In January, Dave Graham, guitarist and singer-songwriter for long-running Capital Region punk band The Blisterz, found himself at a crossroads in his musical career.
The Blisterz’s second drummer Ted Boburka, who had been with the band since August of 2011, decided to call it quits after a gig at the Niverville Pub in Niverville. Bassist Drew Lochte, now busy with a young family, had been wanting to play fewer shows with the band as well.
Legendary Losers at WILDWOODstock
WITH: Charmboy, Holly & Evan, Erin Harkes Band, Stellar Young, The North and South Dakotas, Molly Durnin, Hearty Hearty Love
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Parting Glass, 40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: $10 (doors); $5 (advance)
MORE INFO: 583-1916, www.partingglasspub.com, www.wildwoodstock.com
“I kind of thought about it for a while, and I just decided — you know, maybe it’s time for a change,” Graham said from his practice space in Albany, just before a rehearsal with his new band, Legendary Losers.
In 2012, Graham had started a side project, White Trash Picnic, that was a self-described “punk-grass” band, combining Graham’s usual penchant for three-chord power pop songs with acoustic guitars and a stripped-down drum kit. At about the same time The Blisterz went on hiatus, White Trash Picnic bassist and vocalist Chris Wisniewski approached Graham about starting a more full-time project.
The two soon began playing acoustic duo shows at bars around the Capital Region, eventually amping up and adding drummer Matt Carlock, also of White Trash Picnic, for their first official show as Legendary Losers, a punk showcase at Valentine’s in February. Since that show, the band has scaled back once again; although Carlock is using a full drum kit in this band, Graham is back on acoustic guitar.
“I think initially when Chris and I spoke, I was like, ‘I think I kind of want to go more acoustic than what we did with The Blisterz,’ ” Graham said. “Because I really feel after doing that for years, and maybe playing places that we were too loud for — I started seeing there was a lot more opportunity for an acoustic-driven band. It was actually easy for me to do that because that’s kind of how I write the songs, and it just fell into place that way.”
The band’s setup makes them a much better fit than The Blisterz ever were for Graham’s annual benefit concert for the Wildwood School in Schenectady, WILDWOODstock. Now in its sixth year, WILDWOODstock will once again take place at The Parting Glass all day on Sunday. The Legendary Losers will perform third, at 2:30 p.m., following Hearty Hearty Love and Molly Durnin. The North and South Dakotas, Stellar Young, Erin Harkes Band, Holly & Evan and Charmboy round out the bill.
“I really encourage the bands that have been playing this thing to go acoustic, because over the years I’ve seen that . . . a good majority of the people that attend something like this are not necessarily your average concert-goers,” said Graham, whose son attends Wildwood. “They’re not used to the loud rock ’n’ roll bands. Since we’ve started, I’ll bring a box of earplugs and I’ll put them on the table — free earplugs — because I don’t want people to get a bad taste in their mouth, like, ‘Well, we went to WILDWOODstock and we got our ears blown out.’ ”
Each year the event, which includes a silent auction with all proceeds benefiting Wildwood School and its programs, has managed to take in more money and bring in larger crowds. This year the music will start earlier, at 12:30, to accomodate all the bands. “It’s a pretty steady crowd all day — it’s a long day,” Graham said.
The Legendary Losers will be continuing a tradition started by The Blisterz — during their set, singer Lizzie Fish, whose brother AJ is a Wildwood student, will join the band to perform a song. Last year, she sang a Taylor Swift song with The Blisterz; this year, Wisniewski and Graham co-wrote a song for Fish, using her input.
“She kind of wanted a song written in sort of the style of The Blisterz song ‘Wrecking Ball,’ which I kind of wrote about my son who was destroying my house,” Graham said. “So I said, ‘All right, just give me a bunch of — you’ve got to give me a list of things about your brother that you like, or don’t like, or that he does that are funny, whatever — just send me an email with a list of that stuff, and we’ll go to town on it.’ ”
The song is called “Lights Out,” after AJ’s habit of going in the bathtub and turning out the bathroom light. “And then he always has his goggles on,” Wisniewski said. “Those were the lines that I wrote.”
Graham is used to writing from real life — most of his Blisterz songs were based on his own experiences, and the new material he’s been writing follows in the same vein. New Legendary Losers song “Laptops and Les Pauls” comes from Graham’s experiences with The Blisterz being edged out of venues in favor of DJs or other electronic-minded musicians.
“We always kind of joke about that — ‘This song’s a true story,’ ” Graham said. “You know, most of them are; there’s always some that get embellished, but yeah, I think it’s a lot easier to write about true stories, for me.”