Back for another Folk’d Up Friday! This was the third show of the series after a break during the summer. I think I like these shows even better in the fall – the warm folk music from the featured artists lends itself to the cozy months of autumn. The entire lineup for this series has been fantastic so far, but this one was particularly anticipated because it marked a hometown show for Harlan Pepper – their first in about a year. Rounding out the bill were Alanna Gurr and Jerry Leger & The Situation.
This was the most packed house yet for Folk’d Up Friday and quite the diverse audience too. All of the concerts so far have attracted a wide range of people, from young and old, but this one really ran the gamut, from kids to elders.
Guelph native Alanna Gurr opened the show with her signature folk (what else!) tunes. She has a lovely, sweet voice, with a slight raspy quality. Very understated and pleasant to listen to. Tying in a Hamilton connection, Alanna mentioned she has filmed for Southern Souls, the local website that has quickly become a rite of passage for artists. She performed one of those songs, “October,” which I also captured as part of my video blog (watch below). My favourite song of her set had to be the one that had a real kickin’, 50s style rhythm to it that saw her keyboardist get up and bust a move with a tambourine. That will get me every time. This show was near the beginning of a string of shows for Alanna, taking her all the way out East in October.
Next up was a band familiar to me – Jerry Leger & The Situation. I met them back in May when they played with my friends and local singer-songwriters, Matt Paxton and Ben Somer, who were in the audience for this show. Jerry noted that he was borrowing Ben’s guitar for the set, joking that he lost his own in a poker game (or maybe that is true!). Speaking of Ben, Jerry also filmed a Southern Souls video at Ben’s studio, Boxcar Sound.
I first saw the band as a three-piece, with Kyle Sullivan on drums and Dan Mock on bass, alongside Mr. Leger. This time I got to see the full band which includes James McKie on guitar and fiddle. The Situation all lend their vocals to the mix as well. They all looked like they were having a blast up there together and it’s obvious what a seasoned bunch of musicians they are.
After that initial show, I left with a copy of Jerry’s album Traveling Grey, released in 2010. I recognized some tracks they played off of that album and it was great to hear their sounds fill a venue like the Studio, as opposed to a smaller venue or bar, which of course is fun too. I like their slower tunes but the guys can really rock out! I filmed clips of a couple songs to include in my video. They also played some brand new tunes from their upcoming album titled Some Folks Know, due out in November.
Jerry and co. will be back in Hamilton playing at This Ain’t Hollywood on November 29 – be sure to check them out!
By this time, everyone was revved up for the main event, Harlan Pepper. The last time I saw them was back in December at a fundraiser show and I was so impressed. It’s clear these guys were simply born to do what they do. They seem so unassuming but when they start to play, they effortlessly capture a really specific folk sound that has been described as psychedelic roots.
Not to dwell on how young they are, because musicians can easily be influenced by material that is beyond their years that they did not experience firsthand, but as Harlan Pepper’s official bio states, they are “Channeling the ghosts of long-gone AM car radios and haunting the dusty aisles of small town vinyl record bins”. That’s exactly it; they really are a gifted bunch of guys.
They played a really fun set that got the crowd going. This was the first Folk’d Up Friday where the audience took to the floor, being moved to dance, which was a lot of fun to see. Couples formed and kids and adults alike were busting a move. Even those who chose to stay in their seats couldn’t help but move to Harlan Pepper’s folk grooves, and how could you not! As one of their more well known songs, “Great Lakes” was a crowd pleaser that had many shouting out the titled lyric.
The audience participation didn’t end there – there were a few dudes to my left who insisted on yelling at the top of their lungs, “Oskie Wee Wee / Oskie Wa Wa / Holy Mackinaw / Ti-cats… Eat ’em RAW!!” in between what seemed like every song. Unnecessary, perhaps, but the sentiment was very much appreciated. It was like a sporting event! Made me laugh every time.
As a special treat, Harlan Pepper called up two very special guests to join them on a couple tunes – Greg Brisco of The Dinner Belles and Tim Gibbons. Catch a clip of the group performing together in my video below.
The band also mentioned that they’ve been in Nashville recording, joking that they came back with accents. It will be exciting to hear the followup to their 2010 debut, Young and Old. I can just imagine what they must have cooked up down there!
Harlan Pepper are playing Dr. Disc’s “Raise the Roof” concert on Friday, October 12 – be sure to swing by during your Art Crawl route.