San Francisco string band Front Country will be helping Leftover Salmon ring in the New Year for a two-night bash at Crystal Bay Casino, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 1-2.
Front Country is Melody Walker (vocals), Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin), Jacob Groopman (guitar), Leif Karlstrom (violin) and Jeremy Darrow (bass).
The group is keen to return for their sophomore appearance at Crystal Bay’s Crown Room.
“We played Crystal Bay opening for Dead Winter Carpenters about a year ago, that’s the only time,” Groopman said. “I love that room; I’ve played it a number of times in other bands. It’s a great place to play, big dance floor and a great sound system.”
Front Country came together out of the acoustic music scene in San Francisco Bay Area, where the members had all known each other for some time, but never played together. The group initially gathered for a pick-up gig at the Apples Café, and continued playing afterward. Groopman invited Walker into the project to take the lead vocally after a few months, and the lineup was set.
“It started sounding good,” Groopman said. “Then the thing that made us become a little more serious is we decided to go to Colorado and participate in the band competition at Rockygrass and wound up winning.”
Front Country also won the Open Band Competition at the 2013 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, becoming only the third band to win the event at both festivals. This success has led the members to commit fully to the project.
“This has been our first year as a full-time band,” Groopman said. “We were crisscrossing the country a handful of times and played some big festivals. We spent some time on the East Coast and the Northwest and of course lots of time in Colorado.”
The extended tour has been good for the young band’s development.
“There’s nothing that substitutes for spending time on the road playing night after night,” he said. “There’s nothing better. It’s tiring, it’s work, but the results musically are incredible.”
The group has been touring behind its debut album, “Sake of the Sound,” released in September 2014.
“It’s done well for us, it (made) the folk charts and some Americana charts,” Groopman said. “People really seem to like it; it represents all the different sides of what we do.”
The record has done especially well in the UK, prompting an overseas tour from which Front Country recently returned.
“We played in England and Scotland; both were amazing, great crowds,” Groopman said. “We sold a lot of CDs and felt very appreciated.”
Although in Europe during recent the terrorist attacks in Paris, the band did not notice any significant changes in the public sphere after the massacre.
“We were in Scotland when that whole thing went down,” Groopman said. “I spent a couple days in London after the tour and was expecting a pretty heavy police presence, but we didn’t see anything. It didn’t feel like there was any random security at the airport or even on the trains or anything.”
Back stateside, Front Country is prepping for upcoming shows, as well as working on material for its second album. Still in preliminary stages, the record will be targeted for a release in early 2017, Groopman said.
The group has recently recorded five cover songs that will be released as singles; the first up is “Business” by New England act tUnE-yArDs.
“That’s one of the ones that’s kind of as far away as possible from what we do,” Groopman said.
The project is meant as an exploration of the band’s musical roots, the guitarist said, noting that the band is definitely moving away from its bluegrass foundations.
“They all represent various sides of our sounds, which is kind of what we’re trying to go for,” he said.
“We play a lot of different styles; we get sensitive, we get loud, we get jammy. Just try to create a show that’s interesting and moves and keeps people’s attention.”
Up ahead, Front Country is heading out on a tour of Wyoming and Colorado before making a trip to Alaska for the Anchorage Folk Festival. After that, it’s off to work on the next album and plan the next set of shows.
“We’re just looking forward to another year on the road,” Groopman said. “Try to keep building this thing and have a great time doing it.”
- Front Country, Leftover Salmon
When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 1-2
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Tickets: $27 in advance or $30 on the day of the show
Red Room after-party: Dusty Green Bones on Friday, Mojo Green on Saturday