Weekender

Throwback band to hold ’50s-themed CD release party in State College

Kristi Jean and Her Ne’er-Do-Wells will have a CD release party Friday at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe.
Kristi Jean and Her Ne’er-Do-Wells will have a CD release party Friday at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe. Photo provided

As the weather breaks and the snow melts into our freshwater streams, the music continues to flow in central Pennsylvania.

This week, the focus is on Kristi Jean and Her Ne’er-Do-Wells, a rootin’-tootin,’ retro rockabilly band that is somewhat of a synthesis of the rockabilly bits of the Centre County scene. The band will celebrate the release of its new album, “Country-Billy Collision” on Friday with a CD release party at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe.

True to form for the band, the celebration will be 1950s-themed.

“There will be all sorts of ‘50s-themed fun,” frontwoman Kristi Jean Branstetter wrote in an email. “Free East Coast Swing dance lessons, ‘50s themed hors d’oeuvres, a door prize for best ‘50s dress, and free CDs with admission.”

Kristi Jean and her Ne’er-Do-Wells will do it all with a little help from their friends as well.

“There will also be some special musical guests,” Branstetter said. “Some of the people who appeared on the CD such as Bill Wilgus, who plays with Erin Condo and Tyne and the Fastlyne, Nell Hanssen, who played with Chicken Tractor, and Eric Bishop from Spider Kelly. The party will be so much fun and a great chance to dance, hang out with friends and relive the good old days of dance halls and honky-tonks.”

If you are in the audience on Friday at Webster’s you can expect to hear throwback music, a style that harkens back to an earlier age in music. The songs, however, are new.

“We are big fans of the music of the late ‘40s and early 1950s,” Branstetter said. “This CD and the band re-introduces twanging rockabilly guitars and slappin’ doghouse basses with steel guitar and country yodelin’. The music we play really reflects a short-lived era that was full of energy, possibility and exploration. With this new band we wanted to take on a style rather than cover songs directly. We still play some of those favorites, but you’ll also hear a lot of new sounds and styles.”

According to Branstetter, it’s a high-energy, fun style of music to play, and, like all music being performed by a group of people, requires intimate chemistry to really be what it ought to be.

“Working with true professionals who are also amazing, kind and fun people is really what it’s about,” Branstetter said. “It really comes down to having fun and bonding over the music — and we are always having a blast together, both onstage and in rehearsal or traveling for shows.”

In the future, Branstetter has a simple and clear vision: keep it going, get people dancing, and have fun.

“I think our biggest goal with this band is to help build a community of live music, dancing, bonding with friends and making new ones,” Branstetter said. “We want to be a part of a fun night away from it all — a chance to get together with friends, dance and experience something new and different.”

That fun defines Branstetter’s vision for the band and the band’s approach to performing.

“The whole thing is about having fun and enjoying the experience,” Branstetter said. “I get energy from the guys in the band and from the people in the crowd — especially dancers. We think we are both a band to watch and listen to — we try to not just stand up and play, we try to let our enthusiasm show. ... We hope that our energy is infectious.”

The CD release party will be held from 7-9 p.m. Friday at Webster’s. East Coast Swing dance lessons start at 6:15 p.m. For more information, visit kristijeanmusic.com.

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.
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