Hear Ye Hear Ye, I Lindsay, producer for Underwater Sunshine Fest, proclaim today “Everyone Must Listen To Town Meeting Day”!!!!! Why? The first Monday in May is the day most towns in Massachusetts hold their annual Town Meeting. So of course today is the perfect day to listen to Town Meeting and the perfect day to announce that they will join the Underwater Sunshine Fest lineup in November!
A few years ago I was booking a small daytime summer music festival for my town, the first show I ever had ever booked. You know the kind - the family friendly events with folks lined up at the food truck and a smiling bartender at the beer wagon all set up in a big field with toddlers dancing, parents pushing strollers, and the older crowd relaxing in folding chairs. This was set to be the first annual Dover Music Fest and I was thrilled to be the one to select the talent to entertain my friends and neighbors for a few hours. I (of course) didn’t want any cover bands. No! I was going to bring the amazing New England artists that I had been enjoying in the city out to the burbs! I would open up the ears and minds of my locals and share what I had discovered.
I quickly learned that, as much as bands want to play, chances are they already have plans on a summer Saturday five weeks from now. I was stressed. I needed five acts that could keep toes taping and toddlers spinning. I secured my headliner, enlisted some folks from town in a popular cover band for the closer (turns out - sigh - many people do like covers), and found a couple of singer songwriters. But I was still one band short.
Later that same day, while I was frantically looking for one more band, a guy I’d chatted with on Facebook sent me a message about a band he had just seen that blew him away. They were called Town Meeting. I kinda chuckled at the name as our annual town meeting was a week away and I had just read an email reminding me to go. I clicked the link he sent me and found someone’s bad vertical phone video. Eight seconds later I knew this was my band. My head was bobbing, and I could feel my toes starting to lift. I paused the video and wrote back, “Can you see if they can play on 6/6”.
Town Meeting took the stage as the opening act of the day. “They had better be as good as you think” I nervously told myself. Russ Condon perched himself in the center of the stage on his cajon. Luke Condon strummed two chords and Russ exploded with an energy no one in that field expected from any band, much less one playing in a 2pm slot. Tim Cackett joined in with the bass line and the subtle jangle from Brendan (Babe) Condon’s tambourine rounded out the sound. OMG they were so good! Why didn’t I book them as the headliner!!! There was not a still foot in sight for their entire set.
Four years later I am writing this piece and I have seen Town Meeting play easily 20 times now. When you experience this quartet, you absorb their energy and just can’t help but get on your feet and move. No wonder they named themselves Town Meeting. Much like annual town meetings bring out the passion in the townspeople, Town Meeting brings out the passion in pretty much anyone who hears them.
I listen to a ton of new artists so, for someone to catch my ear, they need to hit my musical trifecta. I knew Town Meeting was great from that first video because the music, the voice, and the lyrics all worked. Town Meeting has not one amazing lead voice but three! The Condon brothers are all songwriters. Sometimes they sing their own songs and other times the four of them write together and the person taking the lead just happens. Luke couples singing with guitar, Russ with cajon or drums and Babe with harmonica and tambourine. Tim adds depth and color to their voices with his rotation of bass, mandolin, acoustic, electric and tenor guitar, and now banjo!
I’ve been a fan through the release of their first album If I Die, the EP Geography, Pt. 1 and their second full album From the Green and I really can’t even decide which you should start with, choosing the songs to talk about here is hard enough! From the foot stomping sing-a-longs, to the church-like hallelujahs and harmonies to the soul grabbing ballads, the talent of this band is really vast (I hear a third album will be recorded in October though so personally I’m even more excited about that).
I was chatting with Luke the other day about some details for this profile and he told me that their song “Good Enough” from their album From The Green was written and recorded same day in the studio. They were recording at Dimension Sound Studios with producer Daniel Cardinal (who returns for the upcoming album) and Russ was just strumming a guitar to fill the time. They all joined in and…one 45-minute break later, they’d figured out the music, written all the lyrics, and basically put the whole song together. “Good Enough” starts off as a mellow ballad and builds until the emotion is so intense and powerful it’s almost upsetting to me as a listener when it’s over. I get lost in the repetition of the lyric “If it feels good then that’s good enough” as it builds and builds and…then the song just breaks down and I’m left with the feeling and the question “How come when it feels good it’s not good enough?”
My favorite song off that album is probably “Least of These” though. There’s a cadence to Babe’s words on this one and a certain way the string parts weave in and around Luke’s guitar that grabs me and pulls me in.
We said our goodbyes
On that sunrise
And oh you went north and I went south
You said to me the worst disease is
Probably what’ll hurt the least so
Try and keep an eye out
Through faith and fear and doubt
Like the sermon on the mount
There ain’t no way out
Find a rock and build your house
It won’t fall down
When From The Green was first released last year, I think I played “Shenendoah” on repeat for about two days straight (I tend to do that when I fall in love with a song). The lightning delivery of the lyrics catches my ear, draws me to the story and, at the same time, nearly leaves me behind. I rush to catch up so as not to miss the next passage, only to feel a need to return and spend more time again with the previous one (thus the repeat). The song breaks and I am taken by surprise yet again when Tim’s electric guitar crashes through the momentary calm. Town Meeting frequently writes songs without a true chorus, choosing instead just continue building on the story and create a refrain by re-using a single line at an unexpected moment.
My favorite part of the songs Babe writes and sings is the way the passion in his voice carries into his harmonica. In the bridge in “Seven Years” I can feel the harmonica cutting through the arrangement before building into the rising intensity of Tim’s mandolin melody. By the time the strings move to the front of the mix, I’m lost in a multi-dimensional stack of emotions and instruments. Whew. It’s a lot.
Between their first and second full-length albums, Town Meeting snuck in a four song EP, Geography, Pt.1. The first song, “West of Seattle”, is another one the guys wrote in-studio. Seems like anytime the four of them get together and have time to kill, a song is born. In “West of Seattle” the vocal harmonies of the voices blend with the instrumental ones and create what I think of as quintessential Town Meeting. Each part is unique and each one at times stands on its own, yet the weaving and blending of them together is what makes the magic. Babe’s harmonica and Russ’ cajon really stand out between the verses as they almost guide the voices (and us) through the story. I’m not surprised this song has racked up close to half a million plays on Spotify!
One last song I want to talk about, which also hovered at the top of my playlist for several weeks when I first heard it, is “Wash My Hands” off of the first album If I Die. They layer subtle electric guitar chords over a gentle strumming acoustic while Luke’s words paint a picture that Russ outlines and emphasizes with his harmonies. When Tim’s bass descends down through the title line, it just breaks my heart. It’s really such a beautiful song and a portrait of the way all the separate parts of this band work so organically as a whole.
There's a sense in the wind, and I’m drinking it in
Like a hole in a storm cloud cutting through the rain
And these words that i own, have a weight in their bones
And they pull like a new wooden yolk against the grain
In addition to Town Meeting, all the guys have at least one side project. Luke, Babe and Russ are each writing songs and performing solo shows (Russ under the guise Man With Song) and Tim plays in a bluegrass band called Mama Ain’t Dead. They also produce a regular podcast for their Patreon followers, host Open Mics & Vinyl Nights, play with other artists, and, in Luke’s case, occasionally write love songs to Hermione Granger. (google it!)
I am so excited for all of you to get to experience Town Meeting this November. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because there’s no way you will be able to stand still…. When Town Meeting plays, you move.