Wheeler Opera House’s ‘On the Rise’ series goes Upstate
IF YOU GO …
Where: On the Rise series, Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $28 (Pick 3 series passes are $52)
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com
ON THE RISE SERIES
Oct. 20 Upstate
Nov. 10 Heather Maloney
Nov. 17 Vienna Teng
Dec. 1 Lucas Wolf
More info at wheeleroperahouse.com
Allison Olender knows from experience just how exhilarating and seductive an Upstate concert can be.
After she saw the band for the first time last year at the Homegrown Music Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas, she joined them as their seventh member.
“I saw them play and I thought, ‘Dang, that’s a good band,’” she recalled in a recent phone interview from the road between tour stops in Seattle and Redding, California. “I was blown away by their performance.”
After talking with the band — made up of six college friends — and playing some music, she signed on as one of three singers in the polyphonic acoustic act.
The seven-piece acoustic band, based in New York’s Hudson Valley (yes, upstate) will headline the Wheeler Opera House’s fall On the Rise series Saturday.
It’s the second concert in the curated series showcasing bands you probably haven’t heard of yet but that you need to hear live. This rendition of the series launched last month with the Virginia indie-folk outfit The Hunts and continues with Heather Maloney (Nov. 10), Vienna Teng (Nov. 17) and Lucas Wolf (Dec. 1).
“Last year, we introduced the On the Rise series with three shows — but our audience was left wanting more,” Wheeler Executive Director Gena Buhler said when the theater announced the lineup in July. “We opted to expand the series to five performances with a diverse lineup that will satisfy any music lover.”
Upstate, formerly known as Upstate Rubdown, wrings diverse sounds and styles out of its polyphonic lineup of three vocalists, an upright bass, saxophone and a cajon.
“We want to make people feel comfortable and we want to bring a lot of different styles of music — maybe something people haven’t heard before — and people will leave our shows saying, ‘I don’t know how to categorize that but I know I felt really good listening to it,’” Olender said.
The band is now touring with songs from its forthcoming sophomore album “Healing,” which showcases the septet’s throwback mix of folk, bluegrass, R&B and rock.
“We are excited about or new music and these new songs — we’re playing a lot of those and getting them situated for live performance,” Olender said.
Produced by the Wood Brothers’ Jano Rix, the crowd-funded record may be the band’s breakthrough. They’re already starting to book some major festivals, including this spring’s Winter WonderGrass. The Wheeler is betting that this is your chance to see them before they break big.
The band recently released the single “Marietta,” a jaunty jaded lover’s lament with a throwback soul sound and a chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. It’s reminiscent of the sweet nostalgic sound of Lake Street Dive, but with three-part harmonies on top.
“We get excited about playing the songs on ‘Healing’ because we get to say, ‘This next song is going to be on our new record!’” Olender said.
Olender also promises some fun cover songs in the Aspen set.
Formed seven years ago, Upstate released their debut album “A Remedy” in 2015. The band played Denver and Boulder on tour after that release, but this weekend marks their Aspen debut.
The band’s ongoing 10-state, 21-stop fall tour — which also includes Colorado stops in Ridgway, Fort Collins and Denver — is a bid to build a fan base and future for the band. Most of the band’s members still have day jobs: Olender rolls soap in a factory, for example, while bassist Mary D’Agostino works in the music industry, mandolin player Ryan Chappell is a schoolteacher.
If the new album release goes well enough, they hope to be making music full time.
“I want this to be my only job,” Olender said. “We want to be able to thrive by doing this.”
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