Ever wonder who those bands are on the bottom of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival? The ones in the 5-point type that is hard to read at the bottom of the listing of acts to perform in 2018. The Manchester Times is reaching out to some of the lesser-known bands to find out their stories.
Larkin Poe takes advantage of opportunities
Jeff Steers, editor
The days of record labels throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars behind bands hoping for that one big hit to launch artists is basically over, according to members of Larkin Poe. The sisters from Atlanta – currently in Nashville – are making the best of the music world using social media, taking advantage of opportunities and being creative. Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe are singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist sisters creating their own brand of roots rock ‘n’ roll: gritty, soulful, and flavored by their southern heritage. They will be one of the bands playing Bonnaroo in Manchester the second week of June. But it won’t be the first trip to Manchester for the sisters’ act. They played Bonnaroo in 2009 as a trio playing bluegrass music under the name the Lovell Sisters. “We played Bonnaroo as a bluegrass band with our older sister and it was one of the biggest stages we had ever played,” Rebecca said. “We love playing festivals because you can connect with so many people.” Larkin Poe – named for their great-great-great-great-grandfather, a descendent of Edgar Allan Poe – has been making the best of their opportunities. A number of years ago they were in Europe and met with rock legend Elvis Costello. Larkin Poe later contacted Costello, noting they would both be in Europe at the same time and the band would be interested in playing with Costello. “We saw a door open and took it,” Megan said. “We learned all of the basic Costello songs and became his backup band.” That was three or four tours ago and the trio – Costello, Megan and Rebecca Lovell – formed a kinship according to Rebecca. “Musically it is exhilarating at you never know where Costello will take you,” Rebecca said. “He would lean over and say we were going to play this song – maybe a song we have never played – in the key of A and we would go.” Larkin Poe is known as the little sisters of the Allman Brothers – something they take seriously. “We admire the Allman Brothers … they are the roots of Southern music from blues to rock and roll,” Megan said. “With Larking Poe we have tried to push the Southern music with an edgier sound.” The sound includes a lap steel guitar played by Megan. “It is that that common of an instrument and I love the way it sounds,” Megan said. “I have been playing it for about 10 years.” Some of their cover songs of Bob Seger caught the attention of the longtime rocker. They recently opened a number of shows for Seger and learned one valuable lesson. “We were opening for Bob Seger and had an hour to play,” Rebecca said. “We didn’t have a clock and went over by five minutes … which was a big deal to the promotor. “Bob didn’t mind he just said ‘I like these girls.’” So have a number of people. Their social media has been skyrocketing with more than 500,000 followers, according to Megan. “We are reaching the tipping point where there are a lot of people from Los Angeles, to New York, Nashville and of course Atlanta who will support you thick and thin,” Megan said. “We love to connect with fan.” Listen to their music at:
Emerging British artist Jade Bird has confirmed U.S. tour dates this spring supporting Colter Wall. The tour will make stops in Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle and more. Jade is also confirmed to perform at SXSW, Stagecoach Country Music Festival, Bonnaroo, Firefly and Mountain Jam this summer. The tour dates come on the heels of the release of Jade’s latest single “Lottery,” which debuted to immediate critical acclaim—MTV hailed, “Jade Bird gives Joni Mitchell a run for her money on this beautiful new single,” and Earmilk furthers, “Her play on numbers throughout the single, rugged, yet sure of herself style, and appealingly brash rock and indie style are what make Jade Bird one to pay attention to,” while
hails, “Jade Bird’s one-of-a-kind voice shines.” Capping off 2017, which saw the release of her breakout, debut EP Something American, Jade spoke with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 and was featured on NPR’s World Cafe. She also made her network television debut performing the EP’s single “Cathedral” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” More recently, Jade was chosen as part of the inaugural class of NPR Music Slingshot Artists. Born in Hexham U.K., Jade’s early life was spent mainly in flight as an “Army brat,” with time spent in South Wales, Germany and Chesterfield. One of life’s few constants proved to be the influence of strong working women. At first, via her mother and grandmother who largely raised her, but later, the female role models within the musical subcultures Jade become obsessed with: from troubled, but empowering country heroines like Loretta Lynn to iconic alternative songwriters like Patti Smith and following a thread through folk and Americana to incorporating such confessional, undiluted songwriting into pop music (Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill was a similarly early touchstone) Watch the Kate Moross-directed (Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, Banks) video for “Lottery” here: http://vevo.ly/4kaFpr.
The folk band consists of Michael Belazis, Griffin Mccolic and Davin East of Waterville, Ohio, approximately 20 miles southwest of Toledo. Oliver Hazard is a ramshackle of uprooted folk-stomp and a chain gang choir of three, according to their website. Music from the band can be heard at
If it’s true that we are all products of our environment, then the multi-talented songwriter, singer and instrumentalist John Splithoff finds himself imbued with the vital and eclectic spirit of two of America’s most diverse musical cities. One listen to his smoky, soulful croon and the breezy way his songs half-step and skip smoothly along the stage, and his hometown Chicago roots are obvious. It was there that Splithoff cut his teeth as a songwriter and performer, and he carried that warm, compositional adventurousness with him to his next and current stop in New York City. The urban soul of the Big Apple taught him to treat the swarms of people buzzing around him as an
audience ripe for his evolving pop sound. As Splithoff has grown and moved across various gritty concrete landscapes, so too has his music, which deftly incorporates myriad elements from his surroundings and packages them into one unmistakable pop-soul-dance-urban experience. Hear his music at:
Colin Elmore & Danville Train
Colin Elmore & Danville Train are currently in Nashville, but the band hails from Willow Springs, Mo. Band members, according to their Facebook page, are Jake Finch, Dylan Jones, Austin Webb and Collin Pastore. The band is currently signed by Sony Music Nashville and their website is www.colinelmore.com. Listen to the band at:
The Blue Stones
Listening to the larger-than-life, but tight and precise blues-rock of The Blue Stones on their Washington Square/Razor & Tie/Concord Music Group debut, Black Holes, it is astonishing to discover all that sound and fury is created by just two people.
Guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Tarek Jafar and percussionist/backing vocalist Justin Tessier, have known each other since meeting as kids just across the Detroit River in their Canadian hometown of Windsor, Ontario. But it wasn’t until attending university together, that they decided to combine their talents into a musical project. The Blue Stones have an incredibly diverse palette of influences — and although they’re a duo, it’s unfair to limit the comparisons just to The Black Keys and The White Stripes. The weight of Led Zeppelin, the grit of Hendrix and groove from hip-hop artists like J. Cole and Kanye are all there. But in an effort that’s unlike any other in contemporary rock, the result is something entirely unique to today’s musical landscape. From the slap back echo and the Rolling Stones’ “ooh-oohs” in the gut-punching “The Drop,” through the tribute to perseverance in the catchy, bluesy “Rolling with the Punches” and the acoustic-to-electric whisper-to-a-scream dynamism of the title track, Black Holes shows a band blasting into outer space and leaving “Solid Ground” behind. It’s the voyage of a group beginning to find its way, emerging from isolation and perspiration to inspiration, reaching an audience waiting to be tapped and entertained. An Alternative Blues Rock band fighting the good fight, looking to connect in an increasingly fragmented music universe. “The album’s about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college,” explains Jafar. “Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier, but you’re passionate about… following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.” Indeed, “Black Holes (Solid Ground)” is about precisely that either/or dichotomy, caught between infinite space and terra firma, willing to take a shot at the unknown rather than settle for the familiar, in between Jafar’s restless guitars and Tessier’s heavy-hitting and massively impressive drum beats. “We play blues-rock, though it’s not loose and dirty,” explains Justin. “It’s lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.” It took seven long years – and two independently released EPs – for The Blue Stones to hone their approach, putting in those requisite 10,000 hours to perfect their craft, and then build upon that. As Jafar describes the audience participation of “Rolling with the Punches,” which is the group’s usual, rollicking set-closer, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay determined and focused. And it’s always fun to have people sing the words you’ve written and just sit back and take it all in.” There’s a similar message in the album finale, “Magic,” in which Jafar admits he doesn’t believe in it. “People these days are all looking for instant gratification, the quick reward,” he says. “If you want something that will endure, that’s not how it works. You have to put in the hours and the effort.” The Blue Stones have done just that, with an approach that isn’t afraid to take chances, like mining Jafar’s love of hip-hop and Miles Davis into the funky backbeat of “Be My Fire” or the epic psychedelic experimentation in the pitch-dark “Midnight.” “You never know where we’ll pull inspiration from,” says Justin. “This is the album we’ve always wanted to make,” adds Tarek. “We set out to show we’re more than loud and lo-fi, that we have range and dynamics.” And now it’s time to take to the road, play these songs and add to their growing legion of admirers. “We have dreams and we have goals, but we separate the two,” adds Justin. “A dream is to headline Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where we saw so many great bands. Our goal, though, is to reach out at every show and win people over one by one. That’s how we’ve always done it and it’s worked so far. We believe in what we’re doing and we have emotional connections to the songs we’re playing. We want to provide our audience with the kind of experiences we had when we were younger attending shows of our favorites. That’s what we look to pass on.” “My whole attitude is, let’s see what happens,” nods Tarek. “And that’s allowed me to be up for anything.” “It’s not over now,” he sings in “Lay,” “Don’t lay your flag and turn away/Please don’t leave me with another regret.” With the release of Black Holes, The Blue Stones are ready to raise the stakes and turn up the heat. Listen to the band at:
Upholding a time-honored songwriting tradition, Michigan Rattlers recount human stories through a soundtrack of Americana punctuated by countrified rock’n’roll and folk. The subjects of their 2016 self-titled debut EP practically live and breathe between Graham Young’s rustling guitar and Adam Reed’s percussive upright bass. Born in Petoskey, MI and based in Los Angeles, the duo’s music plays out like a film. “All of my favorite songs tell stories,” says Graham. “It’s the most important part. They’re about people trying to overcome life’s obstacles. That’s what it always comes back to.” Lifelong friends Graham and Adam began writing music and performing together in their Northern Michigan high school. Residing in a quiet tourist town of 6,000 located on the banks of Lake Michigan, the pair regularly played every bar, cafe, and stage in town, developing an inimitable musical chemistry informed by the likes of AC/DC, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more. Adam headed to Ohio for college as Graham went to Illinois, but upon graduation, Graham beckoned Adam to move to Los Angeles so they could start a band. A four-day cross-country road trip gave birth to Michigan Rattlers. Settling down in Los Angeles, the boys recorded a short demo and began playing locally. The demo found its way into the hands of super producer Johnny K (Plain White T’s, 3 Doors Down), and they cut the bulk of their first EP at NRG Studios in just one day. “My favorite music is recorded that way,” continues Adam. “You get in a room, plug in, and cut as many songs as you can live.” The first single, “Illinois Sky,” rolls from an energetic acoustic guitar into an expansive refrain that’s immediate and infectious, following “Midwestern boys out on our own headed for a life of treasure.” “I started writing it when I was living in Chicago, and I finished it when I got to LA,” recalls Graham. “It was something I’d been working on for a while. Sort of covers the journey. It’s really sad, but it’s also upbeat. I look at it as a love letter to living in Chicago and that time. You’ve got the image.” Culminating on a lyrical guitar lead, “Sweet Diane” weaves a narrative of newfound love in the aftermath of loss driven by Graham’s robust delivery. “That was totally fiction,” he continues. “It’s a straightforward story. A guy knows this girl. The girl lost her husband. He gets the courage to ask her out from there.” “Strain of Cancer” recounts a heartbreaking he tale he witnessed firsthand. “I used to work at Starbucks, and I wrote it about this guy I worked with,” he goes on. “He had a kid with this girl. Things didn’t work out. He only saw his son twice a month or something. He was always meeting with his lawyer about child support. He was just losing everything. It was a horrible situation. I felt for the guy. I thought about him and put it into a song. As for their moniker? It’s a name that lets you in on where they’re from and who they are. “A Michigan Rattler is an actual snake,” Adam explains. “There aren’t a lot of them, and they’re hard to find.” As the duo gets ready to share their tales with the world, listeners far and wide will soon find that like the elusive reptile, a sound like theirs is hard to find. Listen to the band:
Who killed Matt Maeson? Maybe the devil, who haunted his parents, two reformed teenage outlaws who played in religious heavy-metal bands and wouldn’t let him listen to rock on the radio. Or maybe it was the volatile spirit that brought Matt to prison the first three hundred times. He played shows with his mom and dad, proprietors of a prison ministry since he was young. The family lived on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and worked wherever the faithful wouldn’t feel like they belonged. They drove south to Florida and west to Montana, rumbling through maximum-security lockups with fire and benediction, drums and guitars. He spent years on the road to prisons and biker rallies: he played songs about salvation in front of strippers and Hell’s Angels at Sturgis, one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world. Restlessness ran in the family, and it never went away. The men in Maeson’s life-his dad and uncle-were most comfortable in the margins, whether in glory or disgrace. They were all fighting an inner rebelliousness, against their own darker instincts as well as against a Southern community preaching that long hair brought men closer to hell. By the time he was playing with his parents, he had already gotten into drugs, and then into trouble-and then into drugs again, to pay off the trouble. For a year, he worked construction for twelve hours a day, doing community service on his one day off. “I was mad all the time,” he said. “People in my life were condemning me, and not with compassion. Not this is wrong, and we love you. It was this is wrong, and don’t ever come back.” But he came back-unevenly, in front of standing ovations in prison yards, traveling across the country with a notebook and a guitar. He posted his first songs online at the nexus of 2015 and 2016, and the phone started ringing the next day. There’s a rare directness to Maeson’s music: he sings like the dead singer-songwriters, full of troubled and tensile grace. His sound is spare and rich and restless. Vines of guitar weave around his voice; half-remembered melodies drift overhead like ghosts. “Tribulation” is a love song about when love feels impossible. “Straight Razor” pairs its title with “stargazer” in the first two lines, an ember that catches fire in the track’s anthemic gang vocal finale. “Cringe,” his debut single, feels like canon, as profound and arresting as Jeff Buckley or King Krule; it’s got the stark, urgent intimacy of a spotlight trained on a pair of sinners in the dark. Maeson headlined his first US tour last summer, presented by Communion, an artist-led organization founded by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett. The pairing was appropriate in both aesthetic and name. Driving between venues alone, he slept his car, a dusty Hyundai named either Frank Elantra or Carmen Elantra, depending on the day. Journeying south to the middle of nowhere in Iowa one night, as the black country swallowed up every light around him, he saw a Walmart and an abandoned Wendy’s in the middle of the dark. He bought a bottle of whiskey at Walmart, grabbed his blanket, climbed on top of the empty building, and wrote EP standout “Me And My Friends Are Lonely,” a raw confessional that crackles with strength. As with all of Maeson’s music, it asks the same questions his life has-about desperation, redemption, and love. Listen to his music at: