The Chicago-based bluegrass band formed as an outlet for area jam band musicians in the late '90s, including members of Uncle John's Band, Rebecca's Statue, and the Dime Store String Band. Fronted by singer/songwriter Jason Berger, the original lineup featured guitarist Erik Smith, and upright bassist Chris Gangi, alongside Berger on mandolin. The trio had been making music together for over ten years, since growing up in the suburbs northwest of Chicago.
Soon, the band was playing a regular Wednesday night gig at the Abbey Pub. A casual atmosphere prevailed, and guest musicians ambled on-stage -- or played from the bar floor -- with little fanfare. Shortly thereafter, the band added banjoist Wavy Dave Burlingame to the lineup. The band began to tour around their native Midwest to some success, including a high profile gig at the Big Wu's Family Reunion festival. After recording In the Kitchen, their debut studio album released on Livin' Large Records (which featured a guest appearance by Dark Star Orchestra vocalist Lisa Mackey), the band added Martin Kondziolka to the lineup on drums. The addition expanded the band's palette considerably, as they began to integrate richer textures into their mostly traditional old-timey sound.