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Spud Puppies reunite for Indy Hostel fest

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The story starts when Indy Hostel owner John Newton made his way one night to Broad Ripple's Corner Wine Bar for its open stage. The stage has long been hosted by Gary Wasson, who, among his other incarnations, was the bass player for the Spud Puppies, an eight-piece folk/bluegrass band that built up a large central Indiana audience before disbanding two years ago. Newton was there with an idea he had for Wasson, who's played at the hostel more than a few times.

"We talked with Gary about putting together a Spud Puppies show at the Indy Hostel," Newton recalls. "We talked about other bluegrass-styled acts playing and making it a big deal.”

Newton's wife, Karen Newton, worked with Gary to hammer out some of the details, and the idea became reality. The first-ever Indy Hostel Folk Festival will take place Sept. 10, featuring an outdoor stage, the reunion of the Spud Puppies, plus music from the Punkin' Holler Boys, Gamblin' Christmas and Tony Marshall.

Guitarist and vocalist Greg Ziesemer and Wasson co-led the Spud Puppies, with each writing and singing material. The "bluegrass with a kick" band released a pair of albums — Pick of the Litter and Off the Leash — but in 2009, they called it quits, not because of the typical break-up problems like fights or apathy, but mostly because it's tough to maintain a eight-man band on a high level that makes decent money.

“We love each and are good friends," Zeisemer said. "But with eight people in the band, it just hit a wall. We had a lot of successes and just couldn't sustain it. So we decided to take a break.”

Ziesemer moved to Madison, got married and put together a duo act with his new wife, folk singer Kris Luckett, with whom he had a child. But Ziesemer admits to missing the group.

"This festival show is a good chance to get together and drink a few beers and have some fun," he says. "We had a lot of good times. And we had decided that we would get together occasionally for the fun of it, and for friends."

Wasson echoes those sentiments.

"It's more of a resumption, really," he explains. "When we decided to take a hiatus, we left the door open for doing occasional shows. When John and Karen approached me about helping to organize a folk festival, I thought it would be a good chance for us to play again.”

He says fans can expect their old songs, with much of the music drawn from their two albums.

“We've got our hands pretty much full polishing up those, but you never know about something new," Wasson says. "We love playing those songs. There's a lot going on with them”

Zeisemer added that, after two or three rehearsals, the band remembered exactly where to fall in during the song, and the only difficult part was remembering who will take a solo ("because we have so many good players", Ziesemer says).

Wasson's also fired up about the event because he is friends with the rest of the bands.

"We had talked with the Punkin' Holler Boys about doing a show together back when we were still gigging regularly, so this is very cool,” Wasson says. “I've known Patrick Flaherty and Kurt Franke (of Gamblin' Christmas) and Tony Marshall for years, and have wanted to share a show with them. I'm also really looking forward to playing the outdoor stage — it's a great, attractive space."

For Ziesemer, who is set to head to the studio to record a pair of albums for a spring release — including one he says will sound like a "front porch on an Indiana night with train whistles in the distance" — the prospect of reuniting with friends and the familiar music is the best part.

"I am looking forward to playing with my buddies. It is about reuniting and the music and the camaraderie,” Ziesemer admits. “I love these guys like brothers. The lineup has been pretty consistent. We don't have the baggage that a lot of others bands carry. If we get the opportunity to play together, I gladly drive 100 miles to do it."

For the venue, Newton has his own idea about what will make the night a good one.

“I believe there is great energy created by hosting these events,” he says. “People visit the hostel, share smiles, tap feet, swap stories, and shake hands, and these interactions leave a lasting impression of the Indy Hostel. This energy builds and creates a place where people feel happy and at home when they arrive. It will be a good time and with any luck," he adds, "we will get something together for next year too."

Lineup
Tony Marshall 4-5 pm
Gamblin' Christmas 5:30-6:30 pm
Punkin Holler Boys 7-8pm
Spud Puppies 8:30-10 pm

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