Grace Potter remembers her 2009 appearance at the AmeriServ Flood City Festival in Johnstown fondly. Apparently, the gentleman assigned to chauffeur Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, had quite the time, as well.
“He drove us around (the festival grounds) in a golf cart,” Potter recollects. “He’d had a few beers. A real jovial guy. I almost fell out of the cart a few times.”
Potter, returning to Flood City at Peoples Natural Gas Park this year as a solo act and headliner, praised the 2009 festival’s organizers and patrons.
“It was great to see how much local pride (Johnstown) had on display that weekend,” Potter said.
Potter takes cues from regional, roots-based festivals like Flood City when coordinating her own festival, Grand Point North, in her home state of Vermont.
“As I play these different festivals and venues, I’m looking at what types of food vendors are being featured, the different local breweries are being featured. I’m watching for acts the local folk and jam band scenes are showcasing. These are all ideas I bring back to Grand Point North.”
Potter tours this summer in support of her 2015 release, “Midnight.”
While the album doesn’t jettison the Nocturnals’ soul and rock roots completely, moments on ‘Midnight’ are unapologetically pop, with songs like “Alive Tonight” and “Your Girl” more likely to elicit fist pumps in a club than raised peace signs at an outdoor jam band show. The move to a more commercial sound isn’t too far-fetched; Potter has always shown a strong ear for infectious melodies and danceable grooves. Still, the new record has some longtime fans scratching their heads.
A self-actualized artist, the vivacious Potter is taking any constructive criticism in stride.
“I had a guy come up to me in a bar,” she recalled. “He asked, ‘Where’s the Gracie I remember with the cowboy hat and the boots who use to sing Neil Young covers?’ Well, wouldn’t you know? I was wearing a cowboy hat that night. Boots, too. And he obviously wasn’t aware Neil Young put out a synth pop album called ‘Trans’ in the ’80s!”
Potter elaborated that, “It’s good when an artist does something to disorient their fans. Not alienate, but disorient. If you hear something that disorients you, you may go back and listen to it again. Maybe multiple times. A song can grow on you, and perhaps you’ll understand and appreciate what the artist was trying to do. I’m trying to put my own sensibilities into these styles of music I like. Music is a bit like wallpaper, sometimes you just have to re-decorate the room.”
Potter’s stock has risen over the past few years, and she’s making good with her acclaim and recognition, promoting the research efforts of the Vermont chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and speaking at recent charity functions.
Potter was 9 years old when her grandfather contracted the disease.
“It burns a flame inside of me that completes me in ways singing and performing don’t,” Potter said of her work with the Alzheimer’s Association.
“It’s a sad disease, and it doesn’t need to exist. I’m grateful to be able to use my voice and my presence to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s research, and awareness to the strength so many families dealing with the disease exhibit from day to day.”
In addition to Potter, this year’s Flood City lineup features R&B belter Charles Bradley, blues/hard rock duo the London Souls and Americana singers and sometime collaborators Anders Osbourne and Tab Benoit.
IF YOU GO
- What: Flood City Music Festival
- When: Aug. 4-7
- Where: Peoples Natural Gas Park, 90 Johns St., Johnstown
- Info: www.floodcitymusic.com