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LIVE MUSIC

Jason Spooner Band

 

Jason Spooner Band Bio

Portland, Maine based songwriter, guitarist and producer Jason Spooner has been a visible and respected presence on the northeastern and national live music circuits for close to two decades. As the bandleader of The Jason Spooner Band (Dan Boyden - Drums, Stu Mahan - Bass, and Dawson Hill - Keyboards), Spooner has expanded his musical horizons significantly over the course of five studio releases. The quartet stands out with an interesting signature sound that appeals to a wide range of audiences... seamlessly blending a variety of musical influences into a cohesive, energetic and listenable experience. Roots Rock, Americana, blues, folk and groove-oriented jazz with undercurrents of reggae and soul are all accounted for here and supported by audibly strong musicianship, interesting arrangements and well-crafted, intelligent writing.

The recipe has certainly served the band well; over the last decade and a half this dynamic band has performed with acts as varied as B.B. King, John Mayer, Jackson Browne, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ray LaMontagne, Susan Tedeschi, Brett Dennen, Allen Stone, Everlast, Jackie Greene, G. Love, Guster, Blues Traveler, Peter Rowan and Sara Bareilles. The band has performed at Targhee Fest in Jackson Hole, WY - The Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, CT - FloydFest in Floyd, Va - The Festival at Sandpoint - Sandpoint, ID - The Naukabout Festival on Cape Cod, the River City Roots Festival in Missoula, MT - The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, CO and have been perennial favorites at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT.

In addition to glowing recent press in Guitar World Magazine, No Depression, High Times Magazine, Wood & Steel Magazine and USA Today, the band was recently named one of Relix Magazine’s coveted “On The Verge - Bands you should know.” The band has won and received numerous nominations for the New England Music Awards including Live Act of the Year (winner) and Song of the Year (nominee).

The spring and summer of 2022 represent an exciting watermark in the band’s evolution as they release their first live record, “Live from Stone Mountain.”

The Weight Band

 

The Weight Band Bio

On their second studio album, Shines Like Gold, The Weight Band looks at our troubled world, ponders the passage of time, and ultimately conveys a sense of hopefulness for the future. “There’s a new dawn rising,” they proclaim on the title track, “and it shines like gold.”

With Shines Like Gold, The Weight Band presents a dynamic set of classic Americana that draws upon roadhouse rock, funky swamp pop, blues, country soul and folk music. Composed of band leader, renowned guitarist Jim Weider (The Band, Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band, Jim Weider Band), keyboardist Brian Mitchell (Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band), bassist Albert Rogers (Jim Weider Band, Jimmy Vivino), drummer Michael Bram (Jason Mraz) and keyboardist Matt Zeiner (Dickey Betts), the veteran quintet shares a deep appreciation and knowledge for this music, which Weider describes as the “Woodstock Sound.” The Weight Band continues to serve as its torchbearer, with Shines Like Gold representing a sublime example of these masterful roots musicians at work.

Featuring nine original songs (co-written by Weider, Colin Linden, Brian Mitchell and Matt Zeiner) plus a cover of a Willie Dixon gem, the album kicks off with “Weight of the World,” a robust roots rocker that powerfully delivers a hopeful message for the times ahead. Mitchell’s accordion gives a New Orleans touch to “Long Journey,” a poignant song about persevering after losing a loved one. The standout lead single “Shines Like Gold” (Jim Weider & Colin Linden) offers an exuberant slice of Americana with its reassuring “keep the faith” lyrics driven home by Bram and Rogers’ powerful, galloping rhythm line and Weider’s muscular Telecaster playing. Closing out the album is its sole cover, with strong vocals by Bram, Mitchell and Zeiner, a bluesy, jazz-tinged rendition of Willie Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense (If You Can’t Make Peace),” which still remains amazingly relevant.

The Weight Band’s musical kinship is evident throughout the album, giving it a more cohesive and funkier sound than the group’s debut. The addition of Zeiner also contributed to the new album’s sound. He forms a potent keyboard/organ tandem with Mitchell (“Tear Down These Walls” and the poignant “Old John”) and provides the band with an additional strong vocalist. Tracks like “Out of the Wilderness” and “Tall Trees” particularly showcase his terrific harmonizing with Rogers and Bram.

A testament to the group’s musical affinity, The Weight Band recorded Shine Like Gold’s ten songs live at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, NY, over four days – with minimal rehearsal during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Producer Colin Linden, an award-winning musician and Weider’s longtime collaborator and co-writer on several of the album tracks, was in Nashville. The arrangement, however, worked out perfectly, according to Weider. “He was really thorough with the vocals. He came up with a great arrangement in the middle of ‘Tall Trees’ with his acoustic guitar and my slide underneath. He had a big hand and footprint on this record. Weider added, “We go back, so there is a comfortableness
working with him.”

The Weight Band’s origins are tied to Woodstock and some of its most famous inhabitants, The Band. Weider, a Woodstock native, served as The Band’s lead guitarist from 1985-2000, following Robbie Robertson’s departure. In the late 00s, he replaced Jimmy Vivino in the Levon Helm Band, which already included Mitchell. The connections extend further, as Rogers shared the stage with Helm and Hudson while in The Jim Weider Band and Bram drummed in the Chris O’Leary Band, an off-shoot of Helm’s band The Barnburners.

In 2017, The Weight Band performed on the PBS series Infinity Hall Live. The following year, their selfproduced debut, World Gone Mad, was released to strong reviews. Billboard called it “excellent” while Goldmine Magazine hailed World Gone Mad as one of the year’s best indie albums. Most recently, the Weight Band put out Acoustic Live in 2021. This 11-track album features five songs recorded at the Big Pink on October 25, 2019, and six songs recorded the following night in Levon Helm’s barn/studio. Performances include memorable versions of “World Gone Mad,” Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” Jerry Garcia’s “Deal,” and several Band covers.

Following Helm’s death in 2012, Weider performed a few “Songs of The Band” concerts, which included Vivino, Byron Isaacs, Randy Ciarlante and Garth Hudson. The shows were so well received that Weider started the first version of The Weight Band with Ciarlante, Isaacs, Mitchell, and keyboardist Marty Grebb. Over the next several years, the group shifted from playing mainly Band songs to their originals. Along the way, band membership shifted too. When Isaacs left for the Lumineers, Rogers came aboard. Bram joined the group after Ciarlante’s departure. Following World Gone Mad’s release, Grebb bowed out and Zeiner stepped in.

While The Band along with Dylan played a large role in making Woodstock a launching point for what is now called Americana, native son Weider points out the town also had a diverse music scene in the 70s. It was home to performers like blues harp man Paul Butterfield, jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, traditional folkies Happy and Artie Traum, New Orleans-bred singer Bobby Charles and bluegrass troubadour John Herald. This musical melting pot all contributed to the Woodstock Sound.

Ryan Montbleau Band

 

Ryan Montbleau Bio

For as long as he can remember, Ryan Montbleau’s been a seeker. From the jungles of Peru to the volcanoes of Hawaii, from the beaches of Costa Rica to the streets of Brooklyn, from the backseat of a 16-passenger van to backstage at Carnegie Hall, the acclaimed singer/songwriter has spent much of his life crisscrossing the globe on a perpetual search for meaning, purpose, and understanding. It’s a quest that’s guided him both personally and professionally over the years, one that’s come to define not only his music, but his very sense of self. And yet, listening to Montbleau’s ambitious new multi-part album, Wood, Fire, Water, and Air, there is a profound sense of satisfaction in sitting still, a recognition that perhaps all those spiritual treasures he’s been chasing for so long were closer than he thought. 

“My whole adult life has been this journey of trying to figure out where home is,” Montbleau reflects. “I think I’ve finally found it.”

Set to roll out across four distinct EPs, Wood, Fire, Water, and Air marks Montbleau’s first studio release since putting down permanent roots in Burlington, Vermont, where he recently purchased a house after more than two decades of living on the road. While much of the material here was written in fits and starts over the past several years, it’s clear that the desire for stability was very much on Montbleau’s mind even before he settled on the banks of Lake Champlain, and the songs reflect a maturity and self-awareness that can only come from the difficult work of rigorous self-examination. Montbleau is quick to credit therapy for his growth of late, but he sings about more than just himself here, mixing sly humor and deep revelations as he meditates on the ties that bind all of us perfectly imperfect humans together. Taken as a whole, it’s a broad, insightful collection balancing boisterous rock and roll energy with intimate folk introspection, a sprawling, magnetic record all about listening, letting go, and living life.  

“I’ve been through a lot over these past few years,” says Montbleau, “and I’ve experienced some monumental shifts in my perspective. The only way for me to write about it was to just get as honest and vulnerable as I could.” 

Honesty and vulnerability have been hallmarks of Montbleau’s career since the early 2000’s, when he first began performing around his native Massachusetts. In the years to come, he’d go on to collaborate with artists as diverse as Martin Sexton, Trombone Shorty, Tall Heights, and Galactic, and rack up more than 100 million streams on Spotify alone. Along the way, Montbleau would share bills with stars like Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ani DiFranco, The Wood Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Mavis Staples, but it was his ecstatic headline shows—often more than 200 of them a year—that solidified his reputation as a roots rock powerhouse and an inexorable road warrior. NPR’s Mountain Stage compared his “eloquent, soulful songwriting” to Bill Withers and James Taylor, while Relix celebrated his “poetic Americana,” and The Boston Herald raved that “he’s made a career of confident, danceable positivity.” 

That positivity would serve Montbleau well on the long and winding road to Wood, Fire, Water, and Air. Work on the record first began in the summer of 2019 at the gorgeous Guilford Sound studio in southern Vermont, where Montbleau and producer Adam Landry (Deer Tick, Rayland Baxter) laid down basic tracks with a rotating cast of players. At the time, Montbleau had little idea what he was getting himself into.

“I honestly didn’t know what this project was going to be for a very long time,” he explains. “All I knew was that I had a bunch of songs I was really excited about, and that I wanted to take a new approach to recording them.”

For much of his career, Montbleau had worked fast and loose in the studio, capturing music as raw and organically as possible. This time around, though, he found himself craving a bolder, more fully realized sound, and by the time he finished basic tracking in Guilford, it was clear that his work had only just begun. What followed was a yearlong odyssey of adding, subtracting, revising, and reimagining, as Montbleau and mixer/engineer James Bridges fleshed out the sessions with a broad array of instruments, textures, and colors.

“It took a long time for me to get to a place where I could trust myself enough to stretch out like this,” says Montbleau, who experimented with synthesizers and drum machines and added piano and mandolin to his repertoire for the project. “I’d always kind of deferred to other people’s expertise in the studio, but learning to trust my ears and get my hands dirty with the music was a totally empowering experience.” 

As the songs took shape, it became clear to Montbleau that there were discrete themes at work within the larger collection, both sonically and emotionally. Rather than release the entire 15-track record all at once, then, he decided he would unveil the album more deliberately over the course of four separate EPs, each inspired by an element of the natural world. First up: Wood, a rustic, earthy trio of tracks taking stock of just what it means to be human in these bewildering times. Songs like the playful “Perfect” and soulful “Ankles” wrap weighty ruminations inside deceptively lighthearted packages, and the spare, stripped-down arrangements make for an ideal bridge between Montbleau’s earlier work and the more adventurous sounds to come on the album’s second installment, Fire. Infused with an infectious energy and feel-good pop optimism, Fire showcases the rock and roll side of Montbleau’s personality, celebrating the joy and liberation that comes with learning to live in the moment.

“The songs on Fire were a chance for me to just let loose and have fun,” says Montbleau. “They were an opportunity to not overthink things for a change, to trust my gut and follow what felt good.”

The arrival of Water quickly cools things down, though, bringing the music back to Earth with a more sober, meditative quality. Montbleau wrote several of the tracks while doing medicine work in Peru, and the healing, regenerative nature of that trip is obvious on songs like the dreamy “Forgiveness,” which features extensive keyboard contributions from avant-garde icon John Medeski. By the time we reach the album’s final chapter, Air, Montbleau seems to have found peace within himself, coming to terms with the transient, fleeting nature of our existence. “Just know that you are not alone,” he sings on “The Dust,” “and that’s all you get to know now.”

“Even though COVID kind of upended everything with my career, this past year has been a rare chance for me to stay put for a while and focus on what really matters,” says Montbleau, who recently invited his girlfriend and her daughter to move in with him in Burlington. “I feel like I finally have a real family life now, and I’m living on stable ground for the first time.” That doesn’t mean the hunt for purpose and meaning is over. Ryan Montbleau will always be a seeker, and that’s alright. As Wood, Fire, Water, and Air so beautifully demonstrates, sometimes the search is its own reward.

Live Music & Craft Beer

What more could you need on a summer night in Maine?

Snow Pond Center for the Arts is home to one of Maine's largest outdoor amphitheaters and we are so excited to host the second annual Snow Pond On Tap! event on September 17th, 2022. Tickets on sale now!

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