Americana Roots: Armchair Boogie

Photo: Ty Helbach

Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US.  It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores.  Channeling elements from traditional bluegrass to funk to honky-tonk to create what they call funky-newgrass is Wisconsin’s Armchair Boogie. Their music is a non-stop, high-energy, party-inducing, thought-provoking, cavalcade of good-times.

Name: Armchair Boogie.

For Fans Of: Billy Strings, Leftover Salmon, Infamous Stringdusters.

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Band Members:  Augie Dougherty (banjo, vocals), Denzel Connor (drums), Eli Frieders (bass), Ben Majeska (guitar, vocals)

Website: https://armchairboogiemusic.com/home

Discography:  ‘Armchair Boogie’ (2018), ‘What Does Time Care?’ (2019), ‘The Western EP’ (2021)

Background: 

Born from front-porch bluegrass pickin’ sessions between guitarist Ben Majeska and banjo-picker Augie Dougherty in their hometown of Stevens Point, Wisconsin is high-octane, jamgrass, movers and shakers, Armchair Boogie.  As the musical bond between Majeska and Dougherty grew, they decided to step outside the normal realm of bluegrass, and like one of their inspirations, Leftover Salmon, add a full-rhythm section in bassist Eli Freiders and drummer Dan Waterman.  After a couple years Waterman left and was replaced with current drummer Denzel Connor.  As they began to develop as a band, they were inspired by fellow jamgrassers Horseshoes & Hand Grenades.  “Those guys came out of Stevens Point about five years before we did, “ says Dougherty.  “We watched them grow real fast and they made us realize that music is something that you can do, like, in real life.”

Like Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Leftover Salmon, the Infamous Stringdusters and other forward thinking roots-bands who Armchair Boogie looked to for inspiration, Dougherty says no matter how far they may stray musically at their core, “It will always go back to roots music.  That’s just the original avenue that people used to express themselves before there were rules and before there was an entertainment industry.  I wouldn’t consider Boogie a roots band at all because of the cross-genre influence we have, but our music takes direct influence from those roots artists across many genres.  I always say that as long as the artist can convince me that what they are trying to say is true and heartfelt, they are good and they are true.”

This “cross-genre influence” combined with Armchair Boogie’s sincere appreciation for the roots that came before, and their “true and heartfelt” approach to making music has led to the birth of a sound the band refers to as funky new grass, in which they channel elements from traditional bluegrass to funk to honky-tonk.  “This is one of the benefits of having an amazing and well-versed rhythm section,” says Dougherty.  “Hopping from grass to funk in the same song isn’t a problem for those boys.”

Like those bands that Armchair Boogie looks to for inspiration, it is live on stage where their music is heard best. Dougherty says, “Feeling out the song within the energy of a live crowd is where we learn what needs to happen to make it a real Armchair Boogie song.”  Their summertime festival sets are known for their non-stop, high-energy, party-inducing, thought-provoking, cavalcade of good-times.  Those characteristics will be well on display July 15-16 at the band’s Boogiedown Music Festival in Yuba, Wisconsin.  In addition to Armchair Boogie’s two head lining sets, the festival will also feature the Kitchen Dwellers, the Last Revel, Arkansauce, and many more.  “The crowd is there and it’s just such a dang good time to be a part of,” says Dougherty.  “The people are just so welcoming to everyone and so kind and genuinely good.  That’s where our place is in this thing, continuing to spread music and kindness and love.  I really believe that and I’m not even a hippy.  I’m just a country boy from Wisconsin and this is the community that pulled me in and made me feel at home.  I hope we can do that for many others.”

What They Do Live:

About Tim Newby 58 Articles
Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found with a beer in hand and barefoot at a festival somewhere. Author of 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019). New book 'Pete Browning: The Life & Troubled Times of a Forgotten Legend' due out in 2023. Follow him on twitter @Tim_Newby9 .

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