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Prog Folk Gets A Kickstart
by David Sepulveda | Aug 12, 2013 11:01 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Music, Westville
The New Haven-based band Kindred Queer shared a Westville stage with some New York friends to launch musical ambitions—and kick-start a “progressive folk” wave in town.
The two bands—Kindred Queer and Hamilton, N.Y.-based Rabbit in the Rye—appeared on the stage of Lyric Hall Friday night, a first step toward the next stages of their own development as well as a precursor to New Haven’s upcoming annual folk festival.
The trajectories of both bands arc toward the resurgent interest in folk music locally, regionally and nationally, as they do their part to build audience and redefine the limits of a musical form with deep traditions.
After several intimate concerts, Kindred Queer will turn to a crowd-funding internet platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise the balance of needed money. It will also appear on a bigger New Haven stage on Sept. 7, at the CT Folk festival in Edgerton Park.
Another New Haven artist, pianist and singer-songwriter, Chrissy Gardner of Westville, last week raised over $30,000 in her Indiegogo campaign toward the production of her second album. Gardner noted that “crowd-funding an album is the new record deal,” explaining that it empowers performers and the audience, as they take a stake in the music they like and want to support.
Meanwhile, with Friday’s Lyric Hall concert, Rabbit in the Rye began an ambitious touring schedule that will take the group from New York to Memphis, Tennessee, and many points in between. For Kindred Queer, the concert represented a fundraising kickoff to help finance a debut album.
Progressive folk music has roots in the work of artists who were cause-oriented and who drew from the well of the progressive politics of their day: familiar names like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who created anthems of social justice in the early years; from the 1960s onward, folk-giants like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs, continued to build on the progressive foundation. The term “progressive folk music” can also pertain to a departure from classic strains of folk music as it absorbs and cross-fertilizes with a range of American and international musical genres.
Barbara Shiller of Westville is president of the board of CT Folk, an organization that holds an annual end-of-summer festival in New Haven and “seeks to educate, entertain, and inspire a diverse audience through music and conversation, to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable community.” Interviewed at Lyric Hall, Shiller said she has seen a shifting of the boundaries of folk music: “Folk music used to be a singer-songwriter alone on the stage singing 47 verses of their song, using a three-chord progression.”
Shiller called the progressive folk music scene in Connecticut, of which Kindred Queer is very much a part, healthy and growing. “We are not the only folk organization in Connecticut. There is Branford Folk [Music Society], Sounding Board in Hartford, and there are venues like Voices Cafe in Westport and Green Well Cafe in New Haven.” For Shiller, who hosts intimate house folk music concerts in her Westville home, the ascent of local progressive folk music is not only a personal source of joy, it is also a mission that began when, she too, was a “folkie” singing protest songs during the earlier movement’s mid-20th century heyday.
Of the 54 artists’ audition video submissions for the upcoming CT Folk Festival, the first 12 came from bands, according to Shiller. She credits bands like the English folk-rock group Mumford & Sons, a recent Grammy winner, with having a great influence on today’s folk groups and sound.
Shiller first met Kindred Queer last year when the band’s founders and lead singers took the stage at a Lyric Hall flood-relief fundraiser. Recalling the impact of the performance, Shiller said she was “bowled over” by singers Xavier Serrano and Daniel Eugene and recognized special qualities in the nascent band.
The band’s compelling vocals—its sometimes “discordant harmonies” as Shiller described them—challenge expected folk conventions: “the quality of their harmonies is not something you normally hear. Something this unique-it got my attention.” Poetic and personal, the band’s sound has been heard at local venues like Cafe 9, Cave a Vin, and Hamden’s Outer Space. An audition video the band submitted to CT Folk landed the group a coveted spot on the slate of 14 acts that will appear at the Sept. 7 CT Folk Festival and Green Expo at Edgerton Park.
Serrano, the band’s songwriter, said that for years he tried to sound like Green Day and Queens of the Stone Age lead singers. Then he began to find his own voice while singing in the shower. Daniel Eugene’s vocal style is informed, in part, by some classical training, which includes singing choral music with the Yale Russian Chorus.
Kindred Queer members and regular guest performers are Xavier Serrano: acoustic guitar, lead vocals, Daniel Eugene: Vocal Harmony, Quinn Pirie: percussion, Evan Cook: bass guitar, Adam Matlock: accordion, vocal harmony, and TJ Jackson: banjo and acoustic guitar.
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Loved the ability to listen to the music as I read the article and learned about the growth/change in folk music. Looking forward to the September 7th event
Good review. Glad to hear that there’s a revival of folk music originating from the politically charged music of earlier days when folk music represented the sentiment of the times. And, thanks, David, for notifying us, in advance, of the upcoming Sept 7th Folk Festival.