On Oct. 20, Pinegrove will play its first show in Montclair in five years, when it appears at the Wellmont Theater. The band’s members, from left, include Josh Marre, Megan Benavente, Evan Stephens Hall, Sam Skinner and Zack Levine. (COURTESY CHRISTA JOYNER MOODY)

By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

Pinegrove, a country-indie band formed in Montclair in 2010, is coming home.

The band will play The Wellmont Theater on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m., its final stop on a tour of the northeast that started in August. It’ll be Pinegrove’s first show in Montclair since 2016, when the band played at the old Mogul Theatre on Bloomfield Avenue, now home of Vanguard Theater. 

“We’re just so psyched to be playing at The Wellmont. It’s a dream come true. It’s a place that’s really dear to our hearts,” Pinegrove lead singer Evan Stephens Hall said.  “There were members of the band that were employed there as ushers. In high school, [drummer and vocalist] Zack Levine’s high school band had a performance there, too, in the lobby. So, there’s history there. It’s a true honor.” 

The band got its start playing at basement parties around town and at Terry’s Serendipity Café, a nonprofit student-run organization that hosts shows once a month to create a safe space for young people to showcase their talent. 

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Hall said playing in Montclair after almost five years is bittersweet. Most of the band members and their families don’t live in Montclair anymore; that includes himself. But Hall said Montclair will always be his hometown, and he has fond memories from town — such as visiting Brookdale Park and working at Montclair Book Center. 

“I worked there for, I think, four years running the fiction department there,” Hall said. “I stop in every time I’m back in town. That’s just a Montclair institution.” 

While in Montclair, Hall will be visiting family members, taking a stroll or a bike ride in Brookdale Park and taking his skateboard out to see how the neighborhood has changed.

He said he’s been observing change in Montclair for about 15 years — “and in some way that’s OK, and in some ways, I feel a little sad about it. Montclair used to be known as a kind of a quirky town. Lots of mom-and-pop shops. It was a place where it was really safe to ride your bicycle. All of these mom-and-pop shops have mostly been priced out. There are a lot of chain stores now. We’re seeing the marginalization of culture coming for every town in America. And unfortunately, Montclair has also in part has fallen victim to it.” 

Hall said the band is planning on playing some songs from its third album, “Cardinal,” released in 2016, an album Hall wrote about living in a hometown after friends have moved away. Hall said he hopes playing songs from that album, and other songs he wrote in Montclair or about Montclair, will make the concert special. 

“When you play a song hundreds of times it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a mechanical reproduction,” Hall said. “I’m really hoping, and in some ways expecting that, this concert will let me feel sensitive to all those years that I’ve grown since, and that I hope I’ll be able to feel what has changed and what has stayed the same.” 

For the final show of Pinegrove’s tour, the band will also play songs from previous albums — including some renditions based on versions in “Amperland, NY,” a film that came out earlier this year, reimagining classic Pinegrove songs in new recordings at the band’s home studio, with some special guests. Clips from the film will be shared as well.

“We’re going to be playing a lot of those songs but also we’re going to be reimagining some songs as we always like to do,” Hall said. “You’ll see a lot of the cast from Amperland come to the stage. We’re going to be playing a handful of new songs from new projects that we actually haven’t announced yet.” 

Pinegrove will also be playing the single “Orange,” a song that was written by Hall about the government inaction in response to climate change. 

“We’re really excited to have a song out, a song that for me was helping me process the climate crisis,” Hall said. “Basically, what it’s been like to see pretty much the entire West Coast be on fire but experiencing that through my cell phone, through videos and then in the summer to be able to actually smell the smoke. I hope anybody who hears the song might be able to connect with that message, and if this helps anybody metabolize some of the rage that they’re feeling at government inaction, then that’s an honor.” 

Also at the concert will be Montclair resident and 10th Congressional District candidate Imani Oakley, whose campaign has included advocacy for economic justice and racial justice policies, and for the Green New Deal. Oakley, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr.

Hall said Oakley will introduce the band and will speak for about 10 minutes about some of her concerns. 

“Imani Oakley is somebody that I went to high school with. She is so smart and so keyed in, and I know she would fight for a more equitable Essex County,” Hall said. “It’s really an honor to be able to invite her to share the stage with us.” 

Hall hopes people will leave the concert feeling inspired and motivated to get involved, something he said music has the power to do.

“I want to open a space where it feels comfortable and safe to practice ‘community.’ That involves singing along together. That involves communal warmth where everybody is turning to their left and right and smiling at each other,” Hall said. “And I hope our concert can be one staging area to open up ‘community’ and just be reminded of how good that feels.” 

Even though this will be the last concert Pinegrove will play this year, the band is working on new material that will be released sometime next year. Tickets for the Oct. 20 show are on sale now at wellmonttheater.com. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m.