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The Lights of Midnight North

A lifelong performer never dreams of the day when they can retire and take one final curtain call. But there comes a time when they must take stock and call it a career. Passing the torch for the next generation wasn’t a preconceived notion for The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh. But when his son decided to take the reins for his own career, the long-time bassist felt confident for the future of music. Grahame Lesh has spent nearly a decade not only honoring his father’s legacy but establishing his own. As a founding member of Midnight North, Lesh and his bandmates have brought in a “cosmic form of American music”. Combining the roots style of country to the thunders of rock ‘n’ roll, the band exemplifies their sound as the standard on setting an impression.

California’s Bay Area has been the backyard home to Lesh and his family for many years. While his father was away on tour, Lesh would spend the day listening to jam records endlessly. The scion inherited the musical genes passed down by his father as he began studying compositions. Lesh took his aptitude to Stanford University and graduated with a master’s in music. “When I was in college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” says Lesh, “I assume I’d always be playing music, but I figured it could be a hobby.” But his hobby became something more when he began performing in his father’s bar with local sensations Connor O’Sullivan, Elliott Peck and Alex Jordan. The roots quartet grew a following that extended beyond the drunken patrons as they expanded their newfound chemistry across the state. “We were able to try out new material in front of a live audience,” says Peck, “which helped to vastly accelerate the development of our live show.” The band’s experiment worked as they released their debut album, End of The Night, to rave reviews in 2013.

The album had been the spark plug the group was looking for as they held live performances in every city of California. But the kickstarter would lie in their sophomore record, 2015’s Scarlet Skies. The band found other cities calling for their musical synergy and tour the entire country. Their time on the road was earnest as they captured the spirit of roots style music in every corner of the US. The gathering of these influences resulted in the creation of 2017’s Under the Lights. A breakout record that every major publication covered nationally with lyrical road themes paving the reviews. “Under the Lights is the perfect title for this collection of songs,” says O’Sullivan, “These songs and lyrics are about being a band of musicians on the road away from home. Songs literally performed and tested under the lights at countless venues across the US.” The album made way for Rolling Stone labelling the group as the “Best New Act” stating the group “takes the best parts of roots music and weaves them into a tapestry of rock and Americana.” But 2019 and the years that followed had marked a year of maturity for the group in new settings.

The group had only just begun to settle in their afresh fame with production of a fourth record in the wings. Consistent touring halted the crafting of new material until the group, like millions of others, were shut down due to the pandemic. Rather than wait it out, the group returned to their studio to compile one of their most experimental projects to date. The band ventures into new territory while retaining their critically acclaimed sound with There’s Always A Story. The album features many idioms from the band’s musical journey. Its synonymous sounds of country groove and bluegrass inspired rhythm expands a catalog of sounds that make Midnight North. While 2021 is still an uprooted beginning for the band, their latest project upholds their tenacious passion for music. As Lesh has stated, “Our job is to sing you these stories as honestly as we can and transport you into our world for an hour or two.”

Written by Trenton Luber


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