Punk meets bluegrass

Old Man Markley blends genres to form "newgrass"

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Broken trailer axle? No problem. It’s all part of touring, according to Annie DeTemple, autoharpist and vocalist for punk-bluegrass group Old Man Markley.

“We always have to do bus maintenance on the road, trailer maintenance on the road,” she says with a calm sense of acceptance, noting the group was able to get back on the road quickly and stay on schedule for its show in Portland later that evening. “Sometimes you never know what’s going to happen and as much as you try to get your ducks in a row and make sure your vehicle’s all good, always something happens on the road and we always end up needing to get something fixed.”

Here’s hoping a broken axle is the end of the band’s problems as it traverses its way through the Canadian leg of its current tour in support of last year’s Down Side Up, the second full-length from the self-proclaimed “newgrass” seven-piece, which includes DeTemple’s husband Johnny Carey on vocals and guitar, Joey Garibaldi on bass and vocals, Jeff Fuller on drums, Ryan Markley on washboard, John Rosen on banjo and vocals, and Katie Weed on fiddle and vocals. The album managed to capture the attention of both the punk and bluegrass scenes, and even spent a few weeks on top of the Billboard Bluegrass chart in the US.

“When we played for predominantly punk-rock audiences, after the show there’s usually those people that will come up and talk to us and say things like, ‘It reminds me of the music my dad used to listen to’ or, ‘It reminded me of going camping with my family when I was younger’ or something along those lines,” says DeTemple, who played for the first time in front of an audience when Old Man Markley made its live debut in January 2008. “I think even if you’re into punk rock or you’re not really familiar with punk rock there’s something just nostalgic about it—and everyone’s heard a banjo, everybody has heard a violin or a fiddle and they’ve just not had it so new and so fun. Maybe it’s just kind of something that’s new and nostalgic for them and they didn’t know it could be the way that we play it.”

Making a return trip to Canada in support of the same album has allowed fans to get familiar with the songs, and potentially have a different experience this time around, DeTemple adds. While the setlist will more or less include the same material, Old Man Markley does have two new tracks it will be playing from Stupid Today, a special vinyl seven-inch released last month. The format follows what the group has done for previous seven-inch releases: side A features a new original track while side B is a cover song from a well-known punk band. This time, the cover is “Reeko” by NOFX.

“When we originally did our first punk-rock cover it was because we were a new band on set and it was a nice way to introduce us with something familiar, for punk-rock fans to hear a familiar song,” DeTemple notes. “Everybody likes a nice cover song.” 

Wed, Jun 18 (8 pm)
With the Stanfields, Fire Next Time
Pawn Shop, $12

 

 
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