By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer
On Feb. 3, the Fremont Street String Band, originally formed in Machias, performed at The Landing. From the sound check thirty minutes before the show started to the very end, the Fremont Street String Band put smiles on the faces of those who attended the show and plucked the audience members’ heartstrings.
The show featured original songs from their album “Dirigo,” such as “Piscataqua,” referencing the famous Piscataqua River Bridge that connects Maine to New Hampshire via I-95, and connecting the bridge to the idea of love and inviting the comfortable feeling of home. They also performed covers of songs not featured on their album, such as a fun, fast-paced untitled mashup of songs ranging from “Low” by T-Pain to “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray, into one bluegrass performance.
Landon Knittweis, one of the vocalists and songwriters for the Fremont Street String Band, thought long and hard about what his favorite song to perform was. Knittweis couldn’t pick a favorite easily, but he does love the people he performs with. “I just like the collaboration. I like the sound that we make. I couldn’t do this on my own. I don’t have enough skills,” Knittweis laughed.
But the band is skilled. The group consists of five members playing a variety of instruments, some of the members playing more than one instrument. Ryan French plays the upright bass and provides a drum beat by hitting the back of it mid-song, Michael Giudelli plays the guitar and sometimes sings lead vocals, and Ryan Martin plays the banjo and offers back-up vocals to add to their harmonies. Alan Cook played the fiddle and the mandolin, and he can play anything he sets his mind to, according to the band’s Facebook page.
During their UMF performance, the Fremont Street String Band tried their hand at connecting with the audience by talking and laughing amongst the band members between songs, but there was a vibe that the audience didn’t know what to do with such an interactive performance–not that it phased the band. “Tough crowd to get chuckles out of, but that’s alright. Not everyone appreciates our humor,” Knittweis cracked with French and Giudilli.
In general, the crowd energy at the show was comfortable and excited to hear live local music. Everybody who went was enthusiastic about the band or the genres of country, folk, or bluegrass music so there were plenty of positive vibes to spread to the band and the audience.
The comfortable setting of The Landing fit the vibe of the Fremont Street String Band nicely. The audience members sank into the couches and loveseats and every wooden chair was accompanied by a person. The low stage created a more equal ground with the audience–literally and metaphorically–and a better established connection between the band and the audience.
Jordan Shaw, Graduate Activities Coordinator at UMF, is in connection to the Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the Landing to bring local music groups, comedians, and more to The Landing stage.
“With this particular band, we were looking for something to grab people’s attention and interest at the beginning of the semester in hopes of convincing more people to stay on campus over the weekend,” said Shaw.
Shaw’s connections with the Fremont Street String Band and Farmington came in clutch on that cold Saturday night–around 90 people gathered in The Landing to hear the band perform. Almost half of the people attending the show were were older than 25, one enthusiastic fan even brought a young child to watch the show.
This concert is only the beginning for the Fremont Street String Band this year. On top of the shows they will be playing at bars and breweries, the band plans on attending a songwriting retreat in a couple of weeks.
“I think we would like to record more music at some point,” says Knittweis, “but life is just happening and we’re kinda just, taking this one step at a time.”
To hear more about events at The Landing, anyone is welcome to follow them on Instagram @umf_wae, find them on Snapchat @umflanding, or look around for posters in the Student Center advertising their events.
To follow what the band is doing next and where they will be performing, follow them on Instagram @fremontstreetstringband or like their Facebook page.