The stakes are often high for the band (local or collegiate as of late) tasked with opening the annual Movin’ On Festival at Penn State, but the Altoona-based Zach Wade & the Good Grief seem up for the challenge.
“It’s gonna be a dance party,” promised singer/guitarist Wade during an interview.
The band’s driving, insistent sound and confident presence belie the fact that the Good Grief — Wade, guitarist Rogan Allen, bassist Devin Pierce and drummer Keegan Allen — have only been playing together for two years.
Allen is a student at Penn State Altoona, which qualified the group for a Battle of the Bands competition to determine the final spot on Movin’ On’s bill. The Good Grief’s musical stew of folk, rock and funk bested seven competitors, bolstered by a strong reception from the crowd and a word-of-mouth buzz. A popular draw in Altoona, the group is humbly yet aggressively looking to expand its base in State College and beyond.
“We have a blast when we’re playing, but in terms of running the band like a small business ... this is something we’re taking seriously,” Pierce said.
Wade and Pierce began jamming in fall 2015; they recruited band members and the ensemble eventually swelled to eight.
“Sort of like a folk rock version of Slipknot,” Pierce said.
Trimming the fat was in order, and the current lineup as a quartet was solidified. The Good Grief takes its name from not only a favorite exclamation of Charlie Brown, but also the positive stressors Wade experienced as his bandmates pressed him to grow as a musician.
“It was challenging, but in a positive way for me.” Wade said. “It was a ‘good’ grief.”
Though Wade is center-stage, he maintains composing songs with the group is a democratic process.
“I don’t (approach composing songs) with any intention of giving direction,” he said. “A song usually begins with an idea bouncing around in my head. There’s not really an elegant or planned fashion of taking it from its inception to completion. Most of the time, as soon as Keegan adds the back beat and Devon adds the bottom end, we have a good idea where it’s going.”
Wade, who studied African-American literature in college and counts avant-garde rapper Saul Williams among his influences, also took a keen interest in how people interact through his work as a bartender.
“I look for meaningful interactions between people as inspirations for my songs,” Wade said.
The group has a six-song digital EP available for purchase on its Bandcamp profile, and look to record more originals by the year’s end.
In addition to Zach Wade & the Good Grief, this year’s Movin’ On lineup includes headliners Two Door Cinema Club, rapper Big Baby DRAM, dance-classical Top 40 act Clean Bandit, pop-punkers All Time Low and country duo Love & Theft. The festival will be held on the PSU Blue Band Field, and is free to Penn State students and faculty, State College residents and visitors who are 18 and older.
IF YOU GO
- What: Movin’ On Festival
- When: 3:30-10:30 p.m. Friday
- Where: Blue Band Field, University Park
- Info: www.movinon.org