After a fun few days in Nashville we flew to Burlington, VT, to rendezvous with our tour manager Scott, our van, and our own gear to play at the Grand Point North festival. It took a layover in Washington D.C., some remarkably cramped planes, and a lot of inter-band texts of angry toddler photos (don’t ask), but we made it.
When we walked out of the airport we saw that Scott and Sierra (a girl, not our omnipresent favorite beer) were there with signs to greet us. Also in tow were our good friends Mike and Denise Zolg, a charm-oozing, music-loving couple who decided to join us for the first week or so of our tour. Mike is tall, bearded and smiley, a true Grambler, and Denise is a fiery and lovey beach-chick Holly Hunter with perma-giggles. Between these two and our buddy Jimmy from Austin (also joining us for this leg of the tour) we felt like we had the world’s best-natured entourage.
In the morning we drove through the storybook cobblestone streets and ivy-covered brick buildings of Burlington to Lake Champlain for Grand Point North. The festival is in its second year and is put together by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (who headline both nights) and features a variety bands from the well-known (this year that included the Avett Bros., Dr. Dog) to the lesser-known like Waylon Speed and, well, us, all picked by Grace and the boys. It’s a very charming natural setting and the crew they’ve assembled was second to none. We knew right away this was going to be a fun night.
Our set was a blast and a great foot to sart this tour on. The band was having lots of fun, the sound crew was dialed, and there were beautiful natural light arrays shifting across the lake as the sun went down. While we noticed (and GREATLY appreciated) people familiar with our tunes, we were unknown to most of this large East Coast crowd, and they were incredibly welcoming to us anyway. In fact “welcoming” might be the word that best describes the whole GPN experience. Emblematic of that spirit was Grace watching from the sideline, rocking out and cheering us on, something she made a point to do during every band’s set. Very classy. I was reminded of when I met her briefly years ago at High Sierra when I was just some random fan who liked her set and yet she was so friendly as we bullshitted over a few beers. It’s refreshing to see she’s the same cool chick after all these years and the huge success she and the Nocturnals have been having.
As nice as they all were, they called in to question whose side they are on by giving The Gramblers a jar of potent peach moonshine. This stuff is no joke: Two sniffs will make you drunk. Two sips will make you blind. Two shots will have you throwing Buicks. What followed is a little blurry but it involved listening to butt rock songs on Spotify, betting heavily on young children playing bean-bag toss, Seth and Scott Avett trying to steal Mike Zolg because of his Jim Henson qualities, and hiding the moonshine for everyone’s own good. (We’ve still got it…stay tuned.)
The Grace/Nocturnals set was great. They showed off song after song of catchy hooks, tight musicianship and stagecraft. Grace was a tornado onstage, much different stylistically than when I first saw her all those years ago, but still as spirited and passionate. They did some fun covers like ZZ Top’s “Tush” with Page McConnell of Phish and invited all the festival musicians out to sing the encore “All You Need is Love”. The music continued after the festival at the Higher Ground club where the Bluhms and Dave joined Grace onstage with Galactic for a couple songs.
T the end of the night Grace gave a heartfelt thanks to to the crowd and the musicians for making the whole event so fun. I think every person there was thinking the same thing of her.
The next morning, with the early morning sunshine having adverse affects on the late night moonshine, we crawled in to the van for the true start of our two month gramble back to San Francisco.
NEXT UP Catholic radio, Fox News, and Prince: The Gramblers hit NYC