Sat. April 28: Bennett Wales @WV Brew Festival

Rock ‘n roll practically runs in his blood. When Bennett Wales was a kid, no older than two or three, he would take to the sandy shore of Virginia Beach, walk up to beachgoers and start singing his ABCs. More often than not, he would be awarded with food. It’s as adorable as it sounds, and it planted the seeds for a long career in music. “I remember this beautiful woman in her twenties sunbathing. She seemed like a good target. I walked up, threw my towel up and spread it out directly next to her and started singing,” he remembers.

Ladies and food: that was the beginning of my introduction to rock ‘n roll.”

Now frontman of Bennett Wales & the Relief, the outfit — rounded out by Mike Fischetti (bass), Drew Orton (drums), Brock Bittner (guitar) and Caleb Little (keys) — are currently promoting their 2017 full-length, Flood without Water, a classically-structured, on-the-skin kind of rock record. Their live shows, including stops at the Wild Bean earlier this year, have permitted the group to dig even more into the music itself. “‘Emilou’ is my personal favorite live. It always gets the blood flowing and the sweat beads rollin,’” says Wales. “Not to mention always gets the crowd fired up!”

Over the past few months, the songs have inevitably shifted a bit. “The longer you play your own material, subtle evolutions in how you play your songs will happen. It’s a weird thing to play your own songs that you’ve injected with ‘you.’ You start to sing the words with more feeling.”

It’s no exaggeration to admit the band’s live show is one you have to see to believe. Born and raised with Virginia as the backdrop, the musical heritages of both Virginias may not “have directly influenced me or my songwriting,” as he reflect, but Wales’ style, swagger and musical instincts are engulfed in the blues of the deep, rural South. You’ll probably witness such majesty on standouts like “Sugar Walls” and “Fine When You’re Gone.” “There is tremendous talent in the Virginias, so we are proud to represent that heritage,” he says, citing the first record he purchased, a British Steel record (“on cassette!”), as being rather important. “I used to have this little DJ rig that could take over an unused frequency on the radio and could reach a radio in any room in my house. I played that album constantly.”

With an upcoming performance at the 2018 Brew Fest, Wales gushes about his love for Lewisburg. “I love small towns, and I love the mountains. Lewisburg has both. Not to mention the people. Everyone I have ever met is super kind and accommodating. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” he says. Unsurprisingly, his favorite spot in town is The Wild Bean — “Owner, Roger Dolan is an awesome dude who couldn’t have treated us any better.”

Of course, we had to pick their brains about beer, too. Favorite craft beer? “Magic Hat, specifically their #9!” beams Wales, who, if given the chance, would pop a top (or seven) with legendary blues singer Joe Cocker. “He was a true soul-man, one who I look up and aspire to. I would love to hear his stories and just talk shop! He was larger than life,” he says.

The 2018 Brew Fest is set for Saturday, April 28, 2018 at the WV State Fairgrounds and will run from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.  The event will feature a food truck rodeo serving brew-paired cuisine, brew-themed workshops, beer-friendly games and live entertainment. The musical lineup also includes the Monophonics, Big Daddy Love and Instagatorz.

General Admission tickets are $28.30 and proceeds will benefit Lewisburg Rotary and State Fair of WV Scholarship Funds.

– Jason Scott. Hashtag #100 April 2018. Jason has bylines in Billboard, Paste, Uproxx, PopCrush and many others. Follow him on Twitter: @jasonthescott. Get in contact via email: jason@bsidesbadlands.com.

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