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‘Run’ for RiverRoots
Past festival act returns for lineup announcement, square dance
, Courier Staff Writer
Thursday, February 09, 2017 3:03 PM
ALL IN THE FAMILY: Run Boy Run will perform this weekend at the RiverRoots lineup announcement party. The band includes, from left to right, Grace Rolland, Jen Sandoval, Bekah Sandoval Rolland and Matt Rolland.
As festival season draws closer, a folksy Arizona foursome will return to Madison this weekend for the RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival lineup announcement party.
Run Boy Run will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Red Bicycle Hall for a show featuring two sets.
During the first half of the evening the band will perform their original Appalachian-style tunes – as featured on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Before the night’s end, concert-goers will be up on their feet as the band hosts a square dancing hoedown. The band will both play and call the dance, while teaching some basic steps for those who might be new to the style.
As part of the annual events leading up to the RiverRoots festival, organizers will announce which acts will be returning or making their debut at the spring event.
Run Boy Run features Matt Rolland on fiddle and guitar, Grace Rolland on cello, Bekah Sandoval Rolland on fiddle and Jen Sandoval on mandolin. All three women provide the vocals for which the group has become known. The group will also be joined by bassist Ryen Alfred.
Before becoming a band in 2009, the sibling pairs knew of each other through involvement in family bands and bluegrass festivals. Then, when three of the band’s four members attended the University of Arizona, Matt Rolland said the group “connected because of the music.”
Matt’s sister Grace joined the group and in 2013, Matt and Bekah married, further cementing the familial bonds of the group.
In 2011, the group released its first self-titled EP with a collection of traditional music covers as well as a few new songs. Since then, the band has released three more records including two full-length albums and, most recently, a four song EP “I Would Fly.”
The band has performed at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, twice on NPR’s “Prairie” and were called one of Arizona’s top 10 bands by Paste Magazine.
For their first full-length release, Garrison Keillor wrote a piece for the album’s liner notes. In his writing, Keillor recalled attending one of the band’s performances and the lasting effect it had.
“I saw them clear late one night at a party when they played for three hours straight, unamplified, and danced while they did it, and wanted to play more but the van was leaving,” Keillor wrote. “I am old and jaded but I still have my hearing and when I hear Run Boy Run, it all comes back to me, why I started doing that show back then. I hope they go on forever.”
Whether or not the band will go on forever is up for debate, but this musical family is in it for the long haul.
As a normal family, Matt Rolland said, the group have their fights and squabbles, but are still supportive and “committed to putting things back together” at the end of the day.
“It depends how long the van drive is,” Rolland said of whatever tensions may arise, if any.
Still, the dedication to family helps them “survive on the road.”
As is tradition, Rolland said, “everyone participates in music making” for a democratic approach to the artistic process. However, as time has gone on, Rolland said his wife has started to do more of the writing.
“We all write as a group,” he said, and then they work on arrangements as individuals.
When it came to arranging vocals, Rolland said, things came naturally with each of the three women’s voices fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle.
“There’s such a magic there,” he said. “They speak without speaking.”
In the traditional bluegrass genre, it’s those voices that really help to set them apart from other bands. The group considers artists like Nickel Creek and Alison Krauss as influences – other artists Rolland said are “not afraid of personal touches.”
“We can’t help but let those roots show,” Rolland said of the genre’s foundation. As the group have “settled” into being a band, he said, they’ve ventured further into unique territory and some of their other strengths.
For this weekend’s show, the band will perform a little bit of everything, including a number of acapella songs huddled around one or two microphones. The first half of the show will include more ballads and love songs before venturing into the upbeat swing of the square dance.
“Break it down to its essence and build it back up,” Rolland described it.
With good music and a positive family vibe, he said, “you can’t help but be happy.”
Tickets for Saturday’s event can be purchased online for $8 or $10 at the door. Doors will open at 7 p.m.
For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit www.redbicyclehall.com
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