Greg McGarvey is going to be pretty busy on the night of Saturday, Aug. 5. Not only is this Levittown native performing a solo acoustic set at Bristol Riverside Theatre, he’s jamming with the Greg McGarvey Band, in addition to local troubadours Righteous Jolly & the M.E.N.
This is all part of Local Bands Night, one of several offerings in the William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest, presented by Bristol Riverside Theatre. St. James & the Apostles, voted best local band by Philadelphia magazine, are also performing on Aug. 5.
“It’s gonna be a lot of diversity within my set. It’ll range from soul and acoustic all the way to really exploratory jam sessions,” McGarvey told The Times. “The range of expression is what’s really exciting for this show, that I get to go from solo acoustic to jamming with basically the best band I could think of to put together, and then also to accompany a very good friend of mine, whose material is just as good. It’s a real communal vibe for us. I also feel like there’s a lot of Bucks County connections in the work I’m putting out, so I’ll probably be telling the crowd about that when I’m playing.”
When The Times first chatted with McGarvey in September 2020, he had recently released the 10-track and six-year labor of love Count the Colors, an ode to his late girlfriend. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued, and live gigs remained indefinitely paused, McGarvey began accumulating quite the backlog of songs that, unintentionally, shared a theme.
“Eventually, I realized that I had written a song cycle about coming of age in Bucks County,” he said.
This summer, two albums comprised of these songs will be released: Crickets Surround and We Don’t Have A Map. McGarvey recorded the tracks at his friend’s studio, based at Grundy Commons, and at his alma mater, Bucks County Community College.
“They [BCCC] gave me access to come in with my cameras and microphones, so I was able to take advantage of those old buildings that have really great echo and a really beautiful environment to record in,” he said, adding that video footage of these recording sessions are being shared on TikTok and other social media platforms.
At Summer Music Fest, McGarvey is particularly excited for audiences to hear the song “Getting Closer.” When asked to elaborate on its message, he said, “That song brings to mind basically cruising around the country roads in central and upper Bucks County, and the kind of headspace I would find myself in while I was doing that, just sort of dreaming of other things, dreaming of living a life of music, being around nature. I wrote the song quite a while ago and I find that some of those dreams, I’m kind of living, which is really cool.”
For McGarvey, it’s a joy to once again be performing in front of live audiences. Not only is it a fun time, it gives him the chance to experiment, and get a better idea of what material is and isn’t working. Pre-COVID, McGarvey’s live sets would typically be evenly split between covers and originals. Now, he’s experiencing a bit of a revelation.
“I find that people have been responding really positively to my music, which has honestly been a little bit of a shock, for people to stop me and say, ‘What was that song? Where can I find it?’ You almost feel like you’re supposed to feel guilty for not doing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,’ ” he said with a laugh.
His involvement in the William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest — and Local Bands Night as a whole — was largely spearheaded by his friend Gina Andreoli.
“We go back so far that she was once my English teacher at Truman High School. All these years later, somehow she doesn’t seem as much older as she did at the time, and we’re now friends who hang out all the time,” he said. “But she’s also a serious fan, I would say, of me and the other creative folks that I work with.”
In addition to Local Bands Night, the Summer Music Fest for 2023 includes the following on the indoor mainstage (120 Radcliffe St.): Rhinestone Cowgirls, June 14-18; Forever Motown, July 12-16; Caribbean Chillers, July 26-30; Funkadrill’s Mandrill Experience, Aug. 18-19; and The Four C Notes, Aug. 23-27. On the outdoor amphitheater stage (2501 Bath Road) is: Roots and Boots, July 20; and The Hit Men, Aug. 11.
“Summer is all about listening to great music while sipping on a cool drink, whether that’s in the air conditioning in our intimate 300-seat theater or on the lawn outside at the 4,000-seat amphitheater, and we’re thrilled to be presenting the third annual William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest in Bristol,” said BRT co-producing director Amy Kaissar. “Whether you like country, Motown or pure rock, we’ve got you covered all summer long.”
Tickets are on sale now starting at $50 general admission for indoor shows and $39 for outdoor shows. Local Bands Night, which takes place on the indoor mainstage, is $25 per ticket. Premium tickets for outdoor shows include seating in front of the stage with chairs. Outdoor general admission attendees are invited to bring their own chairs and blankets. BRT has also released a limited number of $11 tickets for each outdoor show, available at Bristol Township’s Municipal Building exclusively for residents of Bristol Township.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org