w/ Kyle Smith
5412 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, WA 98405
7PM DOORS / 8PM SHOW
Bumpin Uglies knows all about hustle. The Maryland reggae-rock bandhad spent more than a decade on the road, starting with local openmics and backyard parties and growing into road warriors, building anever-expanding audience with sold-out shows in clubs and prime spotsat festivals from coast to coast, on one national tour after another.Then the pandemic hit, and touring shut down.
After being inmotion for so long, singer and lead guitarist Brandon Hardesty wasn’tabout to sit still, even if he couldn’t be out on tour. In fact,Bumpin Uglies never really stopped working — they adapted. Thegroup returned to playing backyard parties around Annapolis, wherethey’re based, and added socially distanced concerts and full-bandlivestreams. In the fall of 2020, they also started releasing a newsong every month as part of a project called the Never Ending Drop.
“We felt likeprospectors going out and trying to find gold — it was justuncharted territory,” Hardesty says. “We had to figure out a wayto make a living. That’s kind of what being a musician during Covidhas felt like to me. You can do it, but you have to be bold.”
Hardesty has beenbold from the start. He was waiting tables when he started the bandin his early 20s. With an ear for melodies and the determination tosucceed, he poured his time and energy into making Bumpin Uglies asuccess. For years, the band did just about everything themselves,from booking shows to releasing their own albums, building a sense ofmomentum along the way that eventually became self-sustaining, andthen Hardesty wasn’t waiting tables anymore.
No surprise, then,that a musician with his strong work ethic found a way to takemaximum advantage of the sudden surplus of time at home. For onething, he got to hang out with his toddler son, and he and his wifewelcomed a new baby. He also wrote a ton of songs. For the firsttime, Hardesty approached songwriting as a discipline, dedicatingtime to working on new music rather than waiting for inspiration tostrike and then jotting down ideas in the back of the Bumpin Ugliesvan on his way from one gig to the next.
“I just woke upevery morning and I made a pot of coffee, and I had this running listof ideas in my phone for hooks and riffs and progressions,” hesays. “I sat down every day and made myself write a song, and 85percent of them were pretty good. And it was awesome. I really,really enjoyed the process.”
The result is theband’s seventh studio album, Mid-Atlantic Dub, which theyrecorded in 2021 and plan to release this fall. After showing thebreadth of Bumpin Uglies’ influences on the Never Ending Drop, fromfolk to classic country to hip-hop, Mid-Atlantic Dub bringsthe group — alsofeaturing Dave Wolf on bass and vocals, Ethan Lichtenberger onkeyboards and TJ Haslett on drums — back to the core of what theydo.
“It’s verygroove-focused,” Hardesty says. “It’s very hooky, very vibey.It’s very accessible, but there was no compromise on thestorytelling or the lyricism.”
In fact, Hardestyhad a lot on his mind while working songs for Mid-Atlantic Dub.He had recently lost his own father while he was stepping into beinga dad himself and letting go of the vestiges of childhood, all duringthe uncertainty of a global pandemic. It’s all there on “SlowBurn,” featuring Jacob Hemphill from SOJA. “Before the oak yougot the sapling and the seed / Before you triumph you will swallow adefeat,” Hardesty sings over unhurried upstroke guitars and a beatlaid back into a deep pocket.
“I was doing a lotof growing up during Covid,” he says. “It was very much like asurvival thing, and when you’re in that kind of mode, it forces youto cut a lot of bullshit out of your life.”
What’s left, inHardesty’s songwriting as in his daily life, is what’s real, andwhat’s real stands a solid chance of connecting with an audiencethat appreciates openhearted lyrics paired with a tight reggae-rockvibe.
“For me, it’sjust all about honesty,” Hardesty says. “That’s what I listenfor when I’m listening to music. I want to feel like whatever theauthor’s saying is honest.”
Bumpin Uglies / Kyle Smith