Mustang Spring Jam rocks Corolla with multiple vibes

By on May 27, 2019

Ghost Light in concert. Holly Bowling, keyboards; Dan Africano, bass; Scotty Zwang, drums; Raina Mullen, rhythm guitar and vocals; Tom Hamilton, lead guitar and vocals. Photo Kip Tabb.

Ghost Light in concert. Holly Bowling, keyboards; Dan Africano, bass; Scotty Zwang, drums; Raina Mullen, rhythm guitar and vocals; Tom Hamilton, lead guitar and vocals. (Kip Tabb)

Simply put, the Mustang Spring Jam is one of our favorite music festivals of the year, maybe even our favorite. It’s hard to say because there are so many of them on the Outer Banks now.

What sets the Spring Jam apart, though, is the combination of diversity of music and the quality of the musicians. That certainly was the case this year.

It would be nice if there was room to talk about every artist and every group that performed but that’s just not possible. So a few highlights from a day and a half of amazing music will have to do.

Saturday Evening

Emma’s Lounge. Brendan Bower, lead guitar; Logan Venderlic, rhythm guitar and vocals; Meg Heathman, keyboard and vocals. Photo, Nancy Billings

Emma’s Lounge. Brendan Bower, lead guitar; Logan Venderlic, rhythm guitar and vocals; Meg Heathman, keyboard and vocals. (Nancy Billings)

Kicking things off with Emma’s Lounge was the perfect way to start the Spring Jam. The best groups defy easy description which may be why Emma’s Lounge is so good.

They describe their music as Space Age Folk Wave. Maybe, but listening to it there’s a little bit of ska, a little rock, a little hiphop, maybe even some punk. And it all gets tied together with the powerful voice of Meg Heathman on keyboards and the screaming, amazing and innovative guitar work of Brendan Bower.

Most of the music is original from founding member Logan Venderlic.

Travers Brothership has always been known for their vocals, and they didn’t disappoint at all. But that sells them short.

They are so tight. There’s a good funky rhythm to their sound. They throw in a bit of jazz from time to time, and are ultimately a really good jam band.

Sunday

A hallmark of Mike Dianna’s Bearded Face Productions is there is always at least one group that maybe some people know about, but really haven’t quite achieved too much notoriety yet.

I’m giving that award this year to Downtown Abby and the Echoes.

Abby Bryant of Downtown Abby and the Echoes. Photo Kip Tabb

Abby Bryant of Downtown Abby and the Echoes. (Kip Tabb)

Abby Bryant is Downtown Abby. Her voice is a little sultry, bluesy and perfect for jazz…and it’s powerful.

The Echoes are tight musically with great guitar work from Bailey Faulkner.

What really sets them apart are Bryant’s original pieces. Modern in every sense, they carry with them the history of jazz and blues vocalists of the past. Great stuff.

I also have to give a shoutout to Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats. The best musicians want to do whatever they can to communicate with the audience. But very few of them walk out into the middle of the crowd, guitar in hand and just let it rip.

The headliner for the festival was Ghost Light. Going back to the “best groups defy easy description” label, Ghost Light may be the best example of that there could be.

Listening to them, what become immediately apparent is the talent level is off the charts.

Andrew Scotchie of Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats plays the crowd. Photo Kip Tabb

Andrew Scotchie of Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats plays the crowd. (Kip Tabb)

Founding members Tom Hamilton and Raina Mullen conceived of the band, and the germ of the music revolves around their composition and skill.

Hamilton on guitar is otherworldly in his ability to play in any style, building complex leads of remarkable intensity from seemingly simpler melody lines.

The perfect foil for him is Mullen with a voice that seems to fill all the gaps of the music. Hamilton and Mullen also pair their voices on a number of songs, and the soothing harmonies of their vocals frame a jazz funk sound that is a bit hard to describe.

But what really sets this band apart is Holly Bowling on piano and keyboard.

Bowling is a classically trained pianist who at one point transcribed the music of the Grateful Dead and Phish, then performed the music in a classical style.

Her touch on the piano is light yet precise and it creates the ideal framework for what is a unique sounding jam band.

Even though melody lines and chords seem to wander off sometimes, the rhythm and the beat the band lays down is so strong that the thread is never lost.

This is a band that deserves a long listen and the reward for that is a memorable night of music.

All Mustang Festivals benefit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the Mustang Outreach Program helping young musicians to hone their skills.

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