The Party comes to Pemberton 

Californian group, Grand Ole Party, brings funky, dirty blues style to festival

click to enlarge Raw Rock Kristin Gundred of Grand Ole Party on the drums and vocals at Pemberton Festival. PHoto by Rebecca Blissett
  • Raw Rock Kristin Gundred of Grand Ole Party on the drums and vocals at Pemberton Festival. PHoto by Rebecca Blissett

Shortly before things really got going on the Mount Currie main stage last week, a lesser-known indie band was busy impressing the crowd that had gathered around the Lillooet Stage.

Kristen Gundred, John Paul Labno, and Mike Krechneyak, the lady and gentlemen of Grand Ole Party, are used to being the first ones up on the stage, so they weren’t too worried when they began rocking out, sans sound check, in front of a crowd of thousands early Friday afternoon.

“We’ve been the first band at shows before,” Labno said with a shrug.

With Labno on guitar, Krechneyak on bass, and Gundred on vocals and drums, simultaneously, Grand Ole Party quickly grabbed the attention of eager festival goers who tended to bounce from stage to stage like hyperactive children, especially when they played their thumping, catchy hit, Look Out Young Son.

It’s hard to believe that the diminutive Gundred can pack such a vocal punch. Somewhat soft-spoken in conversation, she’s anything but when front and centre at the drums and the mic. With an extensive range, her powerful voice is also rich with soul and a raw, bluesy quality — a unique combination that is a bit of a throwback to strong female singers of the ’60s.

When the group first heard the massive lineup slated for the Pemberton Festival, all three members agree that Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers was the one act that really stood out for them. You see, the three met up at university in California, lived together for a while, and went through a phase where they religiously listened to an old Petty CD they’d “borrowed” from Krechneyak’s father.

“We listened to it like every day,” Gundred said.

Krechneyak grinned and recalled a time when a somewhat inebriated and belligerent Gundred got home, kicked open the door, and yelled, “put on Tom Petty!”

While they were stoked to hear that one of their favourite acts was playing at the festival, they weren’t able to stick around and hear him perform the following night — that’s because this young band is busy on the touring circuit, hitting spots all along the west coast this summer.

Labno said Pemberton Festival has been a totally different experience from other festival gigs they’ve played.

“This is cool, I mean, it’s a beautiful area and some great acts. South By Southwest is more just like insanity,” Labno said.

Gundred chimed in that they had played seven gigs in three days.

They also spent some time touring with another group at Pemberton Festival, Vampire Weekend, before the group really blew up.

“We toured with them right before they became, like, megastars. I literally said to them, ‘what the hell?’” Gundred said with a laugh.

Grand Ole Party’s overall sound comes across as fairly aggressive, but the people behind the music seem to be anything but.

“There’s a time and place for everything, right?” Krechneyak added. “So we’re not aggressive all the time.”

The years they’ve spent playing and living together seem to have made them pretty comfortable around one another, and it’s clear that they share a healthy sense of humour.

When asked how they decide what to play for a performance like Pemberton Festival, Krechneyak reels off a response in the blink of an eye: “We usually stand in a circle and start kicking each other in the groin. The first words that come out …” he trails off with a laugh.

Their debut album, dubbed Humanimals , was released in fall 2007, and has garnered praise for its pure rock ’n’ roll spirit and solid lyrics.

Now, they’re working on some new material, and plan on getting back into the studio soon, while they continue to tour.

“I definitely love touring and I also love being a working musician,” Gundred said, adding that she’s grateful to be able to focus on their music, full-time.

If you didn’t check them out at Pemberton Festival, take a look at their MySpace page — their music isn’t to be missed.


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