Kindling of the new-age folk scene
January 21, 2009 · Updated 2:08 PM
A growing homecoming for islander-turned-Bostoners in the now-even-newer New Old Stock.
I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you this, but the island-rooted, East Coast new-age folk band New Old Stock is changing its name. They’re calling themselves the Bee Eaters.
They’re going to tell you that at the show, so act surprised.
As it turns out, the name New Old Stock was already taken by some rap group, who’d had it for far longer than they, Bee Eaters banjoist Wes Corbett said. So it had to be changed. In the animal kingdom, Bee Eaters are a form of colorful, gregarious birds mostly found in Africa. The new New Old Stock crew plays colorful, gregarious music — so they went for it.
This weekend’s concert at BPA is billed as New Old Stock, Corbett said, because that name has somewhat of a following here.
“The Pacific Northwest is one of the few places where that name has a fan base,” he noted.
Which might have something to do with the fact that this is the place where the band came together. The very first time they played, dulcimer player Simon Chrisman remembers, they were at the Island Music Guild, right before Wintergrass in 2006. The band’s cellist and fiddle player Tristan and Tashina Clarridge (brother and sister) were up from Northern California.
Each member followed a cross-country path into the brimming new-age, old-style folk music scene, at the East Coast epicenter in Boston.
“Pretty much everybody lives here because of everyone else who’s living here,” Corbett noted. “No one can quite explain how it happened or why it happened, but still there’s an influx of people every year, and every year the scene gets better.”
He knows it will eventually reach a tipping point. This is his third winter there, he says. He moved out over the summer of 2006, shortly after New Old Stock jammed for the first time.
Corbett and Chrisman had been making music together for a few years prior, starting when Corbett picked up the banjo as a sophomore in high school. Both Corbett and Chrisman were each somewhat of a rare breed — being a banjoist and a hammered dulcimer player, both under the age of 21, living on Bainbridge Island.
Chrisman had graduated high school and was “just living and working” on the island at the time. He’d gotten his first dulcimer at age 10, but said he really got into music in his early 20s, inspired by a trip to Folklife in Seattle.
Corbett got started on classical piano at age 4, but didn’t “really fall in love” with music until he heard Bela Fleck (of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) picking the banjo.
“The sound of him playing, and the banjo in general just really did something for me,” Corbett said.
When he picked up a banjo, he realized a compulsive ambition to become a musician.
“I think there’s probably a lot of people, who in high school, kind of thought of me as an odd duck,” Corbett noted. “I was practicing all the time. I had small group of really close friends who knew me very well, but I kind of retracted out of the social scene, and went to really just playing banjo.”
“It was great to meet Wes because I didn’t know of many players around my age who interested in the same thing,” Chrisman said.
In meeting Tristan and Tashina, the brother/sister fiddle/cello duo, Corbett and Chrisman found two other players their age of similar mind, and in moving to Boston they found a mecca. But even being based on the East Coast, the band still makes its way out West regularly.
They’ve played the Island Music Guild on a few homecoming occasions, and since those shows have been well received, this time around, they’re moving into one of the island’s bigger venues, the 245 seat playhouse at Bainbridge Performing Arts.
NEW OLD STOCK, now known as The Bee Eaters, will be bringing its traditionally orchestrated, old-style acoustic ambiguity to the island for one show, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at BPA, 200 Madison Ave. N on Bainbridge. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, students, youth, military and teachers. Info: www.beeeaters.com, www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.