Pinegrove: Giving Back to Some ‘Old Friends’

Pinegrove carries a whole music scene on its shoulders, but takes a load off with some “friends” back home at Montclair’s very own Clearmountain Festival.

Pinegrove brings Montclair’s local music scene to a global audience.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s a question we’ve all heard too many times before, whether in conflict or our own self-conscious battles. However, for an alternative band from Montclair named Pinegrove, it’s more of a building block, the type of memorable lyric that can provoke honesty out of tone. And, if this past weekend’s Clearmountain Festival taught us anything, it’s that such a lyric can even turn a few Montclair musicians into some genuine hometown heroes.

It all started with Serendipity Café. Being a rotating outlet for Montclair’s most up-and-coming artists/performers, this communal organization opened the eyes (and, more importantly, the ears) of those looking to become a jack of all trades. And, lucky for us, one of those optimistic individuals just happened to be the lead vocalist/songwriter of Pinegrove, Evan Stephens Hall.

“There was always something that was just really fascinating and fun to me,” said Hall, an active volunteer of the Café for almost half a decade. “It taught me how to do sound, how to perform, and how to organize shows. And the fact that Montclair has this, I think, is part of the reason that it has turned out so many good songwriters and performers.”

Like a domino effect, Serendipity Café led to many years of practice for Hall’s musical passions. With an enthusiasm to write, he organized several of his old high school friends to start a new sonic venture that he called “Pinegrove.” The indie group, named after a breathtaking bevy of pine trees in the deep woodlands of Ohio (near Evan’s alma-mater of Kenyon College), utilized the sensational talent of Nick Levine on guitar, Sam Skinner on bass and Zach Levine on drums to make Hall’s genre-spanning sounds come to life.

Now, several EPs and two full-length albums later, Pinegrove has grown both in size and notoriety. From their signing with Run for Cover Records in late 2015 to the final stretch of their massive global tour supporting Cardinal (their most-recent LP), the six-piece band has built up a following worthy enough of a respectable homecoming. And that’s exactly what they got with Montclair’s newest collective project, the Clearmountain Music Festival.

The festival, taking place on Aug. 27, brought together a wide plethora of Montclair’s most memorable performers under the same roof. From bands like Stolen Jars to artists like Topaz Jones, each performed a half-hour set deserving of the cause at hand: the NJ Arts Education Partnership, working to give more artistic exposure to the state’s adolescent community. And, to top out the night at the Montclair Women’s Club (Off of Union St.), Pinegrove made a special appearance as the bill’s memorable headliner.

“Montclair already has a really good structure [for music],” said Hall, a strong advocate for the local charity at hand. “And this is a New Jersey-wide arts advocacy group that we’re sponsoring tonight. So, the thought is that we could help other towns get to where Montclair is.”

The band plans to continue their high strides with new music, sometime after they finish both their European tour this Fall and a second North American tour as a supporting act for Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band. Nevertheless, Pinegrove continues to be a beacon of hope for the Montclair music scene, and their set at Clearmountain has proved their loyalty and gratitude among the snafu of stardom set out for them. Furthermore, if their shining example isn’t enough to get local natives into the arts, we must remind them of one definitive question: What’s the worst that can happen?

A special thanks to Outpost in the Burbs for producing this event!

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