Nothing is more certain than change. Oh, and that people who see Vermont’s Grace Potter and The Nocturnals (GPN) in concert don’t soon forget the occasion. Potter is a firecracker of sensual and playful energy, and a righteous vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. She leaves her mark on everyone who catches her in the act, and that act is informed by influences from Tina Turner to Neil Young.
The band is one of many that will perform at Bonnaroo 2009 in the midst of exciting times and recent changes. In March, they lost an original member in bassist Bryan Dondero, but gained two more members in May, picking up some unique new musical elements in the process.
Catherine Popper, who has backed Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams, has joined the group on bass. Also joining the band is guitarist Benny Yurco. Yurco is already part of the band’s family, having formed the experimental rock project Blues and Lasers with the Nocturnals’ main guitarist, Scott Tournet.
Any time a band changes members, the fan base ripples with reaction. But these changes have altered more than just the lineup fans see onstage. In April, the band hit the studio as a three-piece and began work on their next album with producer T-Bone Burnett. Burnett, who has become one of the most recognizable producers in the world, brought in monster players like guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Dennis Crouch to fill out the album’s sonic spaces.
Now, on May 28, the band begins its first tour with the new lineup, and Bonnaroo serves as the centerpiece for their new beginning. They’ll play all summer, stopping at Gathering of the Vibes, Floydfest, Celebrate Brooklyn, and Wanee, but the 27-show tour is built around a 3-day stay at Bonnaroo.
A very flattering afternoon spot at This Tent on Friday precedes two more shows that complete one of the most fully realized Bonnaroo experiences that a band can have. One will be a 30-minute Saturday set on the Sonic Stage. Located in the heart of the festival, the Sonic Stage’s rapid-fire showcase format often produces intimate, one-of-a-kind shows, and Potter’s personality will challenge the tiny stage’s capacity for sass. The band will probably sign some CDs afterward as well.
On Sunday, the band will participate in the festival’s Planet Roo experience, which focuses on environmentalism and sustainability. They’ll give an interview and performance on the Solar Stage, the oft-ignored venue that will be a much hotter spot this year with GPN, Brett Dennen, Del McCoury, Ben Sollee, and more making appearances.
The original GPN lineup amassed a devoted following based on their soulful, raw music and joyful stage presence. The Summer of 2009 – and more specifically, Bonnaroo – will usher in a new era for the band, and their story will be one of the most interesting to watch in a year full of engaging musical news.
Links to learn about GPN:
Live Video of “Apologies”