The Music at Octoberfest!
Field Note Stenographers Preview the Live Music Line-up
by Jared Wright and Chris Nylund
Macon’s Octoberfest returns for a third year, and this time around, it features the festival’s best music lineup to date. In the midst of a large collection of craft breweries and long tables full of Bavarian cuisine, the MAIN STAGE and the BIER GARDEN STAGE will feature non-stop musical entertainment to help encourage copious amounts of stein raising and oom-pah dancing. For the Full Schedule Click here!
Essential to those activities will be the Atlanta German Polka Band, which will play multiple sets throughout the weekend on the BIER GARDEN STAGE. The band is led by tuba player Laurence Laurentz, who sees the band as a medium to celebrate his German heritage. They’ve been around the world, taking American jazz to Europe and bringing back the beer-hall experience to the good ol’ U.S.A. This weekend, they’ll be bringing it back to Macon for Octoberfest.
Friday night’s MAIN STAGE schedule starts the festival off on the country side of things, with sets by Craig Campbell and Jeff Allen. Texas-born Allen is a singer-songwriter with an ability to balance outlaw attitude and mainstream country polish. He’s written songs with some of the best in the country music hit factory, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to rock ‘n’ roll, listing artists from the Black Crowes to Bob Seger among his many influences. Campbell, who has spent time as a keyboardist in the backing bands of both Tracy Byrd and Luke Bryan, found success of his own with the release of his self-titled debut in 2011 and a sound reminiscent of the glory days of 1990s country made by superstars like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Travis Tritt.
Kicking off Saturday’s festivities on the MAIN STAGE will be Atlanta’s Brother Hawk. The band plays the type of straightforward, blues-and-soul-based rock and roll that makes you swear you’ve heard it somewhere before. Their songs are rooted in a respect of past musicians like the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young, but they certainly aren’t stuck there. Brother Hawk uses those artists as springboards to something more progressive and contemporary a la the Southern-tinged sounds of bands like My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses, writing tight songs that also leave room to jam.
Macon’s own Dalmatian takes the stage next. Rumor has it they have a brand-new EP in the works and we can only hope they be debuting some new material. Any way you shake it, these guys always put on a great show. Their music alternates between strummy folky-ness with sweet harmonies to sugary sweet pop backed with jerky, clean guitars. Sometimes there’s a bitchin’ guitar solo. Sometimes there’s a banjo. Sometimes it’s all that at once. Fun indeed.
Clear Plastic Masks is a band that formed in Brooklyn and now calls Nashville home. The band’s members come from all over the country, making their style a bit ambiguous and their influences hard to pin down, which isn’t at all a bad thing.. They might best be described as exemplars of a new rock and roll scene that’s taking over Country Music, U.S.A. Their latest album, Being There, shifts effortlessly from piano ballads to throwback soul to glam punk. A few members of Clear Plastic Masks also recently collaborated with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard on her Thunderbitch solo project, a product of Nashville’s burgeoning scene.
Empire Strikes Brass, a favorite from the past several years of Bragg Jam, is comprised of members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down. In short, these guys bring the funky jams with the force of the Force in a manner that would inspire Yoda to break dance. If they happen to play “Yub Nub” (the Ewok celebration song from Return of the Jedi) in the style of an oom-pah band, I’m gonna lose my shit.
The MAIN STAGE will be closed down by Athens-based Reptar, who named their band after a dinosaur from Rugrats, because they claim it’s the “second stupidest band name they could think of.” They’ve become notorious around Athens, GA for their live shows, which is no small feat in a scene like that of the Classic City, where bands sprout up like kudzu on a South Georgia highway.
Their influenced by anything from post-punk to highlife and obviously take cues from the herky-jerky loopiness of blog buzz bands like Passion Pit and Animal Collective.
Saturday’s BIER GARDEN STAGE will be occupied by two Macon favorites: Tash & The Boys and Good Night Alive. According to Tash & the Boys, their modus operandi is to combine two distinct styles – Southern Rock and surf rock. Their music is full of guitar hooks and simple melodies a la Kings of Leon and the Strokes. Good Night Alive describes themselves as “indie electronic rock,” and they’re making quick progress on the local and national level after only a few shows. Last year, they were chosen from almost 3,000 artists for inclusion in the top 12 on VH1′s Make A Band Famous.
Sunday’s MAIN STAGE gets going nice and easy with another (acoustic) set from Dalmatian, followed by Charleston’s SUSTO, who plays the type of music well-suited for restless hearts, long nights and those with perpetually itchy feet. Though they may wander, SUSTO’s songs are firmly rooted in the South, and the often-daunting mystique of the region takes the forefront as subject matter. The result is hauntingly beautiful alt-country that tells tales of backwoods gospel, Black Jesus, demons and love – spiritual, secular, doomed or delivering.
Cicada Rhythm takes the stage next. The band is a duo comprised of guitarist Dave Kirslis and bassist Andrea DeMarcus. She’s a Julliard-trained bassist, and he’s a train-hopping fingerpicker. The two were brought together seemingly by fate in Athens, GA, and their distinct backgrounds combine beautifully to create a deceptively simple style rich in harmony and rooted in traditional styles. NPR Music recently described their debut album as “roots music that’s unassuming, expertly played and sung by two clear as glass voices.”
Closing out the musical festivities for the weekend will be another duo, the Sweeplings. How’s this for an origin story? The first time Whitney Dean saw his future bandmate Cami Bradley, he was sitting in his living room watching her on America’s Got Talent, looking for a new musical project fresh off the heels of a run with the Civil Wars. Emails were exchanged, chemistry ensued and the songs started to flow. Eventually, the songwriting partnership grew into a full-time folk pop project. Their strings and piano driven sound seems like the perfect way to wrap up a weekend of music on a relaxing Sunday evening.
So strap on your lederhosen, swill some craft beer and eat some pretzels and sausage, all while enjoying this diverse musical lineup. Octoberfest is quickly becoming one of Macon’s not-to-be-missed events, and this year’s musical entertainment is helping to propel it there.