When the local Americana-rock band Tallahassee took the stage at the first annual JP Music Festival last year, singer/guitarist Brian Barthelmes was impressed by the professional set-up and the diversity of the huge crowd. Impressed, but not surprised.
“JP’s an amazing place for that reason, its ability to bring people together,” he said in a Gazette interview.
Tallahassee and two-dozen other local bands will play the second annual JP Music Festival on Sept. 8 at Jamaica Pond Park. Once again, the free festival will feature Jamaica Plain musicians of virtually all possible types.
Lots of neighborhoods are full of musicians, but very few have their own music fest. In Jamaica Plain, it’s a grassroots efforts that comes out of what Barthelmes says is a tight-knit community lacking the “cutthroat types” that bedevil some music scenes.
Only in JP, for example, will you find “Rock and Roll Poker,” a regular night when local musicians gather to play cards, listen to each others’ music, and talk about the challenges of band life.
“It’s like a union of musicians and artists,” said Barthelmes. “There are things you just don’t get unless you’ve been out until 4 a.m. every night and made $400 and haven’t seen your family in years.”
Barthelmes came out of other tight-knit communities, growing up in rural Ohio and playing the ultimate team sport of football.
“We were little DIY kids bringing punk and hardcore bands out to the Legion hall,” he recalled of his early childhood exposure to community-minded music.
But it was football that took him out east and eventually to playing offensive lineman for the New England Patriots in the 2006 season. And yes, he has a ready answer for the inevitable question about what infamously dour Coach Bill Belichick is really like: “One of the funniest people I’ve ever been around.” He recalled the coach cracking up the team by riffing like a profane stand-up comedian about headlines of NFL rookies getting in trouble.
After leaving football, Barthelmes returned to music, founding Tallahassee in Rhode Island in 2008. Bandmate Scott Thompson moved to JP, and the band followed suit.
Despite sharing a name with Florida’s capital city, the band has no connection with the Sunshine State. Bassist Shawn Carney simply thought “Tallahassee” looked good, with its three sets of double letters. The American Indian word is often translated as “old town,” which suits the band, as all its members are from small towns, Barthelmes said.
He joked that the band has vowed never to play the Florida capital until they have a sold-out stadium show or similar success. “Our dream is, one day, something magical will happen in Tallahassee for Tallahassee,” he said.
Meanwhile, the band is in the midst of recording its second album, following last year’s debut “Jealous Hands.” Its brand of Americana has been well-received, and Barthelmes notes that it might reflect a yearning in a time when many folks, especially artists and musicians, are “forced into cities” to make life work.
“The greatest country songs are often written by city people who wish they were back in the country,” he said.
But here in Boston, JP is the only place to live, he said. The JP Music Festival is one example why that’s true, a place where music is made not for money, he said, but because “it’s who we are and it’s necessary for the community.”
JP Music Fest lineup
The JP Music Festival will be held Sat., Sept. 8, noon-7 p.m. at Pinebank Field in Jamaica Pond Park at Perkins Street and the Jamaicaway. The rain date is Sept. 9. It will include food trucks and children’s activities. For info, see jpmusicfestival.com.
Musicians performing include: Almost Righteous, Rick Berlin with the Nickel & Dime Band, Eamonn Bonner, Bob Bradshaw, Dennis Brennan, Cambridge Symphony Orchestra members, Coyote Kolb, Lauren DeRose, Amelia Emmet & Thick Wild, Gracious Calamity, Jim Hobbs, Jamaica Plain Symphony Orchestra, Late Greats, Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, Lono, Lovewhip, Mariachi Mexamerica, Morris and the East Coast, The Needy Visions, Riding Shotgun, Rocky Nook, Streight Angular, Sweatshop, Tallahassee, and The Whiskey Boys.