One of the U.K.’s hottest live-music promotion teams catches fire for three days in Big Sur.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
About five years ago, Mumford & Sons keyboardist Ben Lovett, former Cherbourg bassist Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble started a monthly music showcase called Communion at London’s Notting Hill Arts Club. The concept: a club night for new, like-minded bands and songwriters to get together, share musicians, form different collaborations and nurture rising talent.
“We founded Communion as a way for people to get together and play music without all the hassle of dealing with money-grabbing venue promoters,” Lovett writes on the website. “No matter what the venue size, they’ve always been amazingly intimate occasions.”
Communion quickly grew in popularity and expanded throughout London and Australia. The organization even set up its own record label and started releasing compilations to help promote the musicians involved. And recently, Communion made its way across the Atlantic and launched a division in America. So far, the idea has been welcomed with enthusiasm: Its first U.S. date at San Francisco’s Café Du Nord on Oct. 3 – featuring The Devil Makes Three and Little Wings – sold out quickly. Now another opportunity to experience the magic happens this weekend when it hits Fernwood for Communion in the Redwoods. The event – co-curated by (((folkYEAH!))) Presents – represents the first multi-day, multi-act, multi-stage presentation in the states from the U.K. collective.
The three-day fest – which includes Jackie Greene, Themes, Forrest Day and Lauren Shera – culminates with a special collaborative set on Sunday.
“[The collaborations] are a big part of what Communion is trying to achieve in terms of creating a safe platform for artistic expression,” says Shera, who’s been touring with Matthew and the Atlas and The David Mayfield Parade.
Shera says one way she has been collaborating with other bands is through seamless set transitions: For the final tunes of her set, The David Mayfield Parade joins her on stage before taking over completely. This process repeats with Matthew and the Atlas.
“At the end of the night, we do a fourth set encore with all the bands,” Shera says.
Meanwhile, Matthew and the Atlas, a crossbreed of Iron & Wine and Bon Iver, is one of the British bands that have been involved with Communion since its infancy.
“I think [Communion] is a nice thing to be a part of,” Matthew and the Atlas frontman Matthew Hegarty, told Metromix. “The musicians involved are all great and you tend to salute the other artists you’re working with.”
Nathaniel Rateliff, performing Saturday, is another gem that was pulled early into the Communion scene. The Denver-based musician racked up notoriety last February after Robert Plant was asked to reveal the top five artists in his playlist and he slotted Rateliff at the top. The bearded troubadour’s brand of folk is highlighted by his powerfully distinctive voice, partially inspired by growing up surrounded by gospel.
The 11 acts playing this weekend represent only a fraction of what’s to come from Communion in the U.S.
“We’re incredibly excited to be launching Communion in America, where not only are there literally thousands of excellent musicians that we want to promote, but it’s also a country full of passionate music fans that we want to feel part of the Communion experience,” Lovett says.
COMMUNION IN THE REDWOODS happens 6pm Friday, 4pm Saturday, noon Sunday, Oct. 21-23, at Fernwood, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. Free.