Applications are now open for the 2020 JHMF Band Contest
Click Here to read the 2020 rules and to fill out an application. You'll also find information about our guidelines and prizes.
The winners of the 2019 John Hartford Band Contest was Good Morning Bedlam of Minneapolis, MN. They were the officially first booked band for JHMF10, as well as taking home $1000 in prize money and a very cool John Hartford derby trophy plaque made by Tom Burkhart! All entrants were fantastic and coming up with a number 1 was no easy task for the judges.
1 - Good Morning Bedlam: Minneapolis, MN.
2 - Clare Brown Band: Arlington, VA.
3 - Grizzly Goat: Provo, UT.
4 - Chicken Wire Empire: Milwaukee, WI.
The following bands made up the rest of the top 10.
Hillhouse: Mount Eden, KY.
Jackson Grimm & the Bull Moose Party: Asheville, NC.
The Pheasant Pluckers: Urich, MO.
Trevor Clark Quartet: Nashville, TN.
West King String Band: Madison, TN.
Wonderhills: Nashville, IN.
Meet Good Morning Bedlam
Good Morning Bedlam is progressive acoustic Roots at its very best- energy all over the meter, but perfectly doled out where it ought to be for each part of every song. These folks are a breath of fresh air, presenting tight, soulful Gypsy/Grass/Jazz, mostly original music, sibling like harmonies, and ethereal songwriting. The video for “I Won’t”, literally filmed in a huge trestle pipe, is filtered to take you back to the 20s, and loaded with flapper charm and scat while “Long Road” could have easily fit in a bard performance in medieval England. Good Morning Bedlam runs a gamut of styles, each with their distinct signature smoothly written all over it.
Good Morning Bedlam is:
Guitar, Vocals / Isaak Gill Elker
Bass, Vocals / Victoria Elker
Violin, Vocals / Sophia Mae
Banjo, Vocals / Benji Flaming
Good Morning Bedlam signed with Minneapolis record label Last Triumph, three years ago and released their first full-length album, Prodigal. After showcasing their music at SXSW two years in a row, this four piece band released their sophomore album in July of 2018 while continuing to tour full-time.
“We want to surprise our audience from song to song. Rather than creating our music to fit a genre, we allow it to be an outpouring of our own stories and unique sound,” says Isaak, frontman of GMB. Just when you think you have Good Morning Bedlam pegged, they take you in another direction. You will be treated to a haunting waltz, whistling, jazz scatting, and the euphoria of the violin melodies. When it comes to their lyrical storytelling, Isaak says, “We’re desperate to connect to people through the common human experiences that we write about and the exuberance of our live show. People have a lot of choices of how they’ll kick-back, so we intend to deliver a show where they can be free--to share in whatever they need to--joy, grief, anger, gratefulness, or bedlam!”- Isaak Elker- www.goodmorningbedlam.com
I was able to grab some time from guitarist Isaak Gill Elker to tell us about Good Morning Bedlam. Where are you all from? We are from Minneapolis, MN.
Where does your band name come from? I (Isaak) have always loved the word bedlam. It used to be an insane asylum in England, and since then it has become a synonym for 'wildness' or 'chaos.' So, we searched for a while to find something we could put “bedlam” into. We like to think, say, that the name is greeting the chaos of every new day, and learning to be ok with that!
How long have you been together and how did you come together? Sophia and I grew up together. We've been jamming together since we were in middle school. After I married Tori, she decided to pick up the bass to join us on the road after our previous bass player left. A year ago, we went full-time and we met Benji just before that. We were looking for a full-time banjo player, and he just kind of fell into our laps!
Have any of you attended JHMF before? This is the first time for all four of us!
Have any of you, or the band, entered contests before? If yes, how did they turn out for you? This is the first contest for all of us.
Why enter a contest? I think the best reason for a contest is to be able to showcase smaller or newer talent from across the country! Festivals can be tough to get slots on, sometimes all you need is a chance to showcase yourself! We loved the absolute spirit of camaraderie at JHMF. All of us bands in the contest were there cheering each other on! It was simply a pleasure to be included in a competition with such overwhelming talent!
Are you all songwriters? Yes. We are all songwriters and enjoy creating and arranging music across multiple genres.
Do you collaborate? We are huge collaborators! Bringing fresh ears to a new song is so important to what we do. We each have our own unique ideas and inspirations that we love to weave into the music.
How about individual John Hartford influence if any, if not, did you get some inspiration from the fest
to dig in on some Hartford music and history? We have so much respect for what John Hartford did for the bluegrass scene. When we really dug into his music this year, there was one thing in particular that we loved so much. John Hartford had such an openness, a willingness to try new things without being scared of breaking the mold. Although our music may not sound like John Hartford's, this is the part of his legacy that made us so excited to be here! I think he would have loved the sheer creativity and ingenuity that so many of the bands at this festival bring!
How did it feel to play on the stage that Bill Monroe built? What a wild experience. There is a kind of power up on the main stage. So many legends have made their mark in that very spot. I think once we got over some of the initial nerves, we just settled into the fact that we were doing what all of those legends did from that very same stage--share the music we love so much to any folks that were there to listen.
What was your contest set list? We did five originals and one public domain song.
1. Dancing Fool
2. I Won't
1. Long Road
2. The Zoo
3. Saint James Infirmary
What lies ahead for this band? We do music full-time, so lots of shows! We played over 200 in the last year, and are looking forward to playing many amazing gigs this year as well. We are also releasing a new single with a music video this July! We are so incredibly excited to share it with our fans!
Tell us about your John Hartford Memorial Festival experience. Jams? We had a phenomenal time at JHMF. I know Sophia was out fiddling at all hours of the night! Mostly we feel so blessed to make so many new friends that are such talented musicians!
We are looking forward to bringing Good Morning Bedlam back to the 10th Annual John Hartford Memorial Festival for the Hartford Stage set! Follow Good Morning Bedlam at Facebook, and their website http://www.goodmorningbedlam.com/ . I personally recommend Good Morning Bedlam’s youtube channel where you can hear and watch their contest material videos and a whole lot more. JHMF9 Band contest videos will be posted soon!