Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 20, 2018

Nashville singer Jake McVey headlines East Grove Farm’s Country Music and Mead Festival

Jul 16, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Country Unlimited’s guitarist Rob Hull prefers to be the first band on set, saying that then he doesn’t feel like he has to compete. Country Unlimited opened for East Grove Farm Country Music and Mead Festival Saturday, July 14.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


SALEM — Brad Kurtz has been playing with Chaz and the Channel Catz for over 20 years, and in all that time he doesn’t remember once rehearsing.

In fact, when Marty Hoyer joined the band a few years later and asked when they get together to practice, other members responded frankly that they don’t.

After 30 years total as a band, four loose leaf binders with at least 200 songs each guide them during each performance, drawing crowds wherever they play.

“We’ll do about anything we’re asked to do,” Hoyer said. “We’re just a local band that’s been around for a long time.”

That’s how Chaz and the Channel Catz found themselves at the Country Music and Mead Festival at East Grove Farm Saturday, July 14, following Country Unlimited. The headliner Saturday was Jake McVey, from Nashville.

This was the first evening East Grove Farms featured a country ensemble. Joel Garretson, with East Grove Farm, said they have traditionally had roots and blues music since the festivals began five years ago — the first held on the Garretson’s front porch five years ago and growing into crowds of up to 750 people since.

The country theme really came together with the availability of Jake McVey, Mediapolis native and rising country star.

McVey travels back and forth from Nashville to Iowa almost every other week for performances. The Garretson’s saw him in a show just last year and asked him to come out to the farm. “It’s right up my ally,” he said.

McVey played a mix of originals and classics to get the crowd “riled up, have fun and forget about the workweek,” he said.

McVey’s guitarist for the evening and former stage manager Nick Fry, of Burlington, plays with McVey quite often. A rock ‘n roller at heart, Fry says that McVey’s country music is rock ‘n‘ roll too. “I just love to play,” he said.

A hot afternoon quickly cooled down as clouds rolled over East Grove Farms early in the evening. Although umbrellas were raised for a scattered rain, some were kept up to block the hot sun that soon made a reappearance.

Following Country Unlimited’s set, Rob Hull, lead guitarist, said he prefers to open so he doesn’t feel like he’s competing with anyone else. Additionally, he prefers to think of his music as “classic” country rather than old country, saying calling it old country confines him to an era of music.

Between the four band members, they have over 200 years of music experience. “I love to play music and the music I love,” Hull said.

Next up was Chaz and the Channel Catz. Frank Leininger looked out at the crowd before taking the stage and mentioned that for the threat of rain, there were a lot of people gathered. “I absolutely love playing here,” he said.

But for Leininger, the show isn’t about the crowd. It’s about the Garretson family and their tradition. “They’ve been on this land since the 1830s,” Leininger said. “The oldest farm in Iowa with the same family living on it.”

Although Garretson cleared the barn Saturday with the threat of rain, he hopes to have the barn outfitted with a dance floor next year and sitting room in the balcony. For now, if it does rain, crowds can gather in the barn.

The next festival at East Grove Farm will be Sept. 15.

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