MUSIC BOX: WYOmericana Feels the Funk

By on May 10, 2016

Five-state tour pairs local bands Screen Door Porch and Sneaky Pete with Laramie’s The Littlest Birds.

The Littlest Birds (left), Screen Door Porch (right) and Sneaky Pete and The Secret Weapons (opposite page) comprise a touring bill of homegrown folk and funk.

The Littlest Birds (left), Screen Door Porch (right) and Sneaky Pete and The Secret Weapons (opposite page) comprise a touring bill of homegrown folk and funk.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Once defined by wedding gigs and obligatory covers of “Wagon Wheel,” the Jackson Hole music scene has developed a surprising streak of originality in recent years. The number of local bands producing radio-worthy albums and touring outside of the state can no longer be counted on one hand. Across Wyoming, there is a growing support system for original artists, including a new state-sponsored Wyoming Independent Music Initiative.

Now in its fourth year, the WYOmericana Caravan tour has been a timely accelerant for this rise in original Wyoming music. Conceived by Seadar Rose and Aaron Davis of the Jackson-based roots-rock band Screen Door Porch, WYOmericana has featured Wyoming acts ranging from revered songwriter and picker Jalan Crossland to country-rockers The Patti Fiasco to local indie-folk band Canyon Kids. The tour has inspired a feature in The New York Times and a rock-u-mentary that nabbed first place at the 2014 Laramie Film Festival.

“When we first started playing in Jackson, [local alt-country band] One Ton Pig was doing original stuff and that was it—there was just a whole bunch of rock or bluegrass cover bands,” Rose explained. “It was refreshing to see so many other bands on tour, but I still felt like there were not enough people from Wyoming doing it.”

Rose and Davis saw that even highly talented touring acts like Crossland were largely flying under the radar, and the concept behind WYOmericana was born: A tour of dedicated, original Wyoming bands that would shine a light on homegrown musical talent for residents and out-of-staters alike.

For this year’s caravan, Screen Door Porch is teaming up with Jackson’s rising funk favorites Sneaky Pete and The Secret Weapons and the banjo-centered “backwoods soul” of Laramie-based The Littlest Birds. While funk and folk may seem like strange bedfellows, the musicians view the pairing as an opportunity to reach new audiences, expand their styles and bring energy to the end-of-show collaborations that are WYOmericana tradition.

“The ability to branch out and play something different was one of the things that sold us on the tour in the first place,” explained Bobby Griffith, the trumpet player/vocalist in Sneaky Pete and a Wyoming native. “It’s so important for musicians to be able to do that, and then you can bring it back to what you do.”

Local musicians Jessie Lestitian (left) and Lauren Conrad (right) refine their pickin’ and strummin’ sensibilities at Targhee Music Camp.

Local musicians Jessie Lestitian (left) and Lauren Conrad (right) refine their pickin’ and strummin’ sensibilities at Targhee Music Camp.

As a Casper-born singer and banjo player whose playing style spans from clawhammer to classical, Sharon Martinson of The Littlest Birds echoes these sentiments. “The collaborations that come from mixing instruments that you don’t expect with sounds that you don’t except is way more fresh, fun and exciting as a musician, and I think it’s what the audience wants too.”

After touring the U.S., UK and Canada for six years, Martinson will be reimagining The Littlest Birds by recording a new album at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone analog studio this summer. Fresh off a March performance at the Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho, Sneaky Pete is recording an EP locally that will follow up their well-received debut album, “Breakfast.” Now three albums deep, Screen Door Porch has literally become a poster child for music in the Cowboy State, appearing in a new ad campaign from the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

The 2016 WYOmericana Caravan kicked off in Laramie on May 5 and will wind down in Bozeman June 4, rolling through Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Montana before the dust settles. Locals can get their first helping this Friday night at The Knotty Pine in Victor, while seconds will be served up at the Town Square Tavern in Jackson on Wednesday, June 1.

WYOmericana Caravan featuring Screen Door Porch, Sneaky Pete and The Secret Weapons, and The Littlest Birds. 9:30 p.m. Friday at The Knotty Pine. $10. 208-787-2866.

Pickin’ scholarships at Targhee Music Camp

Speaking of support for local musicians, Targhee Music Camp is accepting applications for scholarships through this Sunday, May 15. Applicants should submit a one-page or less description of their music history and what they hope to accomplish at the camp to [email protected], entering in one of three categories: Local (those living within roughly 100 miles of Grand Targhee Resort), Young (18 years and younger) or Open (any human). Scheduled before the 2016 Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, the 11th annual Targhee Music Camp will take place August 8 to 11 and feature world-class instructors ranging from members of The Infamous Stringdusters to mandolinist John Reischman. PJH

A lover of sad songs in our happy valley, Patrick Chadwick is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and a content writer for local businesses.

160511Music_PlanetPicks

160511Music_PlanetPicks-2WEDnesday

Songwriter’s Alley Open Mic (Silver Dollar); Vinyl Night (The Rose)

THURsday

Rock Creek (Silver Dollar)

FRIday

DJ Dolph (The Rose); Rance May & Paul Nipper Bands (Town Square Tavern)

SATurday

Chanman Roots Band and Major Zephyr at Jackson Hole Eco-Fair (Snow King Ball Field); Calder’s Charge (Pink Garter Theatre), Bryce Vine, DJ Skizz & Bobby Brando (Town Square Tavern)

SUNday

Stagecoach Band (Stagecoach)

Monday

The Jackson Hole Hootenanny (Dornan’s)

TUESday

Bootleg Flyer (Silver Dollar)

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