There was a hopping good time at the Pocahontas County Opera House Saturday night with standing room only for Marietta, Ohio based band Oyo – a band with many influences and one familiar face.
As operational director Brynn Kusic put it, the crowd joined her in “welcoming Drew Tanner back, with the band Oyo.”
The six-man group put on an exhilarating show of original songs, old-time tunes and a couple covers. Joining Tanner onstage were his bandmates: guitarist Cole Adair; mandolin and fiddle player Aaron Martin; accordion, harmonica, melodica and spoons player Michael Bond; banjoist Bobby Ros-enstock and drummer [and washboardist] Joe Ryckebosch.
The band’s electric energy fed the crowd’s enthusiasm for the music, and the banter between the band members led to many laughs throughout the evening.
After Tanner left Pocahontas County for Williamstown in 2013, he continued freelance work for the Opera House before he got a job at the Peoples Bank Theater in Marietta, Ohio. The theater is similar to the Opera House, albeit on a larger scale.
“I was there for the first four years they were open – promoting shows there for anything from Charlie Daniels to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Oak Ridge Boys, Brandy Carlile,” Tanner said. “It was a lot of fun being involved. It’s about a thousand seat venue.”
During his time working at the theatre, Tanner met Bobby Rosenstock, who owns and operates Just A Jar Design Press, a print shop in Marietta, Ohio. It was at that shop, during jam sessions in the back that the band Oyo was formed.
“On First Fridays in Marietta, he’d host a jam session in the back of the print shop, and I would go there occasionally and bring a guitar, or Michael would bring an accordion – which he plays in the band,” Tanner said. “As they started getting bigger, more people came into the shop and then people began asking them to play different venues and events around town, Bobby was like, ‘we really need a bass player.’”
Tanner is a classically trained pianist and singer, and plays guitar, as well, but never picked up the bass. He said if the band was patient with him, he’d give it a try. That was four years ago, and now the band has released an album and is playing festivals and shows in Ohio and West Virginia.
“During the pandemic, we recorded our album,” Tanner said. “We isolated and tested, and then went down to Elkins and recorded the album with Ben Townsend in the abandoned Methodist Church that he had as a studio. Ben used to play with Hackensaw Boys. He’s an excellent fiddler; really he’s a multi-instrumentalist, but a lot of people know him as a fiddler.
“We spent a weekend down there and knocked out fourteen original songs, twelve of which made it on an album,” he added.
Martin and Bond were the primary song writers for the album and after it was released in February, the band took to the road and played venues and festivals in their two home states.
“We did Cheat Fest, opened for Sierra Ferrell and Billy Bob Thornton for events here in Marietta,” Tanner said. “We played Nelsonville Music Festival, which was huge for us.”
Then it came time to do the Opera House show.
“Brynn and I started talking about this Opera House show about a month after we released the album – back in March,” Tanner said. “That was really sweet to be able to see that come together.”
The performance was technically Tanner’s second on the Opera House stage; his first was back in 2006 or 2007 in the community theater performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” directed by Margaret Baker.
Looking out at the crowd from the stage, Tanner said it was very different from his time as the operations manager at the Opera House.
“I was floored,” he said. “I was really floored by the number of people who showed up for it. Never played music on the stage before. I joked I used to sing while I mopped the building back when I was operations manager. It was a real treat to actually perform on the stage and have friends there; have these two chapters of my life, that have existed separately, intersect and coexist there this weekend. That was like old friends meeting new friends. It really meant a lot to me.”
Tanner said he was more used to being on the other side of an event at the Opera House – making sure there were plenty of chairs out, checking on volunteers and experiencing the entertainment while always in motion or occupied with work.
The Opera House show was actually one of two Oyo performances Saturday night. The band also performed at the Marlinton Motor Inn, filling in for the Jesse Milnes Band, which had to cancel due to the illness of some of its members.
Not the kind to rest on their laurels, Oyo has started recording for a second album and has booked more recording time to put finishing touches on its sophomore release which will be out sometime in 2023.
With so many influences coming together in one band, it’s hard to categorize Oyo in one genre. They have a folk flare with dashes of blues, old-time, country and zydeco thrown in for good measure.
“There are a bunch of different influences in the band,” Tanner said. “We come from all different kinds of backgrounds, too. I was a classically trained pianist and singer through college. Our accordion player played electronic/indie music. Our drummer, Joe Ryckebosch, is actually from northern California and played in an indie punk band called Rum Diary.
“Aaron’s like the only true West Virginian of the group,” he continued. “He’s from the Parkersburg area and spent a lot of time in Thomas and he plays fiddle and mandolin. So it’s a real diverse mix of influences. That’s why we took our name from the Ohio River between West Virginia and Ohio because all the different tributaries flowing into it embodies the same kind of deal with our music you could say – all these influences coming together.”
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