The Naukabout Music Festival in East Falmouth is testament to how fertile our musical fields are here in the Bay State.
First there is the festival itself, which has blossomed over the past five years into a nice regional attraction, boasting two stages of music, tie-ins with other Cape Cod cultural organizations, such as the Woods Hole Film Festival and Little Beach art gallery, and a growing roster of affiliated musicians.
Ryan Montbleau has been there just about every step of the way. Like the festival itself, Montbleau has made artistic leaps over the past five years. He is now a well-qualified Naukabout headliner, taking on the role for the second straight year.
“Now it’s like family. I think I’m grandfathered in,” says Montbleau, laughing when asked if he would be offended if the festival didn’t call. “It feels good to see how they’ve grown as we’ve grown. It’s a great vibe every year.”
The Naukabout Festival takes place Saturday, August 11, at Barnstable County Fairgrounds in East Falmouth. In addition to the Ryan Montbleau Band, the festival features John Brown’s Body, the Adam Ezra Group, Dune Billy All-Stars, Will Evans of Barefoot Truth, Will Dailey, Tall Heights, Jeff Conley Band, and Baker Thomas Band featuring Danielle Miraglia; in other words, it’s a smorgasbord of Mass-bred rock with reggae, folk, chamber-pop, funk and R&B coloring the mix.
“In past years we had Bela Fleck and Rusted Root come in as headliners, but we really want to showcase what’s happening right around here,” says Peter Murner, one of Naukabout Festival’s directors.
Naukabout is a Cape-based lifestyle brand responsible for both the festival and a line of craft beers. One of the festival’s green initiatives this year is the use of solar energy to power the side stage. The second stage was previously more of busking enclave on the fest grounds, but this year will it have a bit more juice to amp up sets by Evans (OK, he’s from Connecticut, but has certainly been lighting up local stages with Barefoot Truth in the past few years), Conley, Tall Heights, and the Thomas band.
Montbleau arrives at Naukabout with the new album For Higher in tow. It’s a project he recorded in New Orleans with some of that city’s hottest players, including guitarist Anders Osborne, keyboard player Ivan Neville, drummer Simon Lott and bassist George Porter Jr. from the legendary Meters.
“I was dancing in the vocal booth,” Montbleau says. “I’m just a kid from Peabody. What am I doing in New Orleans making a record with a member of the Meters?”
Well, for one thing, capitalizing on a ton of hard work. The Ryan Montbleau Band has been a grass roots phenomenon, getting better every year at honing its funky, R&B pop tunes. Word-of-mouth raves fuel the fan-base expansion, which really revealed itself when Montbleau made an online appeal for funds to make For Higher. Montbleau reached his goal 30 days into a 60-day PledgeMusic campaign.
For Higher sprung from Montbleau’s songwriting contributions to a Trombone Shorty album produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman. Ellman then lined up recording sessions for Montbleau and some NOLA elites, knocking out two days of studio work after the 2011 Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Montbleau says his regular band was supportive of the solo project and it is interesting watching the tunes take new shapes now the he is playing them with the guys he has been with for years.
“We have something I couldn’t just pull off on the fly,” he says. “We’re digging deep into this material, and we’ve started working on new stuff too.”
So when Naukabout checks in for year six, Montbleau will likely be ready with fresh goods.
Tickets are on sale at www.naukabout.com for $29 and will be $39 at the gate. Kids under 12 and with an adult get in for free, and there is a whole area of kids activities at the fest, which runs noon to 10 p.m.