Tonawanda News

August 18, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Potter discusses birth of Vermont music festival

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — For part two of my interview with Grace Potter in advance of her show in Buffalo on Sept. 11 at the Town Ballroom, we began speaking about something near and dear to her heart, The Grand Point North Festival her band hosts in Burlington, Vt. on the weekend of Sept. 14-15.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about Grand Point North.

ANSWER: Yes! That is going to be a great time.

Q: One of the things that really impresses me is how you give back to your community. I live in a small town in Western New York and we really struggle with the whole concept of community pride. The way you talk about Vermont is infectious, and the Grand Point North Festival clearly is an extension of your love for Vermont.

A: Burlington inspires us and it’s home. It inspires us and we have community pride and feel fortunate enough to be able to give back to the community. It’s a no-brainer, our only regret is that we can’t do it twice a year, once in the summer and have some people come and experience our crazy winter. I love looking over the sea of people and thinking, ‘We did this.’ I remember when we were the little band playing in the cafe down the road with the 7 p.m time slot everyone fought for. To see where we have come from to where we are now, it’s always a pinch-me moment.

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Q: It must take a ton of work to pull of something like Grand Point North, especially with your touring schedule.

A:We had been planning it for years, I think every band has that fantasy baseball type thing in their mind and would like to plan their own festival. We used to play this game called ‘Living or Dead’ where you would talk about who you would want to play with, and have these crazy set list dreams. It was 10 years in the making, but we had a lot of reality checks because we play a ton of festivals. And it’s not a large space, and I love that, the area holds about 5,000 people so everyone gets an intimate experience. We aren’t just jamming people in like cattle.

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Q:I get that, I was at a show in Toronto with Rush, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones with 450,000 people, and I felt like I was in a herd of cattle!

A:One of the things I experienced this summer was seeing Rush from the side of the stage. I didn’t know much about Rush before, but I do now. It was quite an experience, I think there were 90,000 people there, it was a humbling experience. I couldn’t imagine us taking it to that kind of level. Our festival is about reflecting back to the community we came from, and showing the best of the community. We bring in Grand Point Local for the food, we have local video artists, we have a creepy tent called ‘The Tent of Weird,” and it’s going to be a collaboration of art and artists from the area. It will continue to grow but we don’t want people to feel pushed through the system.

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Q: That connectedness so important, it is what brings me back to see a band.

A: Whenever you see a band that you need at that moment in your life, it is amazing. I have had that experience with movies and plays, bands or even with hearing an album. It really makes you sit back and reflect. When you have a beautiful night or weekend of music you take away life lesson or some perspective on your own life, that is the greatest reward. I love those stories, and I have created a hashtag on Twitter to hear the stories about how they got to Grand Point North, how far they traveled, or even how they came up with the money for the ticket. I want those stories, those are the things that make it worth it.

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Q: A song of yours that really touches me is “Stars.” It reminds me of my late father every time I hear it. It’s such a powerful song about the emotions surrounding the loss of a love one and it really tears at my heartstrings every time I hear it. How do you get through that song night after night?

A: It tears at your heartstrings for sure. One of the things that has changed since I began performing that song, was that when I wrote it I was dealing with grief on a personal level, but since I have shared the song with the world and heard stories like yours and heard what it means to people and what they are going through, those stories are the ones that get under my skin now. I’m not just thinking about my personal grief, I am thinking about how everyone deals with grief in their own way. It’s touching, it’s scary, it’s emotional, it’s beautiful, it’s all the things you feel. There are nights it’s tough to get through but I try to build up an emotional wall to get through it for the fans, because if I am breaking down, I can’t imagine what it is doing to the audience.

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