Grand Point North

Matthew Shelter on September 19, 2014

Grand Point North

Waterfront Park

Burlington, VT

September. 13-14

After close to a decade of relentless touring that typically saw them playing hundreds of live shows a year, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have spent much of 2014 off stage – recharging their batteries, working on a new album, playing some festival dates and a few headlining gigs here and there. If their two-day stint at their own Grand Point North Festival is any indication, though, they’ve lost none of their zeal for live performance, and remain one of the hardest rocking bands in the land.

This year marked the fourth Grand Point North, a weekend-long festival hosted by Potter and company in Waterfront Park, a small green space hard on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont. GPN played full, headlining sets both nights of the festival, topping a bill that included 16 other bands and artists. Noting their own absence from the road this year, Potter said, “We’ve been in the studio all summer making a record. We thought we’d do a couple of gigs to get our sea legs back under us.”

There didn’t seem to be much rust to shake off. After Potter opened their Saturday set alone on stage with just her Gibson Flying V for a solo version of one of GPN’s signature tunes, “Nothing But the Water,” the rest of the band came out and proceeded to tear through a two-hour, high-octane set, highlighted by staples like “Treat Me Right,” “Big White Gate,” “Ah Mary” and “Stop the Bus,” along with several new covers – “Not Fade Away” and “Rocket Man” – added to the burgeoning catalog of classics this band will pull out when the mood strikes them.

Their second night’s performance was, to my ears, even stronger. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have long had two sides – a rootsy, slashing, guitar-driven sound descended from Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and early ’70s Rolling Stones, and a more glossy, contemporary pop sound exemplified by 2010’s Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. In concert, when the band is clicking, they are able to draw this all together. On Day 2 of Grand Point North, from the opening swagger of “Here’s to the Meantime” to a closing jam that flowed from “Turntable” to “Paris” to “Hot Summer Night” and finally “The Lion The Beast The Beat,” Grace Potter & The Nocturnals were firing on all cylinders, with Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco swirling their Zeppelin-esque guitar lines atop drummer Matt Burr and bassist Michael Libramento’s pounding rhythms.

Although the tracks for their new album are essentially done, the band kept to their reorded catalog for Grand Point North. Potter did talk to me about the upcoming release between sets at the festival, describing it as “super personal, definitely autobiographical…this is a record about love and loss.” She revealed that the album, produced by Eric Valentine, should be out sometime in Spring 2015.

In addition to GPN’s two sets, the festival saw especially strong performances turned in by Trampled by Turtles, Lake Street Dive and, most notably, The War on Drugs, a Philly-based quartet that has been drawing rave reviews for their hard-rocking live sets