With the GSMF returning to Concord on June 22-23, it is our civic duty to help you get your story straight. Read our preview and you’ll be the most informed fan in the crowd!
The Fearless Ones
As a former member of ubi-quitous ’90s New Hampshire jam band Percy Hill, Tom Powley has performed in and around Concord many times. “Some of my fondest memories of shows were at Thumbs,” Powley told us – how’s that for a deep cut?! Now, Powley is coming back to Concord as the frontman of the Fearless Ones. He’s excited to bring some organic sounds to the Granite State Music Festival – the Fearless Ones certainly aren’t scared to jam – but he notes that there is a different music festival landscape nowadays compared to the halcyon days when he got his start.
“The jam band scene was at one of its peaks in the early ’90s,” Powley said. “People were coming out show after show and were willing to travel. I’m not so sure that is the case anymore, so you have to work extra hard to develop a dedicated and devoted fan base.”
GSMF is a step towards rejuvenating that scene, which is the lifeblood of bands like the Fearless Ones. Certainly, a lifelong musician like Powley can’t live without it.
“The musician’s life isn’t an easy one, but man, when a show all comes together with the music and crowd energy, there is nothing like it. It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Crunchy Western Boys
The Crunchy Western Boys have no problem playing intimate venues. But what is now their signature light-hearted audience banter evolved out of one that was borderline too intimate.
“We were playing some room and there were only like four people out there. So I said, ‘Since it’s just the eight of us, we might as well get to know each other,’” Steve McBrian said. “We just took that (approach) and kind of expanded it, and it works. The audience is a huge part of what we do.”
Indeed, the Crunchy Western Boys aren’t entirely sure what kind of music they play – a bluegrassy vibe that comes from a pop-rock place has prompted McBrian to refer to it as kindgrass – but they are sure you’ll have a good time at their shows. McBrian employs a humorous no-holds-barred and no-words-minced approach to addressing the audience while the band unleashes their acoustic-only flavor that features a fiddle but doesn’t include any percussion.
You certainly aren’t the only one that’s going to have fun at a Crunchy Western Boys show, either. The band members make sure to enjoy themselves, and aren’t afraid to belly up to the bar and rub elbows with the paying customers.
“We’re a drinking band with a music problem,” McBrian said.
They also aren’t afraid to seek out a new audience. Though most of their gigs are in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, they’ve played in Ireland twice and have visited the Virgin Islands – partly to avoid the frigid snow-based doldrums that can dampen the music scene during a New England winter.
“We like to play a lot around here and then go somewhere completely different,” McBrian said. “Around here you pretty much play your Halloween gig and pack your fiddle on moth balls until February or March. We like to get out of dodge.”
Ultimately, it’s the band’s insistence on remaining a square peg in a music world of round holes that makes them such a unique experience.
“We’d be the first ones to tell you we’re not really a bluegrass band,” McBrian said. “I always tell hardcore purists my favorite (bluegrass pioneer) Bill Monroe quote is, ‘I invented this kind of music because I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.’ So why follow in lockstep with what Bill already did: Branch it out, man, have some fun with it.”
For more, visit crunchywesternboys.com.
Moptopped Southern New Hampshire singer/songwriter Will Kindler blends British psychedelia, folk, rockabilly and ’80s pop with ease. Along with bandmate Ian McGinnes, Kindler’s created a sound richer than the sum of its parts.
Boston-based Midnight Snack starts with a base of soul and R&B, slathers on some funk, jazz and reggae, then puts a cherry on top with a hint of drone. The result is the biggest, most diverse midnight snack this side of Scooby-Doo.
Jim Dozet Group
Perhaps you’ve seen him in Donkilo! or the Press Project, but Seacost guitar mercenary Jim Dozet’s latest project puts him front and center. It’s honed, guitar-driven folk/roots/Americana.
Richard James and the Name Changers
After undergoing several minor facelifts, Richard James and the Name Changers arrived at their current state because of a simple realization: everybody’s gotta eat.
What James had initially started as a duo quickly multiplied to a 10-piece band before a hunger to grow quickly was overtaken by, well, just hunger.
“We realized nobody could eat having a 10-person band,” James said.
So the band has trimmed down – there are usually five or six people on stage at any given show, James said – and will bring their “whiskey-infused rock and roll” stylings to the stage at the Granite State Music Festival. Although this will be their first performance at the festival, it will technically be their second trip – they were booked last year but got rained out and had to leave for another gig before they could take the stage.
“This year we’re coming back with a mega-vengeance to just destroy the Granite State Music Festival, to just tear it down,” James said. “It’ll be doubly as good for both years.”
The band features James on vocals and piano and includes bass and guitar, as well as a horn section that can feature alto and tenor sax, trombone and trumpet. The result is a unique sound, as represented on their tune, Beverly, which could either be about the Massachusetts town they spent so much time playing in or any random woman. It’s actually up to you.
“As a group starting out, we were playing in Beverly forever. It was kind of like this vortex that just sucked us in, and we were playing like four nights a week there,” James said. “We were kind of spinning our wheels; we were making decent money playing music, but we neglected to realize there’s a whole world out there we can show our music to. But the cool thing about the tune is it could be about either a chick who sucks you in or a town who sucks you in.”
To learn more about RJNC, visit richardjamesband.com, and visit YouTube to see their first full-length video, Left for Dead.
Greg Loughman wasn't necessarily practicing a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in his head when he formed the band Lowman. He was just tired of playing a catalog of original songs for an audience of one.
"I thought it might be some little thing we did on the side every once in awhile," Loughman said of the band. "Because I'd written these songs, I figured I might as well play them in front of people. And it snowballed in a way I didn't expect."
It may not have been expected, but Loughman is certainly not complaining. Having spent most of his performing career in the jazz genre, he teamed up with some musical friends and formed Lowman, a "more traditional rock" venture, and the group has been received kindly throughout New England. You can receive them kindly at the Granite State Music Festival.
Loughman leaned on rock influences such as Ben Folds and Spoon when crafting the band's tunes, which led to a jazzy-rock sound the Boston Globe described as "Elvis Costello meets Esperanza Spaulding" and prompted Deli Magazine to name Lowman the band of the month and later tab their EP as CD of the month.
"It's been really great, and a fun surprise how well the group has been received," Loughman said. "It's been a really pleasant surprise to see that, because it kind of just started as a lark. We were like, oh, man, it would be fun to do this, let's just do it. So we booked a gig at the local bar and got some friends' bands to play, and it just took off more quickly than I thought it might."
And Lowman has something most other bands at the upcoming festival don't – a direct tie to Concord. Guitar player and New Hampshire native Phil Sargent teaches lessons at Strings and Things.
"I really like the aesthetic of the Granite State Music Festival. It engendered a sense of community, both among the bands and the people who come out to hear us," Loughman said. "I really get a sense there's a community of really creative people making music in the New Hampshire area, which is exciting."
To learn more about Lowman, visit lowman.bandcamp.com.
Kate Redgate Band
Looking for a healthy dose of twang at the GSMF? Check out alt-country songstress Kate Redgate. Redgate’s been touring all across the country (including a stop at South By Southwest), so catch her in Concord.
Boogie on Alice
Watch out for local jam rockers Boogie On Alice – get to close, and you may end up with your face melted. They can shred crunchy funk jams as hard as anyone else at the GSMF – look for them at Camp ‘N’ Jam V, too.
Mica's Groove Train
All aboard the groove train! This Seacoast band is dripping with funk, soul and R&B, led by Erykah Badu-esque singer Yamica Peterson. That shaking sensation in your hips is just the groove taking hold, folks!
Seacoast legend Aaron Katz and sultry Callie Lipton team up in this dreamy duo, playing acoustic indie-pop when they aren’t trying their hands at rock opera, starring in a cable-access reality show or tackling whatever other projects the two can dream up.
They say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. But what if you can make it in an obscure hamlet of 2,500 people in northern New Hampshire?
That’s a question for Katie Rose, who has conquered her hometown of Whitefield and will continue her quest to conquer the rest of the region when she makes her Granite State Music Festival debut this month. Not that she’ll ever lose touch with her roots – her aptly-named tune “My Hometown” highlights life in Whitefield, where she holds a weekly concert series featuring her and a different visiting artist each show. She also does extensive work with schools in the area, including one in Errol – population around 300.
The school she visited there housed about 16 students between kindergarten and eighth grade, limiting class size in each grade to about two (competition for valedictorian and salutatorian must be brutal!) But the coziness allowed Rose to impart what she considers one of the more important pieces of wisdom she’s acquired during her blossoming career.
“That’s what’s fun about doing work here in the community, really getting to know that younger generation,” Rose said. “And you can show them they can do things right in your community. You don’t have to go to the city, you don’t have to go somewhere else to do what you love.”
That doesn’t mean she isn’t looking forward to a trip to the capital city to play the upcoming festival.
“Any chance I have to come down and play in the Concord and Manchester area is always fun,” Rose said. “It’s just really good getting to know other artists, getting to meet them and talk about where they’re at musically.”
To learn more about Rose, visit katieroseproductions.com.
It’s safe to bill fiveighthirteen as the biggest number enthusiasts on the GSMF bill. Not only are they named after part of the Fibonacci sequence, they recently played a dream gig on May 8 (5/8/13), a show years in the making. Keyboardist Mike Effenberger (who you’ll see in Tan Vampires and the Jim Dozet Group as well) told us to expect “big synth bass, eerie ambient guitar and great drum grooves.” fiveighthirteen blends all that with spooky samples to create a sort of DJ-Shadow-as-a-live-band sound, resplendent with break beats. Effenberger said the GSMF is part of the foundation for New Hampshire’s growing music scene. “There are more great and inspiring musicians showing up all the time,” Effenberger said, “and I’m hoping that builds on itself.”
The Amorphous Band
A fun, jammy party band inspired by the Grateful Dead and their ilk, the Amorphous Band takes its originals and covers to the next level in a live setting.
Hard-driving, heavy and funky jam rock from Southern Vermont, these guys have been playing festivals all over New England (as well as Penuche right here in Concord) for the last few years. Have you seen
them with their new lineup? (Evan Lincoln is out, Nate Martel is in on guitar.) Now’s the time.
An energetic five-piece bluegrass band out of the Granite State, High Range tickles the strings as Ellen Carlson croonsHigh Range plays originals and traditional covers with equal heart and emotion.
Entering their 25th year as a band, Truffle is tighter than ever. David Bailey’s solid basslines drive their music; everything else falls into place around it. Truffles may be a rare delicacy, but there is plenty Truffle to go around.
The Lynne Taylor Band
Singer/songwriter Lynne Taylor bares her soul through her music; her personal and poignant lyrics have been the backbone of an almost 30-year career as a professional musician.
This trio of freeform jazzmen promises to bring the character of Jack Kerouac character Dr. Sax to life through music. Dr. Sax used to roam the Merrimack Valley, they say, frightening children and rambling
gibberish. Now Dr. Sax is back – in jazz form!