The Hartleb Beat: Potwhole with Pale Green Stars

Originally published by The Erie Reader on May 16, 2014. 

On a Saturday night in mid-April, Potwhole and the Pale Green Stars overwhelmed the small stage at the Performing Artists Collective Alliance during a concert that felt more like an intimate party, complete with dancing, on-stage banter, and plenty of folk-rock and alternative-rock songs about everything from the turmoil in Russia to the humor of hanging underwear on a review mirror.

The four members of Potwhole, the Erie-based opening act for the night, delivered an electrifying performance of upbeat original folk songs. The energy of the lead singer and acoustic guitar player Matt Boland transferred to the crowd. As Boland kicked the air and the sound of his guitar reverberated around the small room, some crowd members left their seats to dance to lively songs about serious topics, like economic disparity in America and the band’s thoughts on the “brink of World War III” due to Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine. Making light of serious situations is Potwhole’s niche – they play feel good music that is both relatable and danceable because it forces listeners to see . Throughout the show, Boland and Tyler Smilo, the band’s upright bass player, traded instruments and took turns in the role of “lead singer.” As they traded, they engaged in conversations with the crowd, letting the energy swell for the next song. After an hour full of gypsy-folk rock, they introduced the main act for the night, Pale Green Stars.

Pale green is usually a calm color – the color of hospital walls or springtime leaves. Dressed in red plaid pants and a black bowler hat, with one tuft of hair on his otherwise bald head, Jeff Jones, the lead singer of the Pale Green Stars, defied the color stereotype. The three-man band kicked off the show with Long Hard Road from their newest album The Honky Tonky Years. Like many bands, Pale Green Stars makes music based on life experience. But each song reflected the uniqueness of each band member’s human experiences, and the set mixed old and new tracks for a range of songs about years of thoughts. The band integrated humor into a few of the songs, such as You Keep On Talkin’, a crowd favorite about people who don’t know when to be quiet, featuring a guitar effect that sounded like the adult voice in Charlie Brown cartoons. Another fast, humorous song stemmed from Jones’ perplexity when he saw a pair of women’s underwear hanging from the rearview mirror in a man’s car. All in all, Pale Green Stars performed a medley of songs that, at their core, told the story of living.

Like Potwhole, the members of Pale Green Stars kept the room’s energy high and vibrant by jumping around the stage, dancing with each other, and interacting with the crowd. Before they played Burn it to the Ground, the closing song for the night, Jones took a moment to thank the crowd and add, “This is a metaphor for something else… That’s what song writing is about.” The metaphor may still be a mystery, but one thing is for sure: the next show featuring these two bands is not one to miss.


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