Run Boy Run Brings Frisky Young Bluegrass to Country Thunder Today, Rhythm Room on Sunday
Garrison Keillor knows about all the cool stuff way before the rest of us do -- we were in Tucson a couple of weeks ago, innocently catching a show at Plush that featured old friends of whom we're huge fans, and it turned out to be the release show for Run Boy Run's So Sang the Whippoorwill. Already entirely gobsmacked by the show, we marveled further the more we learned about the band.
Amy Martell Run Boy Run in a rare moment of repose
This quintessentially Arizonan group of two sets of extremely musical siblings, plus the mustachioed and outgoing Jesse Allen on standup bass, appeared on A Prairie Home Companion's Gammage show in January and again live in Minneapolis in February. Keillor has said he "[hopes] they go on forever."
Run Boy Run is scheduled to open the main stage at Country Thunder in Florence at 1 p.m. today, and perform at the Rhythm Room with Elephant Revival on Sunday, April 14, with doors opening at 7:30 p.m.
The music is mostly in an old-timey bluegrass vein, but Run Boy Run's collaborative spirit, talent, and tight chops make even more of an impression than the details of what they're playing. Cellist/singer/songwriter Grace Rolland of Mesa sat down with Up on the Sun to brief us on a beautifully hectic couple of years as well as this coming weekend, which is going to either kill the group with exhaustion or set them on the road to fame.
Check out the complete Country Thunder 2013 schedule.
"We [Grace and her brother Matt Rolland, a fiddle champion] both knew the Sandovals [Bekah and Jen, who join Grace in RBR's trademark three-part harmonies as well as playing multiple instruments] growing up, because of the bluegrass festivals that Ben Sandoval, their grandfather, put on and that our family went to a lot, because of our father, Peter Rolland. But then Matt and Bekah met each other more substantially in college at the U of A, and they formed a band at that time.
"It wasn't until 2009 that they wanted to form an old-time band, so Matt and a friend who played fiddle with him, Mary Jane Epps, and Jen as well, they started doing old-time. They knew Jesse from a club on campus and saw him busking at some point and said, 'Hey, you want to play in this band with us? You play the bass.'"
Despite Grace's non-Old-Pueblo-dwelling status as a student at ASU Tempe, Run Boy Run managed to win the band contest at Flagstaff's Pickin' in the Pines festival a few weeks after the band formed in 2009. Gradually, as members completed their formal educations and it became easier to jam and rehearse, the synergy really took off.
"Even before I graduated," Grace says, "Matt was gone for a year in Mexico on his Fulbright research --- Jen was gone, they overlapped a lot -- nobody was here at the same time until the summer that I graduated; that was the summer that we competed in Telluride [where they went on to win another contest in 2012] and that we [were] like, 'Okay, now we can actually start as a band.' You can't create if you don't spend time with people.
"We traveled that summer of 2011, we spent four, five weeks on the road together. Started out in Georgia and then went through the Southeast. It was sort of for the band but mostly just for fun, and to experience the area. And we just were singing in the car the whole time, so refreshing."