All told, there will be seven great bands performing at Pop’s Farm over Moe.morial Day Weekend. Read on to learn more about these awesome artists.
Hailed by American Songwriter for their “mind-bending musicality,” moe. is treasured for their mesmerizing musical synergy, unfettered showmanship, and smart, resonant songcraft. For three decades, the band has corralled myriad musical forms on a truly original journey rich with crafty, clever songwriting and astonishing resourcefulness. Fueled by an impassioned fan base, moe. has spent much of those thirty years on the road, encompassing countless live performances marked by eclectic wit, deep friendship, and exploratory invention. Having built an enduring legacy with hard work and a confirmed commitment to creativity and community, moe. seem as surprised asanyone to find themselves at such a significant landmark.
“The career just very subtly unfolded,” says co-founding bassist-singer-songwriter Rob Derhak, “without any of us noticing it actually happened.”
Al Schnier (guitars, vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitars, vocals), and Derhak first came together at the University of Buffalo in 1990, musician-friends uniting to play for the sheer fun of it. The band followed a handful of cassette-only releases with 1992’s FATBOY, recorded in an apartment studio above Buffalo’s Top Shelf Guitars with a bird’s eye view of Mighty Taco.
“We liked music, we liked to party, and we wanted to put those two things together,” says Derhak. “We wanted to do what seemed like the coolest thing we could possibly do and not have to work a regular job. It didn’t even seem like a decision had to be made. It’s was like, this is what we’re doing and it’s happening. The idea that thirty years later I would be a dad, paying a mortgage and earning a living, based on our band, with the same guys no less, that never even crossed my mind.”
Finding themselves with an increasingly avid local following, moe. ventured forth, now with master rhythmatist Jim Loughlin among their ranks. The more the band traveled, the more they grew creatively, evincing a remarkable willingness to progress as they went along. moe. quickly became part of a burgeoning scene centered around NYC’s Wetlands, a grassroots revolution that embraced freewheeling genre fusion – spanning funk and free jazz, country and classic rock, prog, new wave, calypso, pop and everything else under the sun – fan interaction, and unrestrained improvisation.
“We adapted,” Derhak says. “Initially we didn’t have quite as much of the same ideal at first. We didn’t jam or have long extended solos. But as we went from being an opening act to being a headliner, we didn’t have enough material to do two long sets. We needed more material so our songs started to stretch themselves out. We became a jam band.”
moe. widened its reach across America, earning new fans and national attention with their ingeniously imaginative interplay and a regularly growing catalogue. The band spent almost as much time in the studio as they did on the road, mastering their delightfully vibrant blend of inventive musicality and genre-blurring reach on now-classic LPs like 1998’s TIN CANS & CAR TIRES, 2004’s WORMWOOD, 2007’s THE CONCH (which reached #1 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” chart), and 2012’s critically acclaimed WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LA LAS. As if all that weren’t enough, the moe. canon – released largely through their own Fatboy Records, as well as via two label deals, one major, the other independent – further includes a wide range of archival live releases (including 2000’s L), a Christmas album, even a re-recorded collection of greatest hits.
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When Cris Jacobs began dreaming about a follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2016 album Dust to Gold, he realized early on he’d have to do things differently this time around. His life had changed drastically since writing those songs: he’d toured extensively and attracted a legion of new, devoted fans; he’d come off the road into a world, with its divisive rhetoric and troubling headlines, he no longer recognized; and, most importantly, he’d gotten married and had his first child. Things had changed, and Jacobs had, too.
Color Where You Are is the work of an artist at an exciting new stage in his life and career, ready to use his talents to share a little beauty with the loved ones and fans who have already given so much to him. The title nods to Jacobs’ experience writing the album, which, as he puts it, he had to do “between tours, coming home, changing diapers, fixing things around the house…. You name it.” He no longer had the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike, so he colored where he was.
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Isaac Hadden Project is a jazz-infused, improvisational funk-rock band hailing from the mountains of southwestern Virginia. Known for genre-hopping, the band performs a diverse lineup of fresh covers and a growing repertoire of original material tied together with unique, grooving, and dynamic jams. Led by up-and-coming young guitarist Isaac Hadden, the band features regional all-star musicians Jake Dempsey (Bass), Foster Burton (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals), and Matt Leonard (Drums). The band has supported and performed with legendary musicians and has been gaining attention on the festival circuit, delivering high-energy performances that routinely leave audiences clamoring for more.
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From late night jam sessions at the University of Virginia to main stages at venues and festivals throughout the country, Kendall Street Company has broken the mold of improvised rock and enters a world of jazz-grass infused psychedelic bliss. With no two shows ever the same, word of mouth has quickly grown a ravenous fanbase eager to hear their favorite studio tracks explored and extended as part of a live community. As seasoned KSC fans can tell you, any one of their songs could easily turn from a fun sing-along, into a cacophonous headbanging garage-rock soundscape or Klezmer-disco dance party, and then resolve into a peaceful ambience that evokes nostalgia of your childhood.
Averaging over 100 shows per year since 2013, the band is currently comprised of Louis Smith [Acoustic guitar, vocals], Brian Roy [Bass, vocals], Ryan Wood [Drums], Ben Laderberg [Electric guitar], and Jake Vanaman [Saxophone]. For such a young band, their accomplishments are sincere. Kendall Street has performed at festivals such as Lockn’, Roosterwalk, Floydfest, Resonance, and Domefest and has opened for acts such as Papadosio, Umphrey’s McGee, Tauk, and Leftover Salmon. All the while, the band has proudly released three records and two EPs. Their most recent 2019 release, “Lunar Dude” showcases their versatility and virtuosity, and was met with overwhelming support.
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“I just wanted to be honest about everything, from my musical influences to my story,” muses Neal Francis. After years of dishonest living—consumed by drugs, alcohol, and addiction—such sincerity is jarring from the 30-year-old Chicago-based musician. Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in sobriety, Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms, Chicago blues, and early 70s rock n’ roll. His music evokes a bygone era of R&B’s heyday while simultaneously forging a new path on the musical landscape. Ohio-based Karma Chief Records (a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records) released his debut LP Changes in September 2019.
There is a deep connection between Francis’s childhood—his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP—and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. The influences are unmistakable: the vocal stylings of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell; the second line rhythms of The Meters and Dr. John; the barroom rock ‘n’ roll of The Rolling Stones; the gospel soul of Billy Preston; the roots music of The Band. Francis pays tribute to the masters but has his own story to tell: “It’s the life I’ve lived so far.”
And what a life it’s been. Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, Francis joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean.
Determined to realize the songs swirling in his head, Francis assembled a crack team of musicians, calling on bassist Mike Starr (The Heard) and drummer PJ Howard (The Revivalists, The Heard). He linked up with producer and analog-obsessive Sergio Rios (Orgone, Cee Lo Green, Alicia Keys) and self-funded a trip to Killion Sound in Los Angeles to record the initial batch of material. “I learned to trust my instincts in that room,” says Francis. Buoyed by classic horn arrangements and Rios’ fierce guitar work, the resulting tracks illuminate a lifetime spent studying the masters of rock and soul music.
From the RMI electra-piano riff that kicks off “She’s A Winner” to the screaming organ swells of “This Time,” Francis and company let it all hang out. This is fun music, dance music. Yet verse after verse and chorus after chorus, Francis wrestles with his past in a straightforward manner: “It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, but I’m not home/ I’m surrounded by people, but I’m really alone.” Like Toussaint and Russell before him he’s married the upbeat rhythms of New Orleans R&B with the lyrical approach of a confessional singer/songwriter. The refrain on “This Time” serves as a foxhole prayer for a better future: “Let me get it this time/I won’t let you down/Let me get it this time/I won’t fool around.”
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South Hill Banks – Lance Thomas (vocals, guitar), Eric Horrocks (mandolin, vocals), Noah Stidham (Banjo, Vocals), and Justin Doyle (upright bass) – have carved a niche for themselves with their jam infused bluegrass sound. Formed in August 2015 in Richmond, Virginia, South Hill Banks pulls from a wide range of influences such as classic rock, jam, blues, to traditional bluegrass to keep audiences entertained with a blend of sounds old and new.
Be sure to check out their brand new album “No Time For A Breakdown” out now!
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Disco Risqué is Charlie Murchie (Lead Guitar), Robert “Slim” Prescott (Drums/Vocals), Ryan “Swimsuit” Calonder (Vocals/Trumpet/Rhythm Guitar, Andrew “The Champ” Hollifield (Bass), and Sean Hodge (Keys/Vocals). Founded in 2014 in Charlottesville, Va the band’s early intentions involved writing music that was both brutal and catchy, aggressive but melodic, heavy yet danceable. You never know what will come next with Disco Risqué