Written by staff
“I don’t think you can throw a rock and hit an alt country or indie band that didn’t kowtow to the great force that was Gram Parsons.”
— music writer/biographer and musician Sid Griffin
Gram National, an annual event to commemorate the legacy of Americana/country rock music pioneer Gram Parsons, is bringing its 3rd annual concert/festival to The Precinct in Somerville on the weekend of Parsons’ birthday ~ Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5 and 6 ~ with a dozen bands, mostly from Boston and New England, and a few from places like Ohio, New Jersey and Ireland.
Although the first two Gram Nationals have been held in Nashville, Will Harnack, event organizer and founder of the Gram Parsons Petition Project, which is dedicated to Parsons induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, says Boston was the place to be this year for several reasons.
“Basically the idea to come to Boston sprang from the realization that it will be 45 years this fall since Gram Parsons started an American musical revolution here when he founded the International Submarine Band in Cambridge,” Harnack says.
After beginning to explore the idea, Harnack found a wealth of Parsons-inspired musicians in the Boston area. “Gram hated labels, and I try not to use them either. But the “Alt Country Extravaganza,” which became NEAF this year, made me realize there was some serious talent in that genre (which I still prefer to call alt country) in the New England region.” Harnack stresses that the artists play their own material, with a nod to Gram. “This isn’t one of those tributes where you just play the dead guy’s stuff, although there will be plenty of that. This is to showcase those that Parsons inspired.”
Among the bands chosen for the show are New England-based bands Highway Ghosts, Twang ’em High, 25 Pearl, Loose Salute, Jenee Halstead, The Molenes, and Jeff Byrd & Dirty Finch; singer/songwriter Linda Lucas from Ireland; The Derelicts and Brian Molnar & the Naked Hearts (who spent eight weeks on the Americana charts this year) from New Jersey; Maynard & the Musties from Brooklyn; and a young performer from rural Ohio, Lydia Loveless, whom some, including Harnack, believe to be the next Loretta Lynn.
“That’s what Gram National is all about. Finding young or regionally known artists and giving them a platform that plugs into an international movement.”
That “international movement” is an online petition drive that has garnered over 3,400 signers so far from countries all over the world. Harnack began the petition, which he calls the List of Supporters, several years ago; you can read more about why, and add your signature, at www.gramparsonspetition.com. Says Harnack, “I felt without some sort of action, this man’s monumental contribution to American country music would be forgotten. Gram will get his turn [at being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame], maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen,” Harnack asserts.
“Bottom line for the Gram National is, we are here to party. For two days. Yes, we want to draw attention to the petition, but this is the one time we set aside the ‘heavy lifting’ and just get together with like-minded individuals who love good music and just have a good old fashioned New England blast!”
For those arriving before 8pm, a commemorative T-shirt is free (while supplies last), with original artwork of Gram and Emmylou with the message “Together Again – In the Hall of Fame.” Also, attend Friday night for $10 and get in Saturday with your Friday ticket for only $5.