Moab Grassroots Music Exchange (MGME) cofounder Jenna Talbott says that showgoers were blown away when Salt Lake City musician Simply B played an impromptu performance at the group’s Kickoff Campout last month.
So when the group started to plan its second free music campout at Area BFE on Sunday, May 24, it decided that Simply B – also known as Brandon Barker – would be a perfect fit for the new show.
“One idea of MGME is to dissolve the barrier between the performer and the audience —to make the musical experience a two-way street — one that’s accessible to music lovers and inspiring for musicians,” Talbott said. “Brandon is passionate and engaging on many levels.”
As fate would have it, their schedules lined up, and Barker will be returning to Area BFE this weekend, joining Ben Weiss and Katia Racine of Pixie and the Partygrass Boys as a featured artist. This month’s performers also include Gigi Love, Natalie Staggs, Mac Lloyd, the Bentley Brothers, Kord Jackson and Roots Deep, Lisa Hathaway, Jeff Brennan, Tamera Freida, Jonathan Olschewski of Stonefed, and others.
Showgoers are invited to set up camp and enjoy the scenery at any time on Sunday, although the music and festivities won’t begin until some time around 4 p.m. Talbott said MGME is hoping to feature Simply B around 7 p.m., just as the sunset lights up the La Sal Mountains beyond the platform.
She said that MGME hopes to stimulate the local community by celebrating, welcoming and hosting these musicians in Moab. Showgoers can expect local art, jewelry, face painting, seed-bomb building, bonfire jams, fire spinning and live visual art, as well as live music from a variety of supporting local musicians rolling late into the night.
“Anyone and everyone in the community is invited to be involved — let’s show these guys Moab,” Talbott said.
Support for the event comes from artist Tim McAllister, who is heading set design; artist Peter Apicella; musician Scott Ibex; Silver Bear Boutique and Grand River Seed Bombs, as well as several local businesses and individuals who are collaborating to host guest featured artists for the duration of their stays.
Talbott said that MGME is ecstatic to be hosting Simply B.
Barker first picked up a bass guitar when he was 14. His early influences ranged from classic rock to funk.
“Then when I was 18, I got my heart broken and got into the singer/ songwriter thing on the guitar,” Barker said. “It brought out a different music persona — a folk-felt heartbreak sort of thing. I didn’t play the bass much for two years.”
When he was 20 years old, Barker picked the bass back up and started a couple of bands. Barker’s Babble Rabbit covered everything from folk to funk to metal to hip-hop.
“We somehow found a style of music that worked with all our different sounds,” Barker said.
Babble Rabbit did several tours around the West Coast. Barker describes his other project, Dos Dragones, as “folky, funky jazz-grass.”
After parting ways with these projects, Barker recorded an original album under B and Company titled “The World is Your Pearl.” Barker invited several friends and musicians from over the years of his development to play on the tracks, resulting in accompaniments from multiple female vocalists, violin, flute, trumpet, banjo, electronic beats, drums and piano.
Recently, Barker began to journey on his own path.
“I looked into getting a van and a looper at the same time,” he said.
Barker saw both as opportunities for independence. He began to merge what he considered to be his two musical personas — the folk-felt singer songwriter and the funk-like nasty bassist.
“I feel like instead of clashing, these personas are complementing each other,” Barker said. “They are Simply B.”
Barker said the loop station has been his greatest teacher. It keeps him honest and frees him to develop musically in new ways.
Barker is currently developing his van to be a solar-powered portable stage, one on which he intends to drop Simply B sets, host open mics and rock sunrise funk jams. Barker is taking on the technical and structural process himself, in the company of tech-savvy builders and inventors.
“It will be a collaborative stage, a pirate stage,” Barker said. “It will be my life.”
Barker said he recently set his sights on Moab and has been looking forward to plugging into the community.
“I’m striking my own path,” Barker said. “I’ve got all these new ideas and they are changing my game plan and my worldview.”
MGME’s sponsors include Eddie McStiffs, Eklecticafe, Hauer Ranch, Milt’s Stop & Eat, Fresh Moab Coffee, the Lazy Lizard Hostel, Moab Beds and Bagels, the Launch Pad, Herbal Roots Healing Arts, WabiSabi, KZMU and the Moab Sun News. The group is actively seeking further sponsorship and involvement, and is launching a community raffle to raise funds for waste management at its events.
To reach Area BFE, drive about 13 miles south of downtown Moab on U.S. Highway 191. Just after the uphill passing lane ends, take the first left, and follow a maintained dirt road and signs for about three miles to a cleared parking area on the left.
May 24 camp-out promotes musician, audience connections
When: Sunday, May 24; event starts around 4 p.m.
Where: Area BFE; about 13 miles south of Moab off U.S. Highway 191
To get involved or for more information, go to facebook.com/moabgme.