This story appeared in the 19 May 2016 edition of Seacoast Scene
The logo for Evolvement Radio is a signal tower equipped with massive wings – an appropriate metaphor for founder Michael Bernier. With dreadlocks, ever present smile and boundless energy, his feet don’t seem to touch the ground. Settling in for a Sunday afternoon phone interview, Bernier recounted the previous 48 hours, which included traveling from his Newburyport home base to Burlington, Vermont to play with his band Freevolt, then racing back to emcee an early morning 5K race in Gloucester – a feat he repeated the next day in Amesbury.
“You’d expect me to be partying and staying at a hotel, but truth is I get back in the van at midnight,” Bernier said. “People are always saying to me, ‘Man, your life is so good; I would love to be you.’ I love it; but I am hustling hard; it’s a heavy grind, not a go to work for 40 hours then not think about gig.”
Along with work as a bandleader, motivational speaker and radio host, Bernier is a seasoned show promoter. This summer he’s behind the original music 5PM Sessions every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at NBPT Brew Co. in Newburyport. He also organizes long form festivals at the brewpub, including a reggae fest in July and the Funk n’ Jam Out in September, with Entrain, Freevolt and Das Pintos, a band fronted by brewery owners Chris Webb and Bill Fisher.
Bernier’s band will also perform ahead of top-billed Soul Monde at the upcoming 252/3 Festival on Saturday, May 21. The headliner features Ray Paczkowski and Russ Lawton of the Trey Anastasio Band. Gretchen & the Pickpockets open the show; Bernier met the New Hampshire band when they were guests on his EvoRad show. “They are wonderful people, working hard and super friendly,” Bernier said.
Though the show is being held at a beer making facility, it’s decidedly family friendly, with a noon start and lots of kids’ activities. “It’s all ages; I expect to see nine months to five years old there.” Bernier said, adding that this spirit is reflected in the music. “The festival crowd is full of upbeat, fun, positive happy people and these bands represent that.”
There’s a reason for him to dwell on youngsters: Bernier is an expectant father. His wife Kristin is due in early August. With uncontained giddiness, the couple went public with the news April 9 at the New England Music Awards, hosted by the EvoRad team. Given his own life choices – Bernier’s been a working musician for close to two decades – does he envision his child traveling the same path?
“I expect to raise a child that knows it can go forth and be fully supported in whatever he or she wants to do and love the fact that you’re alive,” he said. “ But I expect there will be some music going on because there is music at every turn of my life.”
Freevolt trickled out tracks from its most recent recording, Once You Say over the last half of 2015 before releasing the full CD in January. “Stretching it out got a lot of positive feedback,” Bernier said. “It gave people a chance to digest one song at a time but still keep the excitement up for the new album and new music, and lasted a few months instead of one day dropping it.”
The band is back in the studio and expects to put out a new single later this summer.
Along with venue shows, the intimate in-studio concert at Evolvement Radio’s Newburyport facility will continue. With less than two dozen audience members, each show is a special experience. The next one happens June 13, when Americana duo Muddy Ruckus performs “Marina Evans is coming at some point when she’s back from Italy,” Bernier said. “Elijah Ford (son of former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford) came through – he’s very talented.” Seacoast native, artist and troubadour Dan Blakeslee also played a well-received session.
With a growing list of affiliates – Internet and terrestrial – his broadcast endeavor is thriving. “Evolvement is growing as fast as I can handle it,” Bernier said. “The radio show is getting guests from all over the country now, people on the national touring circuit. There’s new people every week that are like-minded, open minded, unique and super wonderful.”
252/3 Festival featuring Soul Monde, Freevolt and Gretchen & the Pickpockets
When: Saturday, May 21, Noon to 6 p.m.
Where: NBPT Brew Co., 4 New Pasture Road, Newburyport
Tickets: $10 (21+, under 21 free)