegrass or a more progressive take on the music, fans are always responsive.

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