It's always a treat when any band worth seeing comes to my small town in rural Virginia and even more of a rare treat when they are an up-and-coming Jam Band like, Fletcher’s Grove. I have been watching Fletcher’s Grove for about a year now and as many of you may know, I have been trying to see all the newest up-and-coming Jam acts out there in the scene today. This past year, I have seen almost every one of them from Twiddle to The Marcus King Band. I am excited to check Fletcher's Grove off of this list and even happier that this review will be a positive one.
Coincidentally, my little brothers band, Too Indecent was scheduled to open for Fletcher's Grove at the Golden Pony, a local staple in the Harrisonburg, Virginia musical community, small though it may be. Killing two birds with one stone, I headed into town to review both performances. Too Indecent is a unique blend of Hip-Hop and Ska but lately the band has been taking a new direction; trying out new songs and tactics to keep their sound innovative and fresh. They played the usual songs from their freshman album and added some Eminem/Dr. Dre in for good measure. I am not a fan of rap music or of that culture in general; I just don't understand it and cannot relate although, at this point, even some of our parents have grown up with Dr. Dre and NWA so, I guess this has become normal and a part of the American zeitgeist. One of the bands newest songs, “Star Power” was by far the coolest song Too Indecent played during their set and it showed a lot of potential; incorporating music from The Mario Brothers video game specifically, the music that plays when Mario consumes the star energy and becomes immortal for a short time. Overall, I was impressed with Too Indecent’s set and this is coming from an older brother, who happens to be a Music Critic and isn’t afraid to voice his opinion. With some practice and a lot of hard work, Too Indecent could mold themselves into a serious force to be reckoned with. Playing as many gigs as they can and finding their niche within the music industry should be their top priority at this point in their careers.
Fletcher's Grove hails from Morgantown, West Virginia and have been playing together for over 10 years. Their Appalachian roots are inherent even from within the first songs they begin to play. I was immediately drawn to the persona of the lead singer Ryan Krofcheck, whose unique smile is inviting and friendly. Percussionist/vocalist, Matt Marion puts his heart and soul into those congas and the guitar work from lead guitarist Wesley Hager, shows a phenomenal skill level. He cannot only the play the guitar with expertise but the flute, as well. The musical prowess of this band allows them to stay fluid and the members to work together harmoniously. Fletcher’s Grove have played countless music festivals like: Allgood Music Festival, Hookaville Music Festival and Camp Barefoot. I can see them really getting down at a festival performance and they would be a great act for many of the Jam festivals I attend every summer.
From the first song to the last, Fletcher's Grove keeps a steady groove covering classic Jam inspired songs and their own original tunes. One thing I really like about Fletcher's Grove is there honesty and willingness to call themselves a Jam Band and how that traditional aesthetic of improvisation overlays their entire performance. I could immediately hear influence from bands like moe., The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead and many of the heavy hitters in the Jam community. Fletcher’s Grove went on to cover everything from Dr. Hook to Colonel Bruce Hampton's “Fixin’ To Die.”
The tradition of improvisation is heavily embedded into Appalachian Folk and Bluegrass music. Without influences from these early music hierarchy’s, bands like The Grateful Dead and many of the 1960s counterculture musicians, would take the improvisational tactics and techniques of this musical quality and apply it to their own original psychedelic sound. Fletcher's Grove keeps the Jam tradition alive and adds their own Appalachian flare into the mix.
I talked with the band after show and they graciously discuss their influences, improvisational music, up-and-coming Jam Bands and of course Frank Zappa. (I always have to discuss my love for Frank Zappa with my fellow Jam enthusiasts.) I am not only impressed with Fletcher's Grove’s musical ability but their musical knowledge and as Ryan Kofcheck said to me, “each one of us brings our own musical tastes and perspective.” After seeing this band for the first time, I am already certain that they will only get bigger and amass a larger following with time. Keep the tradition alive, continue working improvisation into each performance and be willing to take chances; don't be afraid to take a darker approach to songwriting and be willing to fail at all cost, if necessary. I was given a copy of their recent self-titled album and I look forward to reviewing it.
See you on the road,
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.