Grace Potter and the Nocturnals kick off Spring Back to Vail Friday
Fiery frontwoman Grace Potter, of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, commands attention like a hotblooded rock n’ roll mistress ought to. This girl’s got soulful, sultry pipes, and moves to match. And when the band climbs on stage in Vail tonight to kick off nine days of Spring Back to Vail concerts, they plan to “bring it,” she promised. In the four or five years since Grace Potter and the Nocturnals played 8150 in Vail with the North Mississippi Allstars, plenty has changed for the band. The group released its third (self-titled) album last June and since, buzz for this Vermont roots rock band has risen faster than the temperature in the clubs the five-piece has rocked recently. Perhaps the third time really is the charm.”I think we’ve worked really hard at it and we’re finally getting somewhere. And I think it takes this long. For a band to achieve any level of success, you really have to gut it out,” Potter said via a phone interview during a brief half-day stopover in L.A. Wednesday.And indeed, plenty of bands explode like a brilliant Fourth of July firecracker and fizzle out just as fast. That’s not the case here. “I think we’ve been well trained and we’re really ready for it, we’re prepared because we’ve been in training this whole time,” she said. The album was produced by Mark Batson (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band), who also co-wrote six of the 13 songs with Potter, and it’s undeniably more polished than the group’s previous albums. “We had a stylistic epiphany,” Potter said of her band’s leap. “We realized we’re not the kind of band that’s ever gonna fit neatly in one genre, and this time we just let the songs be the songs. We just naturally wound up playing them in a certain way – they all have that beat to them, a physicality and a mood. You have to either want to dance to it or cry to it. But there’s also a feistiness to these songs that’s completely unapologetic.”
And while the album shines, this group is one that begs to be experienced live, in large part because of Potter’s lusty howls. Watching the audience get swept up in the music is one of Potter’s favorite things. “It’s so encouraging,” she said. “You act like a maniac and you hope people understand what you’re doing, but it’s not all the time that you can do that and have people respond or be on the same page as you. So it’s really exciting when you can see people watching and changing. The whole course of the night can change based on how willing the audience is to be a part of it, to embrace it, and own it. Certainly we’ve gotten more comfortable owning it as well.” There’s a chemistry that undeniable between the magnetic Potter, lead guitarist Scott Tournet, drummer Matt Burr, bassist Catherine Popper (Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Hem) and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco. Popper and Yurco joined the band around two years ago, in 2009. “We all feed off of each other,” Potter said. “If one person is having an extremely good night, then hopefully it’s going to lead to an even better night for everybody. If we see one person is on fire, then we’re like let’s keep this fire going, let’s get it even hotter.”A burning fire is a good analogy for this band. Sexy is the only way to describe a handful of songs like “Medicine,” where Potter teases with “She got the medicine everybody needs,” and on “Paris,” when she belts out “You got me down on the floor; well what’d you bring me down here for?”That lustful theme was certainly intentional, Potter said. “This record was all about channeling, harnessing and embracing the things that I shied away from before,” Potter said. “I’ve always been coy lyrically. I don’t know why I was beating around the bush, it’s so much more fun to just come out and say it, let loose and embrace that. I’m a sexual creature, as is everyone else in the band.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.