By Jade Scott
Around 100 students, faculty, staff, and people from the community filled Cecilian Auditorium for an hour and a half long set of Town Mountain. High energy created by nothing more than stringed instruments, foot tapping, and vocals continued throughout each song.
Brought to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus for the 4-Star series event on Oct. 23, the five-man group embodies bluegrass in their stage presence, lyrics, and sound.
Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, sub-genre of country music, inspired by Appalachian music with roots in Scottish, Irish and English traditional music. Throw in suits and five pairs of cowboy boots and you have the Town Mountain band.
“I don’t think we ever consciously said as a band ‘let’s be a bluegrass band’ but we all just fell in love with the music and all found each other through it,” said band member Jesse Langlais. “It’s almost like the music chooses you.”
The band, from Ashville, N.C., got together in 2005 with Phil Barker on mandolin and vocals, Robert Greer on lead vocals and guitar, Bobby Britt on fiddle, Jon Stickley on bass and vocal, and Langlais on banjo and vocals.
With popular music encompassing modified and synthetic sounds, Town Mountain uses traditional acoustic instruments that allow for a natural and soulful sound that also allows for more stage movement.
“We are not hiding behind amps and music effects,” said Barker after the show. “Our music is sincere, authentic and allows for it to be a relationship between man and the instrument.”
Adding to the freedom of movement with acoustic instruments would be the personal choice made by the band to use only one vocal microphone. While there are microphones set up for each instrument, each vocalist must move and manage the stage through each song.
“It comes down to trial and error with stage movement. Since we have been performing with each other for so long we can anticipate each other’s movement,” Barker said. “We do not consciously map out our movements, but we do spend some time on it while rehearsing.”
Energetic and upbeat are just a couple of adjectives that can describe the sound of Town Mountain. The band’s fourth album, “Leave the Bottle,” recorded in September, includes 11 original band-member written songs with one cover song.
“The 4-Star Series Committee always selects at least one musical offering for our schedule,” said Dean of Students, Jeff Malloy. “Our goal is to always bring in diverse types of music and not box ourselves in to one genre. We thought both the Terre Haute and college community would embrace bluegrass and the musical talent of Town Mountain.”
In the 1980s a surge in bluegrass music was seen and that particular generation redefined ‘mainstream’ bluegrass. By 2005, the folk music scene was exploding.
“I guess it’s the energy and real life stories that make it [bluegrass] easy to connect with,” Langlais said before the show.
Bands like Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, and Ben Howard are now setting the standards with their combinations of bluegrass, folk, and alternative rock.
“You could really hear authenticity in their sound,” said Cathleen Flynn, senior at SMWC, of the Town Mountain performance. “It was definitely hard to stay in my seat…I just wanted to get up and dance!”
The use of ‘indie’ (independent) music in commercials has also been responsible for fast hits like F.U.N.’s “We Are Young.” The use of indie music in commercials can be credited to the fact of what it costs to use music in commercials as well as the access to songs.
In the article, “The Rise of Indie Music in Advertising” by Gabriel Beltrone on Billboard.biz, Beltrone discusses the creating of companies with the sole purpose of music licensing that specializes in indie music. These websites feature a selection of tracks that can be included in videos and well as advertisement.
“You want to drop a Rihanna song on your spot, you’re talking god knows how much money,” says Lance Jensen, CCO at Hill Holiday, in Beltrone’s article. “You want to drop a great indie song on it, it’s affordable. … That’s not to be underestimated.”
[Read more of the Billboard.biz article at http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/branding/the-rise-of-indie-bands-in-advertising-1006512952.story#H00ty5dToOChE2qD.99.]
As for Town Mountain, they left the SMWC campus to travel to Kentucky where they will be playing at the International Bluegrass Music Museum on Oct. 26.
For Town Mountain tour information check out their website at http://townmountain.net/blog/.