A Brief Season in the Sun For a Young Local Band
From left, Angus Davis, Cobalt Tolbert, Titien Tolbert and Caleb Freeberg entertain at the Hanover Farmer’s Market on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover. Their band, Carter Glass, is performing at a variety of venues around the Upper Valley this summer. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
The band warmed up last week on the small slice of the Dartmouth Green reserved for the town’s weekly farmers market. One of its four members fiddled with his nylon-stringed guitar. Another sat cross-legged on the grass and flipped through a songbook.
Soon, Caleb Freeberg, the banjo player, took a seat with his bandmates under a small white tent. His father, Bruce, glanced at his watch. It was pushing 3 p.m. He asked the four members of Carter Glass if they were ready to start.
“OK,” Freeberg said, to no one in particular. “Ladies and gentlemen.”
He fiddled with a few knobs on a sound board connected to the PA system he purchased for the band’s live gigs, and Carter Glass launched into an acoustic cover of the Violent Femmes’ Blister in the Sun. Freeberg began to canvas the area, figuring how far and well the sound traveled, and made adjustments. A few people turned their heads toward the unexpected noise, then went back to their organic veggies.
The crowd, at least for the first half or so of Carter Glass’ three-hour set, was sparse, which was not necessarily a problem. In its two years of existence, the band has played its fair share of farmers markets, all around the Upper Valley, attempting to attract an audience of people who likely didn’t expect a side of music with their produce, and who have no obligation to stay and watch.
Blister in the Sun ended, and the band began Modest Mouse’s surprise hit anthem of the mid-2000s, Float On. A pair of college-aged girls walked past Carter Glass’ tent, clapping in rhythm, recognizing a hit from their generation.
The thing is, Carter Glass is of that generation as well. Its four members — Angus Davis, guitar; Caleb Freeberg, banjo, violin, mandolin; Colbalt Tolbert, guitar; Titien Tolbert, drums — all graduated from The Sharon Academy a couple of months ago. They range from 17 to 19 years old. They play songs they like.
A perusal through the band’s giant catalog of covers, though, shows a surprising, multi-generational musical upbringing. At the Hanover Farmers Market last Wednesday, Float On preceded Gene Vincent’s 1956 rockabilly hit Be-Bop-A-Lula , which ev entually turned into The Beatles’ Back in the U.S.S.R. and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots are Made for Walkin’ .
The band members have all known each other since starting at Sharon Academy four years ago — the four of them are from three Vermont towns — and as such have developed an easy chemistry. On stage, they unselfishly allow each other solos and lead vocal duties (all four members can, astonishingly, sing). Off stage, they volley pop culture references back and forth, using any random spoken word as a jumping-off point to quote a TV show or movie. The morning before the Hanover show, they rehearsed at Freeberg’s Windsor home, and a playthrough of David Bowie’s All the Young Dudes turned into a short conversation conducted entirely in Bowie-speak (or, rather, a conversation full of the word “bewgie,” as Bowie might pronounce boogie).
In a pair of summers, the group has played about three dozen shows, but it will end soon. Three of its members are taking gap years and leaving the country, traveling to Asia and Europe. Freeberg is heading to Eckerd College in Florida. Carter Glass’ last scheduled show is Aug. 3 in Lyme.
On one hand, it’s a natural progression — the band’s principal goal was to play music together during the summer, maybe make a little bit of money in the process, before calling it quits when real life started.
But on the other hand, Carter Glass has gained a bit of an unexpected following.
“We have regulars at this point, which is just bananas,” Davis said.
“It’s kind of bumming me out,” Freeberg said soon after, balancing both a laptop and a banjo on his lap.
Maybe when they all end up back in Vermont some day they’ll reunite for a show or two, they said. Bruce Freeberg, who has functioned as the group’s manager since its inception, said he likely wouldn’t have much trouble booking a gig.
By 5 p.m., two hours into the show at the farmers market, a crowd of various ages was beginning to form around the band. The sun was still blistering, despite the slide into late afternoon. Carter Glass was playing the Eurythimcs’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). A woman who had been buying vegetables turned around and began to clap, off-beat. Another woman walked by, toting a bag of popcorn, smiling.
“I knew they’d be good,” said Kitty King of Woodstock, a friend of Davis’ mom who was seeing the band for the first time. “But they’re phenomenal.”
For a full listing of Carter Glass’ remaining shows, go to http://carterglassband.wix.com/carterglassband.
Jon Wolper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3242.