Again, I am honored to have been granted first rights to reveal the line-up of the Meriden Daffodil Festival. The event is a full-blown springtime community festival, with carnival rides and kids’ activities and pageants and a parade and artisans’ booths and a vast food tent. It also happens to be the biggest gathering of local bands in the state.
Rob DeRosa, who books the acts, knows that this is a special opportunity, for up-and-coming acts as well as for established ones, to play for real audiences (not just friends and family) for real money (not just “the door”) in a beautiful environment. (No offense to Café Nine or Arch Street or other indoor joints that nobly support the local music scene, but you don’t have a pond and tens of thousands of blooming daffodils on the premises).
Rob DeRosa suggests that the talking points this year are:
- This is the first time that over half the bands booked are making their Daffodil debut. Given the hundreds of bands DeRosa’s booked for the fest over the past couple of decades, and how many established bands always itch to play there, it’s a credit to him that he still seeks such variety and novelty in the line-up.
- Nine of the 35 local bands on the bill are hyperlocal, hailing from Meriden. DeRosa suspects that might be a record.
- Numerous winners or nominees from state and regional music awards ceremonies: Jenn Hill was nominated as Best Female Performer in the New England Music Awards. Tracy Walton was a nominee for Best Male Performer in the same NEMA competition.
Returning in glory is Violent Mae, the duo of Becky Kessler and Floyd Kellogg, which did one of their first ever shows under that band name at last year’s Daffodil Festival. The show had been booked as a solo gig for Kessler, who’d been named best Singer-Songwriter in the 2012 Grand Band Slam (aka the Connecticut Music Awards, organized by the Advocate/Weekly chain of papers). Violent Mae, in turn, was named Best New Act in the 2013 GBS/CMA reckoning.
Electronic pop act Fight the Fear won Best Indie Band at the Band Slam/Ct. Music Awards in 2012 and Best Overall Band in 2013.
Which acts will play when, and on which of the three Daffodil Festival stages, will be announced any day now. This is the initial burst of who the bands are. That info and much more will eventuyally be revealed at the fest’s own site, here.
And—cotton candy-stimulated drumroll please—the line-up (in alphabetical order) for the 2014 Meriden Daffodil Festival, to be held April 26 & 27 in Meriden’s glorious Hubbard Park, is….
All Riot. A Meriden band making its Daffodil debut, All Riot is an alt-rock combo consisting of Mitch Guerin, Dan Osto, Nick Allen and Christian Adamik.
The Backyard Committee. Mike Sembo’s Americana collective, playing just before kindred spirit Mark Mulcahy on the Welcome Stage.
Big Fat Combo. Tom Hearn’s punk- and roots-infused bar band to end all bar bands takes life’s indignities (the Hale Bop comet suicide cult; getting banned from Sam the Clam’s bar) into rousing rock & roll ditties.
Boxcutter. Accomplished cover band from Meriden.
The Bird’n’boys. Blues-rocky Meriden-based cover band fronted by Ellen Sackman.
Chico & Friends. Longtime Daffodil staple, hailing from Meriden.
Coconuts. A comedy rock outfit with Meriden roots, making its Daffodil debut.
Steve Elci & Friends. First Daffodil appearance of the celebrated children’s entertainer, whose “friends” (according to his catchy video “Zoo”) include a monkey, a panda and a leopard. Special 1 p.m. Sunday concert for kids.
Farewood. Leah Booker & Lou Lorenzo’s illustrious “ethereal rock” quartet made a comeback in 2012 with its well-received album Wings of Gold.
Fight The Fear. Daffodil debut for the popular, multi-award winning Hartford pop act (formerly known as Lakshmi).
The Foresters. The Bethany-based sibling rock trio has been playing out for over three years, and the oldest of them has now entered his teen years. Time for the release of their first full-length album!
The Gonkus Brothers. Another steady Daffodil booking, a covers a act with Meriden roots.
Good Night Blue Moon. The fascinating folk-pop ensemble returns.
Grand Cousin. There’s almost always a band at the festival representing Wesleyan University’s strident music scene. They describe themselves as “A fledgling Buddhist, an Upper-East-Sider-Gone-Rogue, and the sensitive son of a sitcom legend.” (The last-named, Henry Hall, is the oldest child of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.) Their dorm-room video for “Camera” is pretty darn endearing.
Happy Ending. Another long-overdue Daffodil Festival debut, Happy Ending is the longtime pop/psychedelic/psychological/political music project of Hank Hoffman (the Wesleyan grad also known for his Connecticut Art Scene blog and for booking the music shows at Best Video in Hamden).
Jennifer Hill & Co. Hartt School of Music grad Hill does “pop with a definite alternative, blues, rock and cabaret influence.”
Kelley & Sean. Return of the Meriden-based Irish music duo.
Lys Guillorn and Her Band. The wondrous singer-songwriter—who plays with Grimm Generation and concocts cool concept shows like “All I’ve Got is a Photograph” when not doing her dazzling solo-act thing—released her second album, Winged Victory, late last year.
Amy Lynn & The Gun Show. A big-deal “Memphis-Motown soul/rock style” septet featuring Meriden-raised Any Lynn Zanetto on vocals, The Gun tours throughout New England, just released a new video for their original tune “Don’t Trip on the Glitter” and is also promoting a cover of the Shangri-La’s “Remember (Walking in the Sand).” The band’s first full-length album will be out around the time of their Daffodil show.
The Manchurians. Longtime Daffodil Fest faves, led by Roger C. Reale (who’s written songs for B.B. King and Edgar Winter, and worked with Mick Ronson). Their sound, reminiscent of British R&B/rock bands of the ‘60s, always sounds spectacular amid the lights and motion of the carnival rides near the big bandstand stage.
Mark Mulcahy. The former leader of one of Connecticut’s most important bands, Miracle Legion began a successful solo career in the mid-1990s. A family tragedy caused a years-long hiatus broken last year with a Daffodil comeback followed by shows at major rock festivals here and abroad. A new album, Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, came out last fall. You can hear an NPR Fresh Air interview with Mulcahy here.
Mercy Choir. Paul Belbusti’s prolific band makes its Daffodil debut. The New Haven-based multi-instrumentalist songwriter has released a slew of recordings in the past year. The four-song EP PPIANO came out just last week (digitally and on audiocassette, preceded in November by His Noiseless Ball, His Boxwood Rattle.
The Mighty Soul Drivers. A relatively new R&B/Memphis Soul act on the scene, one which is made up of numerous bar band veterans and one which made the finals of the CT Blue Society’s 2012 Blues Challenge on their very first time playing out. The Mighty Soul Drivers have a couple of members in common with River City Slim & The Zydeco Hogs, who are also playing the Daffodil Festival this year.
The Mighty Sparrows. One of the many bird-named schemes of longtime music scene fixture James Velvet (co-host of WPLR’s Local Bands show). These bands and shows vary based on size, volume, venue, line-up and acousticity. The Sparrows (aka The Lonesome Sparrows and The Acoustic Sparrows) consist of Velvet (who sings, plays guitar and writes songs), guitarist/violinist Johnny Memphis, drummer Johnny Java and mandolinist/dobroist/banjoist DickNeal.
Oh, Cassius. The gamechanging duo of established solo artists Meredith DiMenna and John Torres. They won “Best Other” at the 2013 Connecticut Music Awards.
The Paul Brockett Roadshow Band. Not for nothing do these guys’ name and logo mimic “Pabst Blue Ribbon.” Based in New London, this is a downhome rootsy country rock act you’ve be privileged to run across in a roadhouse.
Pocket Vinyl. Daffodil debut for this compelling pianist/painter duo. While Eric Stevenson plays and sings, Elizabeth Jancewicz creates an original artwork onstage. The couple (who are married, and have released three albums) auctions off Elizabeth’s fresh painting at the end of each show.
River City Slim & The Zydeco Hogs. Making a return to the Daffodil, with River City Slim and Andy Karlok pulling double duty at the festival this year as members of Mighty Soul Drivers.
691. The Meriden-based cover band (specializing in Motown) returns.
Greg Sherrod. Is it possible that this local R&B vocalist legend and Café Nine “blues boot camp” leader has never played the Daffodil Festival?
The Stray Dogs. This aggregation of The Meadows Brothers (Ian and Dustin), Eric Lichter and James Maple has backed singer Kerri Powers and have a long list of band credits amongst them. Not quite as stray as they once were, they make their Daffodil debut.
The Summer Edeen Band. This young singer-songwriter and Lyman Hall school field hockey star won a talent competition at the Durham Fair, been championed by Meriden-based songwriter Gary Burr and recorded in Nashville. With a band behind her, Edeen makes her Daffodil debut.
Them Damn Hamiltons. There’s only one Hamilton in the eerie, soft/loud/subtle/slamming ensemble Them Damn Hamiltons: guitarist/mandolin and banjo player Dan Hamilton. Four bandmates—Jeff Chen, Futoma, Mik Walker and lead vocalist Parker Hu—provide a wide range of “dark folk” sounds, including acoustic cello and electric bass. Daffodil debut.
Tracy Walton. Yet another Daffodil debut, of New England Music Awards nominee Walton, who began in music as a bassist in punk bands and eventually found jazz calling to him. Later he fronted the rock act Black Lab Project. Walton’s put out two solo albums in the past three years.
Violent Mae. Becky Kessler and Floyd Kellogg developed their singular duo sound during downtime when on tour with producer/musician Kellogg’s band I Scream You Scream, and especially when Kellogg produced what was intended to be a solo album for Kessler (who’d led a popular band in North Carolina before moving to Connecticut to work on an organic farm). The supposed solo album became the duo’s debut disk instead. Likewise, Kessler was booked as a solo artist for last year’s Daffodil Festival, but the gig became one of the first official Violent Mae shows instead.