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Ballroom Thieves bring close harmonies to Anchorage, with an assist from the South High School orchestra

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: September 21, 2017
  • Published September 14, 2017

Ballroom Thieves will play in Anchorage Sept. 22, 2017. (Photo by Meg Bird)

The members of The Ballroom Thieves finally have a place to hang their hats.

After years of living a nomadic existence, wayfaring even by musician standards, the group is finally at a point where they're returning to permanent addresses.

After releasing their debut album "A Wolf in the Doorway," the group has toured incessantly — to the point that they literally gave up residences in and around Boston, where they formed.

"Over the past two or three years, we could definitely be characterized as road dogs," said guitarist Martin Earley. "The only way to do it is to tour heavily and try to get people out to your shows. We've been living out of our suitcases, and that can be grating. In recent times, we're trying to balance things out. Our drummer Devin (Mauch) just got a place in Portland, Maine. It's the first time any of us have had a place of residence in the last three and a half years."

The return to some stability has been a result, in part, of the success the group has had.

Blending folk, rock and ascending harmonies, The Ballroom Thieves have won over fans, with comparisons to the Avett Brothers and The Head and The Heart.

Cellist Calin Peters gives the group's sound added depth and dimension, steering the songs as their tempos often ebb and flow.

Earley and Mauch met at Stonehill College, just south of Boston. After initially playing with a different cello player, the duo added Peters, who had just exited a musical project.

"We happened to be looking for a cellist and she was looking for a band," Earley said. "Initially Devin and I were a duo. On the first EP we decided we wanted a cello and had someone playing with us for a year or two. It was pretty serendipitous, we'd already been playing with a cellist. When Cali joined we didn't want it to feel like she was replacing someone. We started over and wrote in a different way (to incorporate) the way she plays. That shaped the band a little bit and that changed us sonically."

The band's follow-up, "Deadeye," is the musical embodiment of the endless touring schedule.

"We had some hard times on the road individually and as a group," Earley said. "That comes through on the album. Many of the songs are personal. It's also why we wanted to release it independently. We were turning a page. It was a hurdle we had to get over personally."

But being off the road for a month recording the album gave the music a fresh energy, according to Earley.

"We played 180 shows (the year the record was produced)," he said. "It ran us ragged to the point that we were only existing on the road. It can be a really sterile environment. Your rehearsals are your shows. We were off the road for a month and were having a good time. Our producer Dan Cardinal is always a pleasure to work with."

For their Anchorage show, The Ballroom Thieves will be incorporating the talents of the South High School orchestra, which will sit in with the band.

It's a tradition they try to revive whenever possible on various stops along their tour schedule.

Earley said it was inspired by friend Kevin Oates, who founded the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, a group founded to collaborate with musicians outside of the traditional orchestra genre.

The orchestra has worked with some bands like Guster and even hit the road with The Ballroom Thieves for a tour stint.

"We happened to be fortunate enough to take the orchestra on the road," Earley said. "We had a 12-day tour of the East Coast with this 23-piece youth orchestra. That was the first time it'd been done and it was a pretty fun project."

Earley said the platform allows the young musicians to not only play on a big stage, but to explore styles of music they might not have been willing to.

"We were all fortunate enough to have people help us when we were young," he said. "We want to impart it on others. We all have specific memories of when we said, 'We have to play music.' We can be that moment for someone else. We try often to do workshops and assemblies on the road and work with different music educators.

"You never know who might be the next great cellist and what may inspire them. Specifically on the orchestra side, it's important to show kids you can play a classical instrument in a nonclassical setting. It's important to have the classical background, but you can play a rock song on a rock stage."

The Ballroom Thieves
With special appearance by the South High School orchestra

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22

Where: Discovery Theatre

Tickets: $40.25, $48, $54.75 at tickets.centertix.com

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