Not surprisingly, The Front Porch was the first band we saw play after our warm reception to the Wente Estate property. Throwing down a picnic blanket next to an ice bucket containing a wonderfully fruity and refreshing Pinot Grigio, we watched as The Front Porch embodied community in the way only a group of lifelong friends can. Karl and company were all close friends, and it really showed on stage. Two acoustic guitars up front, an electric guitarist, a bare foot bassist, two mean fiddle players, and making room for a guy ringing the triangle off to the side for good measure—they embodied their festival’s mission statement wonderfully. Donning bare feet and sandals and Vibram Fivefingers, they were all at ease, clearly loving the stage, sharing the spotlight and taking turns being rock stars in their community.
The next band was Crawdad Republic, Livermore’s own bluegrass string quartet. The stringed purity of banjo, guitar, mandolin, and stand-up bass, coupled with beautiful harmonization of bass, dual-pitched baritones, and tenor vocals, rang through the afternoon heat like a cool, refreshing breeze. Poignant songs about the various truths of life—done up in the way only a beautifully colloquial bluegrass soul can communicate—had everyone nodding heads, tapping feet, and even brought a tear or two to my eye (their song “The Long and the Short of It,” will do the same to you).
The Front Porch band took the stage again, this time with a different front man: former American Idol contestant Wolf Hamlin, as Wolf Hamlin and the Front Porch Drifters. Adding two fiddle players and a stand-up bass, they seemed a far cry from the folksy, backyard rock that they played earlier. Wolf on lead vocals added a more powerful, richer, and louder body, allowing for an entirely different, more rambunctious vehicle altogether, and they served as a wonderful segue into the evening as the sun began to dip in the sky, and the wine pours became more generous.
The next band to play was San Francisco based rock band, The Stone Foxes, and they kicked some serious ass. With siblings playing guitar and drums, close friends on bass and keyboard, and impressive vocal harmonies, they played with a phenomenal energy that spread infectiously. Dancing was heavily encouraged, and became commonplace throughout the crowd as those Foxes brought back rock and roll like the Black Keys wish they could. At one point, the drummer stood up and began playing harmonica while sharing his brother’s microphone, concluding their set with a raucous cacophony of radical sound and energy, dripping sweat all the while. That only four people could put out so much sound and energy surprised us all.
The final act was rising international sensation, The Kin. This New York based, grit-pop trio is comprised of a keyboard, a guitarist, and the least orthodox drummer I’ve ever seen. His bass drum was a djembe, and he wailed on cymbals, tom-toms, and snare drums using his own taped up fingers for drumsticks. Their post-rock ballads were beautiful and lucid, with heavy distortion and reverb on the guitar pairing wonderfully with the ethereal keyboard elements, bound together by the almost tribal style of percussion. The vocal ranges were also very impressive, ringing with crystal clear tenor, flawless falsettos and some raw, gritty baritone. The Kin closed out the evening with as much bravado and soul as they did to their impromptu acoustic performance earlier in the day. Surrounded by barrels of wine and a crowd that could not take their eyes off of them, the two brothers sang their hearts out, and later, while enjoying some healthy snacks and talking about inspiration, I asked Thorald what his inspiration was. He looked right into my eyes and said, “you.” I believed him. Their presence makes The Kin one of my new favorite bands. About to embark on a 20 date tour with PINK in Australia, The Kin is sure to continue to inspire with their absolutely intoxicating energy.
The next time you find yourself in Northern California, we highly recommend a visit to Livermore and Wente Vineyards. Not only it is gorgeous, but it is also the first winery in California that inspired me to enjoy a chardonnay. Plus, for all those music lovers out there, you might want to Visit Karl’s porch for an impromptu jam session. Chances are you’ll find one.
– Svetlana Saitsky and Anthony Del Signore
Photos by Svetlana Saitsky for Socially Superlative, additional photos by Skye Morgan