The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Dan Blakeslee. Courtesy photo.

Granite State Music Festival

When: Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21
Where: Kiwanis Waterfront Park, 15 Loudon Road, Concord
Tickets: $40/weekend, $25/single day; kids under 17 half price with adult ticket purchase
More: for full lineup and schedule

Sound weekend
Region’s best at Granite State Music Festival

By Michael Witthaus

Now in its fourth year, the Granite State Music Festival is a two-day celebration of New Hampshire music and arts, with an assist from regional talent and a national headliner the cherry atop an entertainment sundae. The 2015 edition happens Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, with a local focus even stronger than past events.

American Idol sensation and Derry native Alex Preston tops the bill on Day 1. Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers will close out the weekend with a set featuring songs from her eagerly anticipated debut solo album. Helm is a founding member of roots band Ollabelle and daughter of Band legend Levon.
Attendees of last April’s New England Music Awards will have a sense of déjà vu on Saturday —  the lineup is a who’s who of winners and nominees. Soulful rocker Ben Knight kicks off the festival with a Saturday noon performance, followed by Lizzy Marella; both are Best New Act shortlisters. Best in New Hampshire band Gretchen & the Pickpockets play midday, with Best Not Broken, also nominated in that category, following. 
The lead-in to Preston’s closing set is Rock Act of the Year We Were Astronauts and Pop Act of the Year Pat & the Hats, with double winner Will Dailey (Album and Song of the Year) playing in between.
NEMA representation continues Sunday with nominees Freevolt, winners Dusty Gray Band, and past champs Mallet Brothers Band playing the penultimate set. Earlier in the day, Male Performer of the Year Dan Blakeslee will entertain the crowd.
Blakeslee is a 20-year veteran of the regional scene. Born and raised in South Berwick, Maine, he cut his teeth playing Seacoast clubs. An inveterate busker, he will turn up on a subway platform or a street corner as quickly as a room like the Blue Mermaid or Salt hill Pub. Recently, he played a unique hybrid of the two.
Porch Fest is an annual event in his home town of Somerville, Mass., with neighborhood residents providing ad hoc stages for pop-up performances. In early years, 10 to 20 people showed up for the roaming performances. This year, crowds were in the hundreds. 
“That was so amazing, oh my God,” Blakeslee said in a recent phone interview. “There are 250 or more porches in Somerville and a lot of people that host are musicians … there were groups with maps walking around; this year was over the top.”
The rootsy singer/songwriter’s NEMA win follows a prize for Best Folk Act at last year’s Boston Music Awards.
“It blew me away, I had no clue it was coming; it kind of freaked me out,” said Blakeslee of his most recent feat. “I really got emotional inside. It’s been such a long journey [and] it’s nice when this happens once in a while to let you know you are on the right path and affecting people.”
Blakeslee is both a musician and a visual artist; he’s drawn album covers, posters and T-shirts. He’s perhaps best-known for the exploding head logo adorning cans of Heady Topper IPA, the world’s cultiest beer. His lithographs hang in galleries, homes and nightclubs throughout the region.
The lifestyle is both rewarding and draining.
“I’m so incredibly grateful and thankful, but you still have to work really, really hard,” said Blakeslee. “I used to go to bed at 3 or 4 a.m. and get up at 10 to start in again. … I have the dual career — full-time art and full-time music — so that’s sort of like an overtime thing with both. I do 60 hours of music in a week, and at least 40 for the art.” 
As seen in the June 18, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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