Katie Hammon (above) and Bear Grass recently celebrated the release of its second album at a show in Troy’s The Post Contemporary on Friday, Aug. 10. (Photo submitted)
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With the recent rains, all variants of grass are growing with abundance — especially the crab grass on my front lawn.
Katie Hammon knows all too well the frequency in which the rains have visited Troy on Wednesday nights. The rains washed out two nights from Rockin on the River, a concert series organized by the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District, to which she is the executive director. She’s the face you often see introducing the band’s before each set. This time of year, you may forget why she seems so comfortable on stage. She fronts the folk rock band Bear Grass.
“I was kind of brought into the position with the BID because of my background in music,” said Hammon. She started with the BID as its event coordinator, a role she could slip into with her background in event management. She later stepped into the director role when the position was open.
Though her background in music helped get her foot in the door with the community, her life as a musician is separate. Business strategy and creative artistry are two concepts psychologists would say reside on different sides of a person’s brain — the old left-brain, right-brain concept. The BID allows Hammon to help bridge a network for local businesses within the Collar City, a downtown that has thrived through a grassroots effort as the city struggles with financial woes. Hammon, however, has long defined herself through music.
Bear Grass formed six years ago out of Troy, a city Hammon has called home since moving from Fox Island, a small island in Washington State’s Puget Sound, to attend the College of Saint Rose’s prestigious music program. In the decade that has since passed, she met her husband and established herself on the Right Coast. The band’s name — a corn lily that grows predominantly on the West Coast — is a little something from home in which she holds on to.
Bear Grass, the four-piece band that consists of Hammon, Ian White, August Sagehorn and Tommy Krebs — has thrived from the admiration of fans within the Capital District. Hammon’s vocals grab hold of audiences. With a sultry delivery, she captivates as listeners hear her stories about people and memories she has of home. Some of which sad, as she speaks of people she has lost and places that have changed since leaving them behind. Drawing on influences like Laura Veirs and Wye Oak, the music is a blend of folk, rock, and homespun trip-hop that soothes the melancholy.
“A lot of the songwriting is surrounded by the idea that I’m creating a life on a different coast than I grew up,” said Hammon.
The band captured those songs on a recent CD release. Hammon said she named the band’s sophomore album “Left” for two reasons; one, to pay homage to her hometown on the “Left Coast,” and two, to signify she had left “something that I have loved, and still do.”
Despite feeling the pull to return home, Hammon said she’s content with having established a “sustainable” life here in the Capital District. In a local scene that has been compared to reputable music communities across the country, she said she finds it to be a challenge to book bands.
“Just because there’s so many different ideas of what people want,” she said. “We’re in this region where we’re so close to so many different cities, and it’s a very easy place for musicians to see. The Tri-City area boasts a collected population of more than one million residents. The Northeast corridor is known well for the jam scene, identified most commonly with Burlington’s Phish. But, the Tri-City area, which boasts a collective population of more than one million residents, has multiple pockets of musical tastes that range from hip hop to country, electronic dance to folk rock. “If you look at all the venues, they’re booking different genres. They have to book everything in order to grab all those people, you have to find [bands] you think they’re interested in.”
“Left,” available through Fivekill Records, can be purchased online through bandcamp.com.
Michael Hallisey is Managing Editor of Spotlight Newspapers.