It’s hard to beat the feeling that overcomes you when you discover a new favorite song or artist. The intimacy of your experience coupled with your desire to tell everyone you know is a powerful force, one that often leads to listening to a song or album on repeat for hours, even days.
Last weekend, hundreds of listeners shared this serendipitous feeling throughout the two-day Undercurrent Winter Festival at the Peoples Bank Theatre. The best part? Every single band or musician they fell in love with was from Ohio or West Virignia.
We hear people say it’s necessary to come from a big city to be taken seriously in the music industry, but we’d like to play a part in letting our neighbors know we have amazing talent right here in our own back yards.
Undercurrent Winter Festival, the second installment after last summer’s debut at Point Park Marketplace, is the brain child of Michelle Waters, founder of Hold The Note. Often cited as being the local music scene’s biggest fan, Michelle wanted to bring awareness to the variety of high quality music in Ohio and West Virginia, empowering local musicians to see even more value in their craft, while inspiring the community to know they hold as much value as major musical meccas. “We hear people say it’s necessary to come from a big city to be taken seriously in the music industry, but we’d like to play a part in letting our neighbors know we have amazing talent right here in our own back yards,” said Michelle. “It all starts with believing in yourself: to build a scene, to build a community, and to build a movement.”
And build it they did. Michelle, along with Drew Tanner at the Peoples Bank Theatre and Vinnie Mele of Roadie Rental, spent months lining up local talent and designing every detail for this special two-day event. The result was a top-quality festival where our own hometown talent took center stage.
“We were blown away by the enthusiasm we saw in the audience,” said Drew Tanner, Marketing Director for the Theatre. “Michelle curated a really impressive lineup of local and regional talent that just built into a nice crescendo as the weekend progressed. And it was fantastic to see so many folks who had never been to Peoples Bank Theatre before.”
Following a brief introduction from Todd Burge, festivities kicked off Friday night with alternative rock band, Hayfield & Crow, who set the bar high from the start with a high-energy set. For many of the bands, last weekend was their first time performing on stage at the Peoples Bank Theatre. “Being on that historic stage was breathtaking,” said Kevin Diehl, drummer for Hayfield & Crow. “The theatre has the best acoustics out of any venue I’ve played, which is a long list.”
Friday’s line-up included ‘dad-rock’ band Cutler Station, the newly formed Corey Shields Trio, female-fronted indie band Hello June, as well as Adam Remnant and William Matheny, each backed by their full band. The energy inside the theatre was just as electric as it was on stage; each act ended with an eruption of applause from a diverse audience ranging from high school students to retirees.
When asked what made her the most happy, Michelle grinned; “Friday night, I got the best, most honest thank-you hug from Jesse Forrest after his last set (he was in two of the bands on Friday night) that made me feel like my goal of helping local talent feel truly appreciated had been achieved in that moment.”
To have our second show be at a music festival in the Peoples Bank Theatre alongside other talented artists was truly amazing.
While most of these bands have performed in the Mid-Ohio Valley in the past, for the Corey Shields Trio, Undercurrent was only their second show. “Michelle approached me late last year about playing a solo acoustic set at Undercurrent,” said Corey Shields. “I told her about the trio, which had no material to show for at the time, and she blindly trusted me. To have our second show be at a music festival in the Peoples Bank Theatre alongside other talented artists was truly amazing. Luckily, we were surrounded by friends who encouraged us and made it more special.”
William Matheny and band finished with a bow just after midnight Friday evening, wrapping up five hours of non-stop music. Saturday kicked off again at 4 p.m., with a whole new line-up featuring nine more acts. “Saturday had this phenomenal arc of intensity that just built and built from the entrancing, ambient sounds of sineqube to the bone-crunching growl of The Worn Flints,” said Drew. “The World is a Beautiful Place was a great peak for the intensity, while sonically taking the edge off, just slightly. It was a sweet place to land for the night. In between, I was really digging the performances by Cassius at Best, Mobile Home, Mooney Tyson, and A Story Told. People started pouring into the pit about midway through the evening, which created this great feedback loop of energy between the audience and the musicians… It really felt like a party.”
The whole band had a dynamic stage presence that made it hard to not want to join what was most likely Peoples Bank Theater’s first mosh pit.
The audience felt it, too. “All of the musicians seemed excited to be playing in such a beautiful theater and part of an event that was highlighting all of the great music coming out of the region. I enjoyed seeing the musicians hanging around after their sets, usually up front dancing along to the next band up,” said Bobby Rosenstock, local artist and part of the burgeoning local music scene. “I arrived Saturday just in time to check out Mobile Home, really enjoyed their sound which was a mashup of grunge rock and country that they refer to as ‘Bible Belt devil music.'” Bobby continued, “The next act I was looking forward to was Mooney Tyson, a garage/punk rock band from Athens that had broken up a few years ago and got back together for this show. Their songs were full of energy with really fun and witty lyrics. The whole band, especially their lead singer Judd, had a dynamic stage presence that made it hard to not want to join what was most likely Peoples Bank Theater’s first mosh pit.”
Undercurrent was the first time the Theatre had attempted to host a multi-day music event, but supporting local artists has always been a part of their mission. “Even long before the theatre reopened in 2016, it has been a stated part of our mission and vision to serve the Mid-Ohio Valley and Southeast Ohio as a community stage for a broad range of high quality local and regional artists,” explained Drew. “In the past two years, we’ve worked very hard to showcase local and regional musicians alongside national touring acts, having artists such as Micah Kesselring, Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy, John Walsh, Sadie Johnson, and Rachel Eddy open for the likes of Robert Cray, Travis Tritt, Dennis DeYoung, Delbert McClinton, and Ricky Skaggs, respectively. Working with Michelle on Undercurrent was really a fantastic opportunity to let the local artists have top billing.”
I hope those who came grew even more proud to belong here, that they saw what kinds of music comes from here and got an even better understanding of how diverse and wildly talented our region really is.
The Theatre is also preparing to open a new space, The Stage Door, just two doors down. Renovations are under way in the former home of Peoples News, where local musicians will have the opportunity to perform in an intimate space during receptions and parties that will take place before and after some of the Theatre’s Spotlight Series performances and other events.
At the end of the day, all agree that the Mid-Ohio Valley is lucky; lucky to have a venue like the Peoples Bank Theatre, lucky to have champions like Michelle, Drew, and Vinnie putting on events like Undercurrent, and lucky to have a such a talented and diverse music scene in our own backyard.
“I hope those who came grew even more proud to belong here, that they saw what kinds of music comes from here and got an even better understanding of how diverse and wildly talented our region really is,” said Michelle. “I hope everyone left feeling some level of happy surprise in just how much talent is here and have at least one new favorite band that they can go support as often as possible, because they play locally. I hope that this kind of event helps boost our community pride.”
With excitement already building at the thought of another Undercurrent event in 2018, we think it’s safe to say Michelle’s hopes came true. The future is bright for the local music scene, and growing brighter every day. Bands who performed together for the first time at Undercurrent have already scheduled joint shows in coming months. Out of town bands know about the Mid-Ohio Valley, and they want to join in on the fun. “It’s incredible how much high-quality talent we have around here, and some great venues to host ’em,” said Corey.
So stay tuned, and continue to support the amazing network of local music we are fortunate to be able to claim as our own.
If you missed out on Undercurrent, you can listen to a playlist of some of our favorite songs – and follow the links in the article above to learn more about all of the bands!