RiverRoots Friday Headliner

Brothers Comatose to wrap
first night of festival on Friday

The band will follow two other talented acts

(May 2016) – At the first note of their southwestern-tinged string band sound, The Brothers Comatose can pump up the audience and hold their attention for hours. With a fan base that ranges from San Diego to Salt Lake City to Silk Hope, N.C., and beyond, this band infuses their unique sound into any show and gets the crowd on their feet in a matter of minutes.
Band members have described their shows as “just one, big extended Morrison music party.” This reference describes brothers Ben (guitar) and Alex (banjo) Morrison, who also perform lead vocals for this rocking string band.
It didn’t take long for this high energy West Coast headliner band to become a national touring act. Additional band members include Gio Benedetti (bass), Philip Brezina (fiddle) and Ryan Avellone (mandolin).

Photo provided

Brothers Comatose features brothers Ben and Alex Morrison, plus Gio Benedetti, Phillip Brezzina and Ryan Avellone.

Despite the fact that the band plays acoustically, the fierce energy it generates has the explosive power of a rock band. Band members jump around, dance in place and often leave the stage to walk through the crowd, serenading the fans with their unique blend of bluegrass and folk the entire time.
“We're all big fans of raucous and rowdy crowds, because they make us play louder and sing harder,” said founding member Ben Morrison. “We've been known to pass out chopsticks to everyone so they can play drums. Inflatable alligators often get tossed into the crowd. The exchange of energy between the crowd and the band is what it's all about.”
The Brothers Comatose are scheduled to perform as the Friday night headlining act on the Main Stage for the 2016 RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival. The festival will run Friday and Saturday, May 20-21. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday and at 11 a.m. Saturday. Two stages will be set up for the 15 bands - the Main Stage and the River Stage. A free “Warm-Up Show” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, on the River Stage featuring Madison’s own Rusty Bladen and Louisville-based Appalatin.
The Brothers Comatose will take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Friday. Festival coordinator Greg Ziesemer described them as “a high energy, five-piece up and coming string band.”
After one RiverRoots festival is over for the year, a music committee immediately begins searching for the following year’s performer lineup. Ziesemer said the Brothers Comatose “were introduced by a committee member.” 
He continued, saying, “They are very good instrumentalists. The thing the crowd will like about them the most is the energy of their stage performance.”
As a way of explaining their beginnings, Morrison has been quoted as saying, “Our mom was in a folk quartet that sang beautiful songs in harmony. Alex and I would watch them rehearse for hours when we were kids.”
Growing up around band rehearsals and music parties rubbed off on the Morrison brothers. Each took up an instrument, Ben his dad’s acoustic guitar and Alex a banjo that someone had left behind after a household music party.
The brothers tested their skills in their living room and around campfires in the beginning, learning classic rock covers. They slowly shifted their genre to Americana, preferring the mix of American folk music with the sounds of country, blues, rhythm and blues and rock and roll.  
When a friend asked them to record a few tunes in his garage, they obliged. The band added a few members to round out their sound, and put up fliers all around the San Francisco area, hoping to attract just the right musicians. It didn’t take long before Benedetti, Brezina and Avellone were added to the lineup.
In 2010 the band released two critically acclaimed records, “Songs from The Stoop” and “Respect the Van.” From the exposure garnered from these releases, they were able to take on extended tours with Devil Makes Three, Yonder Mountain String Band, Lake Street Dive, Justin Townes Earl, Hillstomp, Greensky Bluegrass, John Doe and the Sadies.
In time, they were undertaking their own headlining club tours and making independent music festival appearances. They have performed at High Sierra, Delfest, Outsidelands and Pickathon.
More doors began opening for the band. Performances at such legendary places as San Francisco’s Fillmore Poster Room, the Great American Music Hall and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival allowed them access to a wider audience.
They returned to San Francisco to write and record their third album, “City Painted Gold.” “We wrote this album living in San Francisco as it was changing from a weird, art friendly mecca to a place that only super rich tech workers could afford,” said Ben Morrison.
Things were drastically changing. “Venues were closing down, and artist and musician friends moved away,” he said. But this change only inspired creativity within the band, and they continued to gain new fans.
But why the name for such a high energy acoustic band? “It originates with my brother,” Morrison said. “When he really gets into his banjo playing, his eyes roll up to the back of his head. Somebody said it looks like he’s in a coma, but it has nothing to do with what we do onstage.”
Here’s a rundown on the other bands:

Friday on the Main Stage:

  • 6 p.m.: Darlingside. The four close friends that make up Darlingside are known for their serious, cinematic and deeply moving music. The quartet, who met at Williams College in western Massachusetts, play a blend of ’60s folk, chamber pop, bluegrass, classical music and modern indie rock. Each song the band performs and each set of lyrics “are created by all of us together, a sort of ‘group stream-of consciousness,’” said band member Harris Paseltiner. They sing “in unison, passing the melody around, or harmonizing in four parts through an entire song.”
  • 7:30 p.m.: Lindi Ortega. Ortega hails from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she has been dubbed “Indie Lindi.” Born of Mexican-Irish descent, she was just 17 when she wrote “Faded Dress.” The song was about her first boyfriend dumping her the day before the prom. “I wrote about the dress hanging in the closet, that never got worn. It was sad, but I thought it would be better the next year. But nobody asked me.” Now living in Nashville, Tenn., Ortega’s voice has been described as a blend of Dolly Parton’s, Johnny Cash’s, and Emmylou Harris’. Her most recent album is “Faded Gloryville,” released Aug. 7, 2015.

    Friday on the River Stage:
  • 6:45 p.m.: Maiden Radio. This Louisville-based band is made up of trio Cheyenne Mize, Julia Purcell and Joan Shelley. The friends possess a unity of sound that is drawn from an exploration of traditional Kentucky and Appalachian music. Their forte is in reinventing some of the more dark and lovely early American songs that have survived throughout the years by rearranging and singing them in three-part harmony.
  • 8:45 p.m.: Sarah Jarosz. Hailing from Wimberley, Texas, Jarosz performed at her first bluegrass festival at age 11. During her senior year of high school, she signed a recording contract with Sugar Hill Records and released her debut album “Song Up in Her Head” in June 2009. Her fourth studio album, “Undercurrent,” will be released on June 17. She has been called “a songwriter of uncommon wisdom” by the Austin Chronicle.

Saturday on the Main Stage:

  • 1 p.m.: Bridge 19 is made up of members Audrey Cecil (guitarist, vocalist), Amanda Lucas (guitarist, percussionist, vocalist), Meg samples (drummer), Jeff Faith (bassist) and Joey Theiman (trumpet, accordion). The band has been described by the Atlanta Gide as, “Equal parts pop and folk, the arrangements of Amanda Lucas & Audrey Cecil creep into Americana as they harmonize like siblings. But mostly, this band displays a clear comprehension of being working musicians and have the heart and attitude to gracefully ascent as an act.” The were the 2015 Louisville Music Awards finalist in the Folk Artist of the Year category.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Blair Crimmins and the Hookers have a polished signature sound from years of touring. Crimmins began his music career in Atlanta, Georgia, determined to bring Ragtime and traditional New Orleans Jazz sound to a new young audience. He created a sound that is at once modern while being deeply rooted in the past.  
  • 4 p.m.: Billy Strings. Born in Lansing, Mich., and raised in Morehead, Ky., Strings has been quoted as saying, “There was always music in our house.” The family moved back to Ionia County, Mich., where his father bought him his first guitar from an antique store at age 4. Now at age 20, he continues to astound audiences with his bluegrass sound.
  • 5:30 p.m.: Parker Millsap. Originally from Purcell, Okla., Millsap has been previously nominated for the Americana Emerging Artist of the Year award. People take note of this singer-songwriter’s rootsy rock and roll poetry, since it appeals to a variety of audiences.
  • 7:30 p.m.: Donna the Buffalo. This is a five-member band from Trumansburg, N.Y., that plays originals and cover tunes. The band is one of the founding and host bands of the annual Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. The band was inspired by the old-time music festivals of the south that drew entire towns and counties together. The band has performed with a variety of musicians including Jim Lauderdale, Bela Fleck, Claire Lynch and The Duhks.
    Saturday on the River Stage:
  • 1:45 p.m.: Jake Book is an old time musician, documentarian and songwriter from Iowa. He has been playing music since age 9 and learned how to play the banjo from his mother. In 2011 he founded “Historic Records,” a label focusing on documenting and preserving folk music. His music consists of original tunes as well as old time Irish and Appalachian tunes.
  • 3:15 p.m.: The Jayme Stone Lomax Project focuses on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer, Alan Lomax. It is a collaborative effort between some of North America’s most distinctive and creative roots musicians. Jayme Stone is a two-time Juno-winning banjoist and composer.
  • 4:45 p.m.: Marty O'Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra hail from Santa Cruz, Calif. This four-man band combines a passion for Delta Blues, American Primitive, folk, and gospel in their music. The band tours nationally and internationally, always giving the audience an enthralling and passionate performance. National Public Radio has described them as, “A band true to its name: soulful.”
  • 6:45 p.m.: John Stickley Trio. This genre-bending ensemble has roots in gypsy jazz, bluegrass and hip-hop, producing an eclectic sound. Jon Stickley, Lyndsay Pruett and Patrick Armitage combine their talents to produce an electrifying musical experience. Premier Guitar Magazine has said of their song, Darth Radar, that it is “a rapid-fire take that moves from a serious ska beat to burning surf-style runs that would make Dick Dale proud.”

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