Sometimes you just need to take matters into your own hands, roll up your sleeves, and make the magic happen by sheer will.
Such is the case with the inaugural Hartbeat Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. Though it’s not uncommon for local musicians to work behind the scenes to make events like this happen, Hartbeat is one of the few large-scale music events in the state solely curated and produced by some of the same musicians who will be taking the stage that afternoon.
The masterminds behind this whole shindig – Tony Koos, Earl Henrichon, Ben Paden, and Jeremy Haddad – have been turning the Hartford music scene on its ear for the last couple years as the Professors of Sweet Sweet Music. Now they get a chance to bring their music and scene to a larger audience.
Few bands have exploded onto the Hartford music scene the way the POSSM has over the last few years. The band’s brand of pop and folk-infused rock can be downright infectious at times. Last October, they played the Hartford Marathon and the Glastonbury Apple Harvest Festival on the same day. What to do for an encore? Start your own festival, of course.
“We are big fans of our local music scene, and so when we were tasked with setting up a stage of what we believed would be a great day of local music it quickly turned into two stages, and then three,” says POSSM front man Earl Henrichon. “To Riverfront's credit, they have been game and rolled with a lot of the crazy ideas we kept coming up with. I'm pretty sure they had no idea what they were signing up for when the agreed to work with us.”
What they signed up for, according to Henrichon, is a much larger version of the POSSM’s monthly First Thursday shows at Republic at The Linden.
“This monthly event has turned into a space where many bands and musicians have joined us for a great night of fun and music,” adds Henrichon. “First Thursdays have their own energy with a great collaborative, positive vibe, which is for us, the whole point of playing music.”
The Hartbeat Music Festival features 18 Connecticut acts (including POSSM) over multiple stages, as well as local food, craft beer, and hands-on music activities. The event runs from noon to 9 p.m. and admission is free. We’ve pulled together a sampling of the sounds you’ll be taking in.
Among The Acres
One of the acts creating a big buzz in the Hartford-area, Among the Acres plays an emotive and highly textured brand of indie folk. Mixing soaring harmonies and a twang edge with indie pop aesthetics, these guys are reminiscent of a less symphonic Fleet Foxes.
If you’re looking for something a little sultry and atmospheric, then Audio Jane may have exactly the fix you need. With a sound that feels like a first date between Mazzy Star and Franz Ferdinand, Audio Jane meticulously wisp their way through the more eclectic branches of the rock tree.
Hartford rapper Born(ie), (formerly known as BornWhy), might be the only performer on this festival to be able claim more fans in Europe than his home state. That may change with his most recent full-length album having dropped in April of this year. “Out Yonder” chronicles both his physical journeys overseas, as well as his journey through the world of independent hip-hop.
A fairly new act on the Hartford music scene, Capitol Blondes is a ukulele and piano/synth-fronted band creating a hybrid of sounds as interesting as you’d expect from such an unlikely musical pairing. And, yes, members Megan Koos and Heather McLarney are both blondes.
The gypsy reggae duo of HannaH and Chef Bliss enlisted the help of their Bob Marley Tribute band, High Tide, to help them record their debut full-length album, 2017’s Revolutionary Soldiers. Mixing reggae, roots rock, and traditional rock n’ roll, HannaH’s Field creates a rollicking, uplifting sound sure to get you up and moving.
One of the most popular and prolific hip-hop artists who has called Hartford home, Joey Batts is a high school teacher by day, and “Da Gawd” by night. Batts has been keeping himself busy with a myriad of projects including fronting the superb hip-hop collective, UZOO, and diving headfirst into the worlds of film and visual arts. It would not be unprecedented if Batts shows up with spray paint and blank canvases, creating works of art while he raps about it.
Former State Troubadour Kate Callahan creates messages of positivity, optimism and self-worth wrapped in pop-infused folk songs. The highly decorated songwriter doubles as a motivational speaker and is releasing both her newest full-length album, “Triumph,” as well as an album of spoken word affirmations, “Triumphant You.”
This Simsbury native has become something of an internet celebrity. The video for her 2016 single “Hope” has logged more than 1.6 million views alone on YouTube. While her musical output only consists of a handful of singles, Heller is really just cracking the egg on a promising musical career. Fans of sugary-sweet pop music filled with positive messaging should give Heller a listen.
Now For Ages
Vocalist/pianist Katie Donnelly and drummer/guitarist Erik Lindblad (who also plays drums/percussion in Among the Acres) make up the songwriting duo Now For Ages. A blatant pop act, Now For Ages isn’t hiding their love of catchy hooks and sing-a-long choruses behind any other genres. As they describe it, this is just two kids telling you their dreams.
One of the more unique and soulful acts on the statewide Connecticut scene is the aptly named Phat A$stronaut. Mixing modern hip-hop and R&B influences with a distinct flair for psychedelic ’70s soul and funk, Phat A$tronaut creates music that’s not only danceable but wholly memorable as well. This experimental, New Haven-based six-piece released “The Fifth Dimension,” its exceptional debut album back in April.
One Time Weekend
If you’re taking bets on who is going to deliver the most raucous set at Hartbeat this year, you may want to lay some scratch down on this Collinsville-based four piece. While its sound may have roots stretching all over the sonic map – from reggae to jazz, funk, and rock – One Time Weekend is not afraid to bust out of the mold and allow its songs to take long, jam-filled walks. The band’s namesake song alone is a nine-minute opus that lets loose in all the right places.
Restless Mountain Bluegrass Band
When you’ve got Bluegrass right in your name you better be delivering the twangy goods. Offering an array of country and bluegrass classics, this Hartford-based four-piece does not disappoint. Restless Mountain Bluegrass Band has been kicking around the local scene for quite awhile before retooling its line-up and set list in 2017. It’s sure to make for a toe-tapping, knee-slapping good time.
While carrying as many as nine members at a time, this long-running Connecticut act has a big sound that sounds even bigger live. Its all-original set welds together various blues, rock, and funk influences. The band’s personal interests on its Facebook page list spreading hope and community. Sounds like they’re coming to the right festival.
What happens when three scene vets come together to make music with a slight sneer and tongue firmly planted in cheek? You get some Super Scenics. With influences dotting the punk rock map, this power trio has jagged edges that are smoothed over by indie and new wave aesthetics.
One of the hottest names in Connecticut hip-hop is Hartford’s Tang Sauce. It’s been a nice run over the last few years with a full-length album that has garnered critical acclaim, and various recent awards for his rapping and songwriting prowess. August sees the release of his follow-up EP, “Seniority,” and a sold-out, two-show run of his one-man musical at Hartford’s Carriage House Theater.