By Lisa Morgan
Hide your mamas and your girlfriends – Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys (GGB) are coming to town. The new Big Rock Pub is kicking off the month of music festivals (and testing the limits of their new house sound system), with a pop-up concert, giving GGB a place to play while in route to Country Thunder (Florence, Arizona’s version of Stagecoach). The ruckus five man troupe of young country rock song slingers will be lighting up the Big Rock Pub stage with a free show, first come first serve, starting at 7 pm.
These boys, all hailing from Michigan, are as much brothers as they are bandmates. Lead singer/songwriter, Gunnar Nybland, first introduced his childhood friend and bass player, Rob Mason, to his Michigan State University buddies, lead guitarist Shane Grehan; guitarist/keyboardist Chris Newberg; and drummer Joe Connolly (Rochester Hills, MI), while working on his agricultural degree. Gunnar and Rob had been in bands together since they were 12 years old. The five troubadours were destined for bromance.
GGB debuted in 2009, opening for Justin Moore to a sold out crowd at The Intersection in Grand Rapids. They’ve been playing hard ever since. Flaunting everything from Johnny Cash influences to their childhood punk rock roots, GGB are bold, brass and unapologetic, but they are all heart and soul. There is no mistaking where they are from or what they’re about; they represent the part of the road that isn’t paved or easily traveled. They are the kind of rough around the edges that makes their party songs contagious and hilarious, and makes their ballads sucker punch your core.
Their release of what has become their most popular anthem, “Standard American,” on Average Joes Mud Digger 5, brought national awareness for the band, which had opened shows for the label’s Colt Ford, as well as Florida Georgia Line, Kid Rock, Brantley Gilbert and many others. SiriusXM’s The Highway started playing “Standard American” in June of 2014, along with some local radio stations. It proved to be a hit, selling over 35,000 downloads in the US and Canada. Both the lyric and official video were incredibly well received on YouTube.
On April Fool Day, 2013, GGB put out a video that appeared as if they had performed “Could Be Me” in three trucks that travelled in front of the Google video street car. The uproarious performance topped 500,000 views almost immediately as it was covered in Reddit.com and the Huffington Post. In 2015, the band also released high-quality videos for a new song, “Pedal To The Floor”, and a remake of their own “Country Boy Tan Lines.” Over the course of their career, GGB has sold over 20,000 CDs.
My favorite thing about these guys, apart from their good looks, charm and wit, is that they had the good taste to cover Ray Willie Hubbard’s classic, “Snake Farm” on their latest album, Good Rhythm. But as you look deeper and follow their blogs and video posts closer, you see a softer almost grounded side. Having lost their friend, mentor and attorney recently, they honor him beautifully in both song and word. In other instances, you’ll see an impromptu recording of a song freshly written for a mom who complained about her son not calling her enough. There’s an edge to these guys that sets them apart in my observation. After eight years on the road and a whole lot of cleverly crafted relatable music to show for it, this may be one of the last times to hold your beer up and sing along in the close intimate atmosphere of a local stage here in California.
Opening the show Thursday night will be local favorites, The BrosQuitos, another band I hope to see move on to bigger and brighter stages. Few deserve it more.
Big Rock Pub is located on Jefferson at Westward Ho in Indio. For more information, call (760) 200-9844 or visit their website at www.thebigrockpub.com
Check out GGB at www.gunnartunes.com
The BrosQuitos at www.facebook.com/TheBrosquitos