On Saturday Oct. 1, the city of Keene, N.H. held the Monadnock Fall Music Festival meant to celebrate all things Keene during the fall season.
The event, held on Main Street, featured multiple live bands and musicians performing inside local establishments and outside on the sidewalks for all to enjoy. With the streets packed with Keene residents, performers like Wendy Keith and her Alleged Band, played in front of Local Burger for people passing by.
Lead singer and a guitarist of the band, Wendy Keith has been a singer and songwriter for most of her life and has a special relationship with the city of Keene.
Keith said she used to be a social worker in Keene for the state of New Hampshire where she worked with the event’s organizer, Kevin Dremel, and was excited about being back in town to perform. The last time Keith performed, she had given a memorable performance, which she described as “very exciting.”
“It’s really great to have an opportunity to play in Keene,” Keith said. “I haven’t played in Keene in a long time. I opened for “America”, about 14 years ago and I sang “Last night I had the strangest dream” and I got a standing ovation in the Colonial Theatre.”
From her time coming up in the music industry to now, Keith is still growing and broadening her horizons musically. Although she is normally a folk singer, Keith said she has been trying to perform a variety of music.
“I sang in choirs as a kid when my mother was the choir director of our church,” Keith said.
She then went on to play in coffee houses during her high school days and later on played in what she called the “wood stove circuit,” playing at all of her friends houses learning the traditionally acoustic style.
Keith added, “I actually started singing a bunch of Jazz the last few years.”
When asked if it is difficult for her to transition between genres, Keith said, “I’m a singer. I sing everything. That’s what I do.
My background is more of a ‘folkie’ but over the last 10-15 years I’ve started incorporating a lot more blues, and specifically in the last three or four years I started singing some Jazz with some really talented Jazz musicians.”
Wendy Keith and her Alleged Band is also made up of guitarists and singers Doug Farrell and Jack Carlton, who also make up their own music group Decatur Creek.
“I really love playing with these guys,” Keith said. “They’re wonderful.”
Keith named some of her musical inspirations such as Bonnie Ray, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Paul Simon and said they are all great song writers.
The music festival did not only feature live music, it also featured multiple small businesses and organizations tabling and promoting their causes for fundraising and awareness about each group. Board Chair of the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention (MCVP), Krista Clement, was tabling in front of the stage where Wendy Keith and her Alleged Band were playing and said she enjoyed them very much.
“They’re great,” Clement said. “I love the country folk music and she does such a great job. I’m definitely a fan.”
MCVP is not only the crisis and prevention center for domestic abuse and sexual assault prevention for Keene State College, but for Keene as a whole. Clement described the massive crowd on Main Street as “warm and friendly,” and said she was receiving a lot of good feedback for the organization from those who stopped by.
Member of Monadnock Natural Health, Ashley Richardson shared the same positive vibes about the event while she was tabling in front of a restaurant next to where Wendy Keith and her Alleged Band was performing.
Richardson continued, “It’s just nice to be a part of the community and letting people know that we are here to help one’s natural health in different ways.”
Although the event occurred on Main Street, it’s reach was not limited to street itself. Keene State College alumnus Zach Benton, performed on-campus at the Thorne Art Gallery. sang, played the guitar and the harmonica while performing songs from his album and cover songs he chose for the event. Benton said the event was a great opportunity for him as an artist to gain “exposure.”
“For me, that’s the main thing because otherwise, it would not be a great deal for the musicians,” Benton said. “Everyone is volunteering their time as far as I know, so that makes it really cool because we’re all coming together to try to make something nice, which unless there’s a concentrated effort to do that, it doesn’t happen a lot. This is a nice event that’s like ‘Hey this is happening, it’s happening on Main Street,’ you can’t ignore it, which is really nice.”
Benton mentioned his musical inspirations being The Beatles, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to name a few.
With the event having troubling weather to start the day, some acts, like Benton, were moved inside to avoid the rain, while others like Wendy Keith and the Alleged Band performed outside at a later time in the afternoon as the weather cleared up.
Benton said he was “dreading” the prospect of playing out in the rain.
“I wasn’t dreading playing as much as dreading no one being there,” Benton said.
Fortunately for Benton, he was greeted by an audience of workers at the gallery and Keene residents as well.
Detective Joel Chidister of Keene Police Department said there were no problems with security or safety during his time on duty on Main Street. The event concluded without issue.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at email@example.com
*Corrections made 10/4/16 – Paragraph 1: Corrected “Sunday” to “Saturday.” Paragraph 20-26: Corrected “Bentan” to “Benton.”*