Emerson Hart set to enjoy playing outdoors at Tulip Fest

Emerson Hart expects to check out the flowers, shop the vendors and maybe eat a corn dog at this wee
Emerson Hart
Emerson Hart

Emerson Hart expects to check out the flowers, shop the vendors and maybe eat a corn dog at this weekend’s annual Albany Tulip Festival.

Then he’ll go to work. Hart, front man for alternative rockers Tonic and a successful solo artist, is the headliner for Sunday’s music lineup in Washington Park.

“If the weather’s great, it is great,” he said of playing outdoor festivals. “I play a lot of different venues, but the thing I like about playing outdoor festivals is, in general, people are just in a good mood. And it’s always great to hear stuff coming off the live stage when it’s outside. It just sounds different.”

Hart will be one of the show’s closers, as he will perform on the main stage at 4:15 p.m. By then, music lovers will have lent their ears to — among others — garage rockers Sleeper Agent, indie-folkers the Accents, Caroline Glaser, the jazz-hip-hop-funk ’n’ soul Chronicles and the Saturday headliner, electronic alt-pop duo MS MR.

The tulip party begins Friday at noon with traditional Dutch street scrubbing at State and Lodge streets. The Tulip Festival luncheon will be held Friday at 12:30 p.m. at 90 State Events. The new tulip queen will be crowned Saturday at noon at the Lakehouse Amphiteater Stage.

Special ground rules for the Saturday and Sunday park gatherings will be in effect — no alcoholic beverages, glass containers of any kind, animals or pets (excluding service animals) will be allowed.

Alcohol will be sold on the grounds; attendees should be prepared to present age identification.

Tulip Festival


Main stage, Washington Park Parade Grounds:

— Panama Wedding — 1:15 p.m.

— Sleeper Agent — 2:15 p.m.

— Rubblebucket — 3:15 p.m.

— MS MR — 4:30 p.m.

518 Amp stage, Washington Park

Lakehouse Amphitheater:

— Tulip Queen coronation — noon

— Rebel Darling — 1 p.m.

— The Parlor — 2:15 p.m.

— Accents — 3:30 p.m.

— Titanics — 4:45 p.m.


Main stage, Washington Park Parade Grounds:

— Zumba! — noon

— Nicole Vanessa Ortiz — 12:45 p.m.

— Caroline Glaser — 1:30 p.m.

— Graham Tichy — 2:45 p.m.

— Emerson Hart — 4:15 p.m.

518 Amp stage, Washington Park

Lakehouse Amphitheater:

— 16th Annual Mother of the Year Award — noon

— The Kimono Dragons — 1 p.m.

— The Chronicles — 2:15 p.m.

— The North & South Dakotas — 3:30 p.m.

— The Lucky Jukebox Brigade — 4:45 p.m.

Kid Zone stage:

— Airborne Jugglers — Saturday and Sunday, 12, 2:15 and 4:30 p.m.

— Seth & The Moody Melix — Saturday and Sunday, 12:45, 3 and 5:15 p.m.

More info: www.albany.org

Hart is touring in support of his second solo album, “Beauty in Disrepair,” his first solo release in more than six years. Themes on the new disc include loss, rebirth, newfound love, family and starting from a clean slate.

The 44-year-old guitarist and singer, now living and writing in a 200-year-old farmhouse outside Nashville, said visitors can expect to hear a mix of Hart solo pieces and Tonic songs.

“I do a little bit of both,” he said. “I look at it this way — I wrote all the songs. It’s always fun to kind of going back to playing them how I wrote them. I would never stop playing with Tonic. Obviously, that’s my baby. We still do our shows, it’s always fun, but it’s kind of going back to the way they were created.”

Creating songs for solo and group performances can be a little tricky. Sometimes, a song that starts out for the Emerson Hart personal log ends up in the Tonic songbook.

Shifting gears

“When I start creating, I’ll know right away,” he said. “By the time I get through the verse, even before I get to the chorus, I’ll be like, ‘Man, this would really be much better for Tonic.’ I’ll just kind of put that aside and either finish it then and bring it to the band, or just kind of leave it in what I call the ‘well of songs,’ that I will go back to when it’s time.”

Hart draws inspiration through observation.

“It’s really just about living,” he said. “I write by watching people, how they live their lives, what’s going on with them. In general, for a solo record, I kind of feel I have to go through it to write about it.”

There’s a little pain, a little joy, in the “Beauty in Disrepair” tracks. Both subjects can present challenges.

“To be honest, I think joy is harder to write,” Hart said. “When you’re in pain or you’re going through something and you’re forced to have to deal with it, you have to kind of dig down and look at it piece by piece. When you’re happy, which I am — life is a balance — it takes more time to try to describe what joy is. That’s how it is.”

Hart is fine with multi-tasking for his career. One night, he might be solo. The next gig he’ll be mixing with Tonic.

“I just kind of dance between the two,” he said. “A lot of times, when I’m on the road, I’ll be doing a solo show and there’ll be a Tonic show that I’ll get on a plane, go do it, fly back to where I was and go to the next state to do my next show. So you have to do a little bit of both.”

Fresh Tonic will probably be in stock by fall. Hart thinks fans will be getting more of a raw-sounding rock record. And those can be hard to find these days.

“They’re gone in many ways,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean they won’t come back. I remember when we released ‘Lemon Parade’ (Tonic’s first album, 1996), our first single was ‘Open Up Your Eyes’ and rock radio was not doing so great at that point. We released that song, it was our first number one, and rock radio started to build. I’m not saying we had sort of a genius effect on the market, but I’m saying if you create something that’s real and people are lacking, people will come. They just will.”

Tonic fans may see Hart shopping before his gig on Sunday. He’s hoping to see members of the audience after the show.

“I’m in a good position in the way that a lot of these people who came up with the records, they’re older now and have kids,” he said. “It’s like, ‘We named our son Emerson or our daughter Emerson’ or ‘We fell in love to this song or that record.’ Or ‘Remember you played this city in 2002?’ That’s my connection to the world I create and the world I live in. And at some point in their lives, I become a part of their story and I love that, that makes me feel good. That’s how I have looked at my success, how I have affected people.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment

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