Let Freedom sing at Mountain Fair
In what lead singer and guitarist Shea Freedom is calling “folk-hop,” the 23-year-old Carbondale musician layers fast-paced rhymes and sung choruses over a folky base of acoustic instrumentation.
Her band, Xperience Freedom, has been perfecting the style over the last two years, and playing some high-energy local gigs. On Saturday, the band plays its biggest show yet, opening the day’s music offerings at Carbondale Mountain Fair.
“I flipped out when I found out, and I’m still completely excited,” Freedom said. “It’s an honor and I’m super blessed and honored to have been given this chance.”
Freedom formed the band with percussionist Lyn Byars and later added saxophone player Kelsey Bohanon to the lineup. For the Mountain Fair show, they’ve brought on upright bass player Pam Rosenthal, along with a keyboard player and backup vocalists. Carbondale poet Wade Newsom is also expected to perform with the band during its 90-minute set.
A California native, Freedom was raised in the state’s foster care system. Between the ages of 7 and 17, she lived in 28 different homes, Freedom said. Her mentor from California, Suzy Campbell, who encouraged Freedom to use music to grapple with the emotional turmoil of bouncing between foster homes, is coming to town for the show.
“She helps foster kids deal with everything,” Freedom said. “And when I was in and out she always supported my music in any fashion she could.”
Since settling in Carbondale, Freedom has focused on her music.
“I got serious about music here,” she said. “I developed the band here to back me up and to collaborate.”
This summer, Xperience Freedom has started to get some traction. At a recent gig in Park City, Utah, a pair of talent scouts happened to be in the audience and invited the band to play the Women’s Redrock Festival next month in Torrey, Utah.
Freedom is also performing her spoken word poetry on Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Oasis Stage with a lineup of leading local poets. That program is titled “Spoken Word on Wilderness and Beyond,” and it’s a lyrical celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act — a theme running through the three-day festival.
The poets in the lineup include Newsom, Alya Howe and Trina Ortega.
Freedom has long written poetry in private, using it as an emotional outlet, and channeling some of it into the lyrics of her songs. But she shied away from performing spoken word in public until February, when Newsom and Lemon Anderson — the HBO “Def Poetry” regular and Tony Award-winning performer — invited her to perform during a poetry night starring Anderson at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.
“They spoke to me and told me I hade some potential in spoken word and asked me to open the show,” Freedom said, adding with a laugh: “But expect me to be nervous [Saturday] because I don’t normally perform spoken word.”
It’s easier, she joked, to hide behind a guitar than a piece of paper on stage, so she prefers playing music.
“I’m an introvert doing extroverted things,” she explained.
If Freedom is shy, you wouldn’t know it from her confident delivery in song. Her malleable voice swerves from deep, soulful moments into the rapid-fire flow of many of her songs.
On Xperience Freedom’s “Solitude” she raps over folky layers of flute and acoustic guitar. On “Find Your Peace,” the band offers an Ani DiFranco-styled blues, with Freedom taking the phrase “Ain’t got a lot of money, but you got a lot of joy” and repeating it, moving up and down both an emotional and vocal scale.
With a six-piece band on Saturday, Freedom expects to give her band’s songs a more full-bodied treatment than on those recorded tracks, which are among a handful the band has put on SoundCloud and YouTube.
“It’s going to be like nothing I’ve ever done before,” she said. “It’s turning into something bigger.”
For inspiration, she said, she’s looked to bands like Lynx and Funky Robotics, along with singer-songwriters like DiFranco and Tracy Chapman.
Other local bands taking the main stage in Mountain Fair’s eclectic three-day lineup include Astronaughty and the Jam Bandits (Friday, 5:30 p.m.) Carbondale mountain country stalwarts Let Them Roar (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), the kids’ group Earthbeat Choir (Sunday, 10:15 a.m.), and high school rockers Big Dog and the Midnight Badgers (Sunday, 11:15 a.m.).
They’ll warm up the stage for headliners ranging from New Orleans jazz fusion band The Iguanas to Fort Collins roots rockers Muskateer Gripweed, rumba fusion act Todo Mundo, multimedia performance artists Lunar Fire, New Orleans brass band Dirty Bourbon River Show, Nashville bluegrass outfit Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run, and El Paso Latin band Radio La Chusma.
As tradition dictates, the homegrown and volunteer-powered festival’s music offerings begin with a community drum circle on Friday at 4 p.m.
Join in the fun and remember to bring your own drum or make-shift percussion instrument.
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