Lincoln jug band plays for neighbors and others to sing along

Most neighborhood residents might dread listening to the sound of their neighbors’ band practice, but that’s not the case in Ian Craig’s Near South neighborhood.

Craig and his band, The Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band, have quite the opposite effect when they serenade their Southeast Lincoln neighbors from the front porch.

The Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band is a band for everyone to enjoy regardless of age. Their goal is crowd participation and for everyone to have a good time singing popular songs such as “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and “The Crawdad Song” together.

“I like to get the audience to participate as much as possible. That’s the whole reason why we play the music we do,” said Craig, the band’s lead singer.

Friends unite for folk fun

The jug band is comprised of friends and core members Craig on vocals and guitar; Emily Wynn on banjo; Kyle Bruggerman on jug and kazoo; and Josh Kornbluh on a host of percussion  and backup vocals. The band also has roughly ten others members who fill in whenever they are free to perform. They play everything from the fiddle and slide whistle to the trombone and ukulele.

Jug player Bruggerman had no prior experience but learned to play the instrument specifically for the band.

“Emily knew how to play the jug, which none of us knew how to do. We always figured you just blew into it but really it’s more of a spitting technique,” Bruggerman said. “There are pictures of the jug with a ton of spit at the bottom.”

The friends had started out in rock bands, but found their new home in jug and roots music after they had gotten tired of rock scene. The Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band gets its name from an old episode of the Simpsons.

Bruggerman said the band typically gets together on Monday nights for practice, and since they have so many members it’s OK  if someone can’t make it. They play pretty late in to the night, if weather permits.

“Whoever can make it changes each week, but that’s usually when we go over new material we have been working on, or music we want to show to rest of the band,” Bruggerman said.

Folk roots trump rock

Meanwhile, the group is enjoying the folk roots lifestyle.

Band members had come to dislike the complicated stage setups of rock gigs and were looking to escape from all the wires, cords and electronics.

“We were all getting into old-timey music,” Craig said. “We were all coming from loud electric music, having to carry big heavy amps in to shows and getting tired of it. We wanted to simplify, man.”

Craig and his band mates play old folksy covers to get people out of their chair to sing and dance. When not practicing on their front porch to an audience of neighbors out for a walk, the group can be found playing for tips and providing the music for Saturday mornings at Lincoln’s Farmer’s Market.

The jug band members found out quickly they were making a lot more money playing the streets compared to their old rock band gigs.

“When you are playing original music in a rock band you are never going to make a ton of money,” Craig said. “ The jug band plays a few original songs but we play mostly old timey tunes and covers.”

Music with a message

With original songs, Craig tries to share his political views and spread a message.

The band wrote a song about Bernie Sanders called “Bernie’s Tune” and have a song about Ernie Chambers that will be featured on the band’s first album.

The jug band has been a part of several notable shows. In 2014, the band played a concert set up by Bold Nebraska, a group fighting the Keystone XL pipeline. Willie Nelson and Neil Young headlined the show on a farm near Neligh, Nebraska.

“It’s not just about political messages. It’s more about having fun and sharing good music with folks, but if you can put a message along with that there is no reason not to,” Craig said. “There’s just a fun, good-natured aspect of jug band music that gets people interested and intrigued.”

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