Rockin' The Region

Rockin’ the Region with Appleseed Collective

Courtesy of Dave Hoffenberg


When people ask me what my favorite band is, it’s tough to say because I like so many. When they ask me what my favorite kind of music is, I can’t narrow it down to one but what I can say is that I love remixes and when a band covers someone else and makes that song their own. Whether it’s a bluegrass cover of AC/DC or a punk version of Johnny Cash, I like it because it’s unique and original. For that reason I am really excited to see the Appleseed Collective from Ann Arbor, Mich. There are two chances to see them in one night on Tuesday, May 17: The Wildwood Flower and Sandy’s Books and Bakery, both in Rochester. Enjoy live music in intimate spaces and see the amazing selections and collections of antiques and vintage musical instruments at the Wildwood Flower, on Route 100 just before town. The Baba Yagas kick off that show at 6 p.m. followed by Appleseed Collective. After that performance, just north and a few minutes away at Sandy’s Books and Bakery, also on Route 100 right in town, enjoy the famous food and refreshments while Appleseed Collective plays the speak-easy set starting at 8:45 p.m. It’s going to be a great night of music.

The Appleseed Collective is comprised of Andrew Brown, guitar and vocals; Brandon Smith,  violin, mandolin, and vocals; Vince Russo, washboard/percussion and vocals; and Eric O’Daly, upright bass and vocals. Brown described the band and said, “Imagine a string band that has a washboard player, and we’re not exactly really any type of traditional music, we’re kind of progressive. We’re drawing influences from bluegrass, swing, Dixieland jazz and gypsy jazz and we’re writing contemporary songs. It’s like if Django Reinhardt, Tom Waits and David Grisman all went out to lunch and discussed an Indie band that they were forming. That is sort of our band.”

The band has been together for five years and met while hanging out in Ann Arbor. Brown said, “We put the pieces together from there.” All the guys range in age from 26 to 29. They’re a full-time band and have been on the road for the past couple of years. This tour will see them hit a lot of the Northeast like New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey and Maine.

From the band’s biography: “Appleseed Collective has become a force of nature powered by its local community and developed by a strong sense of do-it-yourself drive. In an age of corporations and climate change, the band’s commitment to buying and selling local, eating from gardens, and being their own boss has led to the kind of success that feels simply organic. Each part of the Collective comes together to form an amalgam of complementary and contrasting elements. The whole band sings in harmony,” which to me is key to a successful band.

Brown lists his influences as a guitar player as [Django] Reinhardt and Tony Rice. As a song writer he is influenced by [Tom] Waits. He said, “I kind of come from a musical family. My dad is a retired Motown session musician and he was playing funk, soul and r&b. We liked to blend in elements of pop, funk and rock to our string band.” They mostly play originals but also will play some old standard swing songs and as Brown said, some “clever contemporary covers in our own style.” That is what piqued my interest, and when asked for an example, he said they do Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Three of the four write their songs.

The band went through some lineup changes recently so the older albums are not exactly what they’re playing these days but they have a new EP titled “Tour Tapes” that’s available now on their website or you can purchase a copy on Tuesday. I definitely recommend going to their website and watching the “Tour Tapes” video preview. It’s fun and they discuss their view on many things. It was while watching that I learned they are “Feeling the Bern” and supporting Bernie Sanders.

I asked Brown what he loves best about playing live and he said, “For me it’s the energy, the connection between the audience and the performer. It’s that special energy that happens in performance. It’s that space that’s sort of in between us and we’re all sort of a part of it—that collective energy. If you leave a really good show where everyone’s into it, you kind of feel high even if you’re not high.” Come join me Tuesday night and get that feeling.

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