While Marietta gears up for its annual party on the Ohio River Levee this weekend, local band OYO hosted a river party of their own over Labor Day weekend aboard the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. The sold-out show featuring Karl’s Bedtime Hammer, Old Seed, and OYO entertained a live audience throughout their three-hour tour up river. The lively tunes of fiddle and banjo kept folks on their toes until the very last minute, not ceasing until the boat was once again docked on the Muskingum.

“The energy was incredible, everyone seemed very positive!” said Aaron Martin, who plays mandolin, fiddle, and guitar in OYO. “I think folks were just excited and appreciative to be out after missing live music for much of 2020.”

The evening’s set began with Karl’s Bedtime Hammer, an Americana/folk/bluegrass cover band comprised of Tyson Knapp on guitar, Cody Maclver on mandolin, Jim Flanagin on banjo, and “The Great Scotts” – Scott Smith on Cajon and percussion and Scott Ellison on bass and “The Putting Out of Vibes,” officially. The group set the tone for the night with familiar foot-thumping tunes.

Next up was Old Seed, featuring Joe Burdock on fiddle, Zeke Hutchinson on mandolin, and Jeanie Creamer on guitar, sitting in for Matthew McElroy. The trio played tunes likely to have been played on the Ohio River a century ago and shared their love for the songs’ history between sets. A few tunes played were favorites of Hutchinson’s grandfather, Ohio fiddler John W. Hutchinson (the Seed) and his father, banjo player Robert (Zeke) Hutchinson.

OYO then took the stage, kicking up the energy another notch – which, after the quick-paced fiddling of Old Seed, seemed impossible. Born on the banks of the Ohio River, OYO began as a weekly jam session in the Just A Jar print shop in Marietta, Ohio. The band’s name is derived from the Iroquois name for the Ohio: OYO (OH-yo), meaning beautiful river. Influenced by American folk music, bluegrass, old school country and rock & roll, the band’s members include Cole Adair on guitar, Aaron Martin on mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, Michael Bond on keys, accordion and guitar, Bobby Rosenstock on banjo, Drew Tanner on bass, and Joe Ryckebosch on drums.

We’ve found that people who follow us and enjoy what we do are typically a bit more adventurous and looking for an experience.

“Cole and Cody came up with the idea of hosting an event on the Valley Gem over beers at the Harmar,” said Bobby Rosenstock. This was the second year the band hosted a concert on the riverboat and Rosenstock said they hope to make it an annual event.

“The idea of floating down the Ohio River on a sternwheeler listening to fiddles and banjos is a unique opportunity,” said Martin. “We tend to play a lot of original material and more obscure traditional tunes. We’ve found that people who follow us and enjoy what we do are typically a bit more adventurous and looking for an experience. We’re not a cover band and no two shows are going to be the same. You’re not going out to Applebee’s when you come to an OYO show.”

Floating along the Ohio feeling the ‘thump-thump’ of feet stomping and dancing across the top deck was certainly an experience. Fans who frequent OYO’s shows were more than ready to sing, stomp, and clap along with their favorite tunes, which almost always includes “Glory Days” towards the end of the set list. Smiles aplenty, voices growing hoarse, and beers in hand, there were shouts for “one more song!” and then “two more songs!” as the boat pulled up to the dock.

“Cruising down the river on a sternwheeler with our friends singing and dancing along is the ideal setting for our music,” said Rosenstock, whose face sported a wide grin the entire night. “It just doesn’t get much better than that. And we invite other bands so we can hang out and listen to great music, too.”

When we connect as a band hopefully that energy is felt by our audience.

Martin agreed. “With music that connection is everything and it’s what makes live shows so fun and exciting. And really the only way to do that is to be fully present and in the moment. When we connect as a band hopefully that energy is felt by our audience.”

OYO fans are patiently awaiting the release of the band’s debut album. “We’re finishing up mixing and mastering our first album, recorded with Ben Townsend at the controls in an old, abandoned church in Elkins, West Virginia,” said Michael Bond. “I’m thrilled with how it’s turned out and I think folks will love the art that Bobby and Joe have cooked up for it. You’ll see tracks up on Spotify soon, with vinyl and CD appearing in the next few months.”

In the meantime, you can catch OYO at the Marietta Morning Rotary’s Tails and Ales fundraiser on October 2nd at Masonic Park. For $40 a ticket, you can enjoy a whole Maine lobster (or non-seafood options), local brews, and live music from Hopewell and OYO. OYO is also known to pop up at Just A Jar’s shop on Front Street during most First Fridays.