Bonnaroo Preview: Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee is quickly gaining fame for his social involvement as well as his sophisticated music. The 24-year-old cellist and vocalist is perhaps best known for his work in the Sparrow Quartet with Bela Fleck, Casey Driessen, and Abigail Washburn. But this summer he’s coming firmly into his own, musically and socially. Once again, Bonnaroo will serve as a catalyst for unique happenings around one of its artists.

Ben SolleeStarting June 4th, Sollee will ride a bicycle to Bonnaroo from Frankfort, Kentucky, stopping each night to perform in seldom-seen towns like McMinnville, Tennessee and Berea, Kentucky. All the while, he’ll be hauling 60 pounds of equipment – including his 1930’s cello – from gig to gig, ultimately arriving at Bonnaroo on June 11th. Oxfam America, an organization that works to find lasting solutions for poverty and injustice, will be on board with Ben for the trek, their logo and website displayed on his cello case in hopes of raising awareness for their cause.

Audiences will be treated to his highly personable music, which frames the classical sound of the cello in a wide variety of blues, jazz, folk, and pop idioms. The most arresting element of his music, however, is his voice, which is at once comforting and vehement and adds an accessible touch to his wholly unique sound.

Once on the farm in Manchester, Sollee will be a busy man for four days. On Thursday, he’s participating in a Rock the Earth Q & A at the Bonnaroo Cinema centered around one of his prime environmental concerns, mountaintop removal. Friday, he’ll perform at the tweener-oriented Cafe Where between nearby main stage sets from Galactic and Al Green. On Saturday, he’ll give an interview and perform at the environmentally-focused Solar Stage, and he’ll top it off by opening up the Sonic Stage on Sunday at noon.

The man will be everywhere, so there’s no excuse not to at least catch a glimpse of this rising star who lives and breathes for change and positivity. One listen to his music, and you’ll be hooked on his unique fusion of classical instrumentation, American genre-hopping and soulful, message-laden songwriting.

Bike Tour Dates:

June 4, 2009 – KY Coffeetree Cafe, 235 W Broadway St., Frankfort, KY
June 5, 2009 – Danville Community Arts Center, 401 W Main St., Danville, KY
June 6, 2009 – Berea Coffee and Tea, 124 Main St., Berea, KY
June 7, 2009 – Carnegie Arts Center, 107 N Main St., Somerset, KY
June 8, 2009 – Clinton County Library, 302 King Dr., Albany, KY
June 9, 2009 – Backdoor Playhouse at TN Tech, 805 Quadrangle, Cookeville, TN
June 10, 2009 – Capalano’s, 117 E Main St., McMinnville, TN
June 11, 2009 – Bonnaroo Music Festival, Manchester, TN

Links to learn about Ben Sollee:
Official Site
Oxfam America Blog about the bike tour

UPDATE! Video diary and blog about the bike tour!

Ben Sollee bike tour day 1 – Lexington to Frankfort from marty benson on Vimeo.

“It’s Not Impossible” live video


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