A steady procession of guitar cases, foot pedals and drums is hauled into the front room of the Concord home of Scott and Katy Solsky.
“This is the second wave — musicians are always fashionably late,” says a smiling Scott Solsky. An informal jam begins; Seacoast drummer Mike Walsh plays a comically small drum kit that belongs to Solsky’s son.
The kids are upstairs in bed, despite the din below; a look around makes it clear why. Music is literally coming out of the walls. A trombone, bouzouki and guitar hang in the hall across from a bamboo xylophone, a boxed harmonica and a vinyl copy of John Coltrane’s Blue Train. Learning to sleep with a cellar full of noise is essential.
The occasion is a housewarming party hosted by Solsky and his wife, Katy, but like most things the couple does these days, it’s also a low-key fundraiser for the upcoming Granite State Music Festival. The two-day event happens June 23 and 24, a showcase of regional talent capped by headliner appearances by Chris Robinson Brotherhood and New York jam rockers Assembly of Dust.
Robinson’s set will feature material from his just released album but no material from his former band The Black Crowes. After nailing down the singer for the festival’s final day, Solsky found him to be very relaxed, despite his star power: “He’s coming with just a tour manager and a sound guy, very old-school … and it’s been one of the easiest things to deal with planning-wise, no weird contract riders or requests.”
Sixteen of the 21 acts are local, underscoring the strong growth of original music here in recent years.
“It’s been a joy,” Solsky says. “We basically hand selected what we felt were the best bands in New Hampshire.” Dusty Gray and his band will open the festival; the singer-songwriter just signed with Big Yellow Dog Entertainment, the Nashville publisher behind hits by Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood.
Also appearing are Gnarlemagne, offering a funk-infused New Orleans sound, and Tonkin Toys, led by jazz guitarist Dave Tonkin. With satellite radio playing its latest single, the blues-rock Ron Noyes Band is building an audience beyond its home stage after a few years together and a pair of albums. On the other hand, Truffle is the longest-running band on the bill — the jazz-fusion jammers formed in 1986.
The Seacoast band headlining Saturday, June 23, harkens back to a time when the area scene was attracting lots of national attention. Groovechild, as described in Marc Dole’s documentary In Danger of Being Discovered, was a record deal away from being the next Nirvana.
“I remember seeing them back when I first started going to shows,” Solsky says. “I’m really excited they’re coming.”
All proceeds from the weekend-long, non-camping festival will benefit Concord Community Music School, the largest employer of musicians in the area. Early-bird passes recently sold out, but summer pre-sale tickets are still available at $40. It’s a family-friendly show; kids 10 to 17 get half-price admission, those younger than 10 get in free, and Sunday will open with six-time Parent’s Choice Award winners Ben Rudnick and Friends.
Asked to name the biggest challenge of getting ready for the Granite State Music Festival, Solsky says, “I thought things would happen faster. They didn’t … it had a ripple effect, and I feel like we’re a month behind all the time. Meeting people in the community who volunteer and fundraise — that’s been a big surprise. Everyone is so thrilled that we’re doing it.”
The festival is Scott Solsky’s vision, a natural outgrowth of his work as a professional musician and music teacher at Concord’s Shaker Road School. But the team bringing it to reality is a cross-section of Capitol City artists, professionals, creative types and entrepreneurs, including Katy Solsky, who created the Concord Arts Market and worked at Capitol Center for the Arts; she’s currently running her own publicity company.
“The most valuable thing that I did was assemble the board,” he says. “My name is on everything, but it really is a group effort.” The get-together at the Solsky abode is the fourth in a series of house party fundraisers. Among the barbecued chicken, cheese plates and fruit platters on the dining room table sits a donation jar. Though it’s technically a housewarming — the couple moved in earlier this year — guests were asked to support the festival in lieu of gifts.
By 11 p.m., the jar is getting full. A spirited rendition of War’s “Low Rider,” led by her husband on guitar, wafts from the front room as Katy Solsky visits with guests in the kitchen at the back of the house.
“We had an amazing wedding and we have all the stuff we need,” she says. “This is a lot more important.”