Last weekend I managed to see four bands in two days without traveling more than two miles from the center of New Hope. Had my wallet been larger, my liver smaller, and my hearing better I could have also caught the Outlaws at Havana Friday night and five other bands at John and Peter’s and Fran’s Pub. That’s a lot of music no matter how you look at it — we in New Hope are indeed musically blessed.
Here, in no particular order, are three of the diverse, high-quality acts that I was fortunate enough to see and hear:
Rusted Root – Havana – Nov. 15
Somewhere in the late 90s, I worked for Rusted Root as a stage technician at a large festival show, and when I found I was going to review them this week, I was expecting the same crowd of young, rather poverty-stricken, dreadlocked, baggie-shorted, sandal-wearing, new-era “hippies,” as the festival goers are often referred to (a term which confuses me considerably, being a card-carrying, Haight-Ashburying, no-kidding 60s hippie myself) When I walked into Havana on concert night, my first thought was that I had the wrong day. Nary a dreadlock or a baggie pair of shorts to be seen. In their place was a packed house of rather affluent, Gucci-toting, Audi-driving late thirty- to forty-year-olds, still partying like it was a Bonnaroo festival. Obviously the Rooters had moved on in life.
Michael Glabicki brought a stripped-down, five-piece version of his world beat band, however it provided all the hypnotic, rhythmic flow that was needed to turn the place into a festival. Driven by the powerhouse drumming of David Sanders and the lyrical bass lines of Patrick Norman, they wove a dancing spell that obviously spoke to the packed house as they worked their way through such favorites as Faith I Do Believe, Infinite Space and Circle of Remembrance. Colter Harper’s spare guitar lines outlined the long rhythmic passages and vocals perfectly, and Liz Harper’s vocals and percussion carried it all along.
This was a stand-only show (no seats) and from the look of the place it was sold out. Tickets were $55. Sound, as per usual, was excellent.
Production by Dave Maida Presents
Audio – AG Audio
Von Grey – Havana – Nov. 15
Opening for Rusted Root was the fascinating Von Grey. I had no idea who they were, but when I looked at their webpage I was hooked. Just their resume is enough to recommend them — appearances on Letterman, Conan, Rock Center with Brian Williams, and CNN; glowing reviews for their performances at Bonnaroo (hence the Root connection), SWSX and others; a self-titled EP in the iTunes Top Ten; a single, Coming For You, climbing the charts; and a new self-produced EP, Awakening.
The four classically-trained sisters from Georgia, with their perfect, porcelain harmonies, quirky and moving lyrics, unusual instrumentation and unique melodies have rapidly earned the title ‘Mumford and Daughters’ in the industry.
Annika, 17 (violin, banjo, guitar, keys) and Fiona, 15 (guitar, violin, percussion) are the writing team. Petra, 13 (keys, lap steel guitar, electronic percussion, background vocals), and Kathryn, 18 (cello, bass pedals, mandolin, keys, background vocals) are the arrangers.
I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Annika, a diminutive woman who spoke with with no trace of her Atlanta roots:
Welcome to New Hope.
Annika: Thank you. What little we’ve seen is lovely. Are there always this many people on the streets?
No, but its not unusual. Where and when did you last play?
Annika: New Hamphire last night at the Flying Monkey.
Annika: DC for a day off. No hotel room here tonight, and we have friends to stay with there.
Lot of driving. Who does it and how do you like the traveling
Annika: Mom and Katherine, and we love it.
What’s their record trip?
Annika: Seattle to Atlanta.
Ouch. So what about school?
Annika: We go to a charter school in Atlanta, and we go by computer when we are on the road.
So TV shows, hit records, big shows. Any attacks of nerves or stage fright and what do you do with all the money?
Annika: We love it and no, we’ve all been learning, playing and performing since we were five so its not that big of a deal. Whatever we make goes back into the band so there is no money. Yet….
Where do you see yourselves in five years? Do you see yourself still playing with your sisters?
Annika: In five years Petra will be just turning 18 and even Katherine will only be 23. We have no idea how it will all go but right now, I’d say we all plan careers in music one way or another. And there is yet another sister to come. Right now, shes too young but she’d love to.
So how’s living in a van and a single hotel room with your mom and three sisters?
Annika: (laughing) It’s okay. We are an unusually tight family.
To end the interview, I have to tell you that I am insanely jealous of your life. This must be wonderful.
Annika: (laughing some more) It is. Thank you.
While Von Grey may not be my normal cup of tea, they were very good live, and the same can be said for what I’ve heard of their recorded product. You might give them a try.
Tumbling Dice Band – Fran’s Pub – Nov. 16
These guys were a ton of fun. A burning five-piece funk band fronted by two fine female vocalists, they torched their way through a throwback evening of disco/dance music from the 70s and 80s. If you have an urge to get out shake your booty in town, here’s the band. Close your eyes, and you’re back in the wid -tie, bell bottom pants and leisure suit days of disco. Led by the dual-lead singing of Sue Syvret and Joni Pasqua, this band of seasoned pros churned out hit after hit — Last Dance, Boogie Oogie Oogie, Groove is In The Heart, Square Business, Somebody Else’s Guy — you name it, they played it.
The strong rhythm section of Tom Fandel on bass and Gary Chiocchi on drums laid down a solid back beat to move to, while Bruce Bown tickled the keys (including a lovely old Ensoniq TS 10 keyboard that took my techie heart back a few years), Tony Sullivan added percussion and local boy George Bond rounded it all out with some stellar guitar playing.
New Hope is a town filled with fine guitar players, but in my opinion the seldom-seen Mr. Bond stands out as something special.
If you like to dance, I would definitely recommend catching this band. A very fun night.
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