Idiot show

Wry LA indie pop rocker stops in NH

It’s a story old as summer: a troubadour treks across the country, guitar in tow, playing wherever he can, emboldened by warm weather and no small amount of wanderlust. These days, a looping machine is usually packed with the merch case and sound gear in the Prius.  

For Rees Finley, it’s an essential piece of equipment. Playing solo, he said in a recent phone interview, is a “challenge to overcome.” The LA-based indie rocker’s new album, A Tale Told By An Idiot, is an emo-limned romp with a big sound built around two guitars, bass and drums.

“I’ve always been in bands,” he explained. “My music is solo in that I’m the only person who’s writing it.”

Playing solo can be a lofty job, one Finley cheekily touched on in “The Band Broke Up,” a song from his first EP. “I’m afraid I’m not enough on my own,” he sings. “Did I lose my edge trying to do it all? I’ve been writing the gospel, but I’m John, not Paul.”

He’s doing fine, really.

Finley’s packing the gigs on a tour moving from his native Ohio to locations throughout the Northeast. “Playing a show every night all the way up until August 22,” he said. “Keeping very busy.” He has two New Hampshire dates – a dinner hour set at Hermanos in Concord on August 8, and a listening room show two days later at Milford’s Union Coffee Co.

Musically, Finley’s wide ranging, citing influences from his father’s Beatles albums to Prince – for both artistry and one-man band chops – along with 90s emo and punk rock basement shows seen as a teenager in his Midwestern hometown. “My desire to go from genre to genre is honestly that I just have a short attention span,” he said. “And I always find it interesting when I see an artist who is very eclectic and never repeats themselves.”

Finley cites his original song “Kill The Lizard” as a good example of where he’s coming from.

“It has synthesizers, computer elements, but also big heavy rock guitars and some country, blues influenced guitar work and funk stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot going on, and it’s also an example of a song where I played and wrote everything… every instrument you hear is something that I put into it.”

Growing up “obsessed” with music, Finley learned several instruments at a young age. By high school, he was wrestling with whether to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston or USC. Both accepted him; he chose the latter because it offered a major in pop music performance.

The goal was a school doing more than “100 year old classical music or jazz that you’re not going to hear on the radio,” he said. “I wanted to be able to work on contemporary stuff, and this was one of the only programs that could do it.”

By the time he graduated, Finley was immersed in the SoCal music scene, and he’s lived there since.

“The people that I met in school are the people that I continue to work with,” he said. “I think it has been really good decision for me to kind of position myself there, and the community has been really such a part of my life.” A CD release show in late June at the Peppermint Lounge was packed with friends, providing a nice sendoff for his nomadic summer.

He’s energized by the tour, which is taking him to many places for the first time. “I want to meet and reach new people that haven’t heard of me before,” he said. “I’m also am really excited about traveling and seeing a lot of America that I haven’t been able to check out before… seeing different walks of life. It’s really inspiring as an artist.” Even better is keeping it all about playing songs. “It’s such a blast to be able to really focus on being the best musician I can full time.  Living in LA, I’m sometimes doing other things like teaching to help pay the bills. Being on the road, I really get to focus on performance. That’s been really great.”

Rees Finley

When: Saturday, August 10, 8 p.m. | Where: Union Coffee Company, 42 South St., Milford | More:

Also appears August 8, 6:30 p.m., at Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord (226-2635)

All in the family

New Kingston brings progressive reggae to Salisbury Beach

New Kingston Perform Live

The roots of Jamaican music go back further than Bob Marley and Johnny Nash, or even Desmond Dekker, whose 1968 hit “Israelites” was the first taste of the island’s music for much of the world. Prior to all that, before Jamaica had gained its independence from Britain even, singer Alton Ellis recorded with producer Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, early home  to many vital reggae artists. In the early 1970s, Ellis’s “Get Ready To Rock Steady” named an entire movement.

Bass player Courtney Panton, a first generation Jamaican-American, performed with Ellis in his band Kingston Crew. He  and his wife had three sons, and in their teens, Panton steered each toward a different instrument – Courtney, Jr. took up drums, Tahir found keyboards, and Stephen Suckarie picked up a guitar.

Toward the end of Ellis’s life, all four Pantons played in Kingston Crew. After Ellis passed, the name changed to New Kingston in tribute. Since the release of a debut album in 2010, the Brooklyn band has become a force in reggae, with a sound that melds urban influences to roots music.

Courtney Panton, Jr. is a whirlwind of energy behind the kit, singing, rapping and dancing on his stool. He frequently DJs, and acts as New Kingston’s spokesperson. In a recent phone interview, he spoke of the band’s mission, and an upcoming show at Salisbury’s SurfSide ocean bar.

“There are so many things that we think about every day,” he said. “But our common goal is the music keeping us together as a family more than anything.”

They began playing together in middle and high school, jamming in their Brooklyn basement. This offered a way to keep them from playing in the streets. “It was at a deciding point, a definition point,” Courtney Jr. said, recalling when his dad brought home a bunch of instruments and told each boy to pick one. “Injecting music right there at that moment was like alright, this is cool [and] he actually paid us to practice… so we don’t have to get a job.”

Dad played bass and picked songs for them, beginning with The Wailers and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy.” Eventually, after shake out shows in cabarets and neighborhood parties, they were writing originals. When New Kingston released its first album, it was fittingly named In the Streets.

Their 2013 follow-up contained another nod to their father’s influence – it was called Kingston University. “A lot of people don’t know our past history… with his extensive background, he pretty much put us in college in terms of that,” Courtney Jr. said, noting that many of the genre’s greats were also his peers. “More like friends and family; we got the opportunity to meet them and play for a lot of them. It kind of seasoned us.”

In 2014, they signed with Easy Star Records, and the following January released Kingston City, a breakout effort that hit Number One on the Billboard Top Reggae Album charts. A Kingston Story: Come From Far arrived two years later. Made in a Brooklyn nightclub during a tour break, it reflected the band’s “Brooklyn, Jamaica” live show energy.

Courtney Jr. said a new album is in the planning stages, and will be a more deliberate effort than the last one, a five day jam distilled into a record’s worth of songs. “We played everything like we used to back in the day, and got like 40 jams out of it,” he said of the band’s previous disc. “We kind of laid the ideas out, and just chopped it down.” Asked about the potential pitfalls of being a family band, Courtney Jr. laughed and called unity part of the common goal. “Every man is a lion, that’s a saying… but we try to understand each other,” he said. “That’s the thing; we’re a family, we’re gonna be together for our lives, so we gotta figure it out.”

New Kingston w/ Over the Bridge and Green Lion Crew

When: Sunday, August 11, 5 p.m. | Where: SurfSide,  25 Broadway, Salisbury | Tickets: $16 at ($20/door)