Published 3:09 pm Sunday, July 8, 2012
A summer homecoming is slated for the Paramount Theatre this week.
Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees and the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra — two acts with ties to southern Minnesota — will join forces at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 12.
Larson, a singer-songwriter from Austin, will make her hometown debut, and Blooming Prairie native Elisa Wright is once again coming to the Paramount as singer and violinist of GCO.
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Wright said the groups will be a good pairing, even though the they don’t have similar sounds.
“Chicks with talent from southeastern Minnesota — I would say that’s more the connection than musically speaking,” she said. “It’s pretty polarized, as far as music is concerned.”
While Larson is a singer-songwriter, GCO features many instrumentals in what Wright describes as a genre-bending style.
To both Larson and Wright, the differences are a good thing.
“I like playing with bands that don’t sound like us,” Larson said.
From solo to the Bees Knees
Larson, a 2003 Austin High School graduate, grew up in singing in the church choir. Her parents, Gordon and Nancy, still live in town.
She started her musical career in the Twin Cities when she was a freshman in college by playing solo shows at coffee shops, but went on a musical hiatus for a short time after graduating.
“I always wanted to play up here, but I didn’t like playing solo shows,” she said.
She’s now backed by a full band, which she said she prefers because of the interaction with other members on stage. Her brother, Chris, plays guitar and keyboards, Sara Horishnyk plays drums and Brennan Goetzman plays bass.
Larson’s voice sounds a touch like Joan Baez, and she said she enjoys listening to a wide variety of music from Lucinda Williams and classic country stars like Patsy Kline, Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris to new acts like Radiohead and Ween.
‘We’ve changed a lot’
GCO is bringing an expanded repertoire in its return to the Paramount.
GCO played there a little over a year ago, but the band has been busy writing and performing across the Midwest and even played the Shakori Hills Grass Roots Festival, which attracts thousands of music fans in Pittsboro, N.C.
“We’ve actually changed a lot within the last year,” Wright said.
Wright said the group has shifted its sound from bluegrass and roots more toward jazz and art rock.
Much of the genre-fusing in GCO stems from the varied tastes of the band members, according to Wright.
She’s a classically trained violinist, and she grew up listening to what she described as hard classical music she calls “the original heavy metal.” In high school, she stuck more to heavy rock, and groups like Guns ‘N’ Roses, Rage Against the Machine, Sound Garden, and her prior favorite, Metallica.
When she met her husband, GCO bassist Jon Wright, she said he introduced her to bands like King Crimson, Yes and her new favorite, Rush.
Wright said her husband also has ties to heavier music, but he also enjoys crazy progressive jazz-rock.
Guitarist Dan Neale is known for his country playing and is a common sub on “A Prairie Home Companion,” but Wright said he also enjoys jazz and bluegrass.
“He’s an amazing jazz guitarist and composer,” she said.
Drummer Mark O’Day is also a Rush fan, and Wright said he’s played many different styles, but enjoys listening to good pop music.
“He’s kind of a sucker for a good melody,” she said.
The varied musical tastes can make GCO song writing adventuresome, but in a good way, according to Wright.
“You never know where it’s going to go,” she said. “You bring a song in, and it just morphs into something you weren’t expecting,”
‘A really great show’
Paramount Executive Director Jennie Germain said the historic theater aims to bring in local talent, but she admits it’s not everyday you get two local acts.
“It is pretty unique. I’m very excited about it,” she said.
Potluck and the Hotdishes will play a short opening set. They’ll be followed with roughly one-hour long sets from first the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra and then Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees to close the night.
“It’s going to be a really great show,” Germain said.
Larson said she’s excited to return for a performance in Austin.
“I’m just really excited because it’s a beautiful theater, and it will sound really good,” Larson said.
Wright said she always enjoys playing near her Blooming Prairie hometown.
“It’s a lot of fun for me to head back home,” she said.