WinterFolk Fest at the old Yellow Cab building
By Rusty Pate
Photo: The New Old-Fashioned will play WinterFolk Fest on Jan.11; photo: Jennifer Shelly Gregory
A real passion and reverence rises in Harold Hensley’s voice when he speaks about the Dayton music scene. Hensley used to live in Lexington, Ky. He’s played shows in other places, but something about the Gem City makes it stand apart.
“I really love the music scene here – it’s really open,” Hensley said. “Here in Dayton, we have so many open mics and co-ops and stuff like that to meet people and form bands. It’s really like a family music community.”
Hensley, along with banjo player Max Nunery, bassist Chip Pritchard and mandolin player Brian Spirk make up The Repeating Arms. Although the Miamisburg group has only been together for around 18 months, they’ve already released an EP and a full-length album. They’ve also made a habit of playing benefits and fundraisers around the area.
Their newest event will take place Saturday, Jan. 11 at the old Yellow Cab building on Fourth St. Dubbed the WinterFolk Fest, it is a BYOB (with ID) affair and features a wide variety of local roots-tinged acts. Joining The Repeating Arms will be Sassy Molasses, Cinder Home, The New Old-Fashioned, Starving in the Belly of the Whale, John Dubuc, Charles Hartman, Willy Clark, Scott Lee and the Whiskey River Boys and Denny Cottle.
“Getting everybody together on one stage should be a really good time,” Hensley said. “You can expect to hear really great singer/songwriters mixed in with full groups. I tried to keep it really diverse, because when you say ‘I’m doing a folk festival’ everyone thinks it’s going to be ‘Kumbaya’ around a fire.”
The key term for the night will be “rootsy,” from the twang-tinged rock of The New Old-Fashioned to the funky street soul of Willy Clark and all points in between. The common thread in all these artists boils down to one word: passion. No one picks up a guitar and begins writing songs because they think a pot of gold waits at the end of that rainbow. They do it because they have to. Some deep-seeded obsession compels them to bare their souls and keep churning out new songs when their day job allows the time.
For the artist, the only goal that matters is following the muse – wherever she may lead. That same spirit informs the transformation taking place at 700 E. Fourth St.
Reinvention goes hand in hand with any endeavor in the life of a city. As the calendar changes, so too does the needs and desires of the urban populace. Canneries become luxury lofts. Churches become nightclubs. Funeral homes become apartments. People change and the city changes with them. The arts reflect those changes.
Housed in the former home of the Yellow Cab Company, the garage atmosphere at 700 E. Fourth St. gives an industrial vibe. With the help of the Dayton Circus Creative Collective, however, art is spilling off canvases. The venue, like the art and the city that surrounds it, is changing and that change often takes some dollars to make happen.
“We talked to the guys at Yellow Cab and they seemed really interested in letting us put on a show there,” Hensley said. “It’s kind of like a fundraiser for them, to keep the lights on at Yellow Cab, and they’re doing some upgrades to the building. It’s a win/win for everybody. We get to play a show and make some money for them, too.”
Just as the venue continues to morph and change, the same is true for The Repeating Arms. The group originated when Hensley and Nunery met through a mutual friend. They almost immediately began writing together and experimenting with what Hensley dubbed “dance folk.” That approach fell apart fairly quickly.
Eventually, they rounded out their sound with Pritchard’s bass after he answered a Craigslist ad. Nunery brought in Spirk and the sound began to take on an almost bluegrass quality. While Hensley doesn’t like to box the group into any one style, the instrumentation lends itself to a more upbeat take on “sleepy folk.” The band draws on a wide range of influences. Hensley has roots in punk, Nunery comes from indie rock and jam bands. Ultimately, genre matters much less than the emotional resonance.
“We try to not really worry so much about what genre we’re going to fall into,” Hensley said. “We just try to write songs that are fun and that our hearts are into.”
The WinterFolk Fest will take place on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the old Yellow Cab building, 700 E. Fourth St. Doors open at 5 p.m. The event is BYOB with a valid ID. Admission is $10. For more information, please visit Facebook.com and search for “WinterFolk Fest.”