Coffee house celebration

  • Rafe Wolman Contributed photo—

  • Paula Bradley Contributed photo—

  • Lunar Carnival Contributed photo

  • Sheryl Hunter, Sounds Local Andy Castillo

Published: 9/5/2019 10:00:17 AM

Lunar Carnival. The name conjures up images of a magical celebration, one with singing and dancing under a bright, starry sky. When you listen to the music of this five-piece band from South Hadley and soak up the group’s positive energy and uplifting sounds, you’ll be able to leave your troubles behind and feel like you are being transported to this dreamy and magical place.

You can experience the unique music of Lunar Carnival when the band kicks off the 35th season of the Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7:30 p.m. The band’s name came from a song that the group’s singer, guitarist and songwriter Kat Alexander, wrote.

“When we first started, we were a trio and the three of us were pondering what to call ourselves,” she recalled in a recent interview. “So I said ‘there is this song, ‘Lunar Carnival’ that I wrote,’ and my band-mates and everyone in the room just stopped and said ‘that’s it. That’s the name of the band.’”

Luna Carnival got its start when Alexander graduated from college in 2010 and moved from upstate New York to Western Massachusetts to take a job in her field of environmental science. She met Daniel Grip, who had just completed his degree in mechanical engineering and who also happened to be a bass player. They joined forces with singer Maia Archote and formed Luna Carnival.

It may sound rather odd that someone with an environmental science background would move to the area and end up forming a band, but Alexander said music has always been an important part of her life. Her father was a musician and she is a classically trained singer who was singing professionally by the age of 15 years old. (Her brother, Alex Korolov, plays violin in Lunar Carnival.)

“The daytime side of me loves science, and the nighttime part of me wants to create and share good feelings and messages with people,” Alexander said. “For me, personally, music is a creative expression and a way to connect with the community in a positive way.”

From the beginning, Alexander says they knew that they wanted their music to connect with as many people as possible.

“One of the wonderful things about Dan and I is that, from the beginning of our band, we decided that we wanted to play music that was universal,” said Alexander. “We wanted your grandmother to come and enjoy the music and your 5-year-old son to be able to get something out of the experience.”

To that end, “We mix up our instrumentation but the basic premise is always positive,” she said. “We try and be uplifting and have messages that are universally understandable.”

When the band was starting out, it also had the goal of traveling the world as musicians, and its members did just that, playing their brand of bohemian folk everywhere from New Orleans to New Zealand before returning to South Hadley.

Alexander and Grip have remained at the core of the band but have worked with various musicians over the years. The current lineup, in addition to Korolov, also features Steve Yarbro on clarinet, saxophone and vocals and Chris Trevathan on drums.

When asked if the Lunar Carnival’s music has changed a lot over the years, Alexander said that the music itself really hasn’t but that there has been some shifting in styles.

“We’ll go through these phases and all these styles end up influencing the creation overall,” she said. “For instance, I’ve had big phase of Mississippi Delta blues, and then I had a big phase of old-timey music. Now, we are playing a lot of swing music and folk music. So it just all kinds of blends together and I think overall it ends up adding to the whole thing.”

When the band plays the coffeehouse next Saturday, expect to hear some bluesy ballads alongside some high-energy swing, heartfelt folk and a little rock on the side.

Lunar Carnival has released two albums, with the most recent being “Once Upon a River” in 2016. Alexander said that she has written a number of new songs, but it’s a matter of finding the time to get into the studio.

“I tend to write positive uplifting songs. I have a hard time writing songs that are negative because, I personally believe in the power of sound and words and that what you are putting out there is creating energy,” said Alexander, adding that she writes songs about transformation and friendship and love that are not specific to any personal situation but are rather are emotions that she feels strongly.

Since the group is having a hard time hunkering down in the studio, its members are going to record the show at the Full Moon Coffeehouse, so do come prepared to make some lively background noise.

Alexander is looking forward to her first time playing the Full Moon Coffeehouse and feels that the audience will enjoy Lunar Carnival.

“One thing that people really like about our band is the instrumentation. It’s more organic because we use acoustic instrumentation, like an upright bass instead of an electric bass. We also have old-world instruments like the fiddle and the clarinet,” she said. “We definitely tap into some of the more old-school and older music styles like swing and blues and jazz. We do a mixture of covers and originals and I think there is something for everybody.”

There is an open mic before Lunar Carnival’s set. Admission is on a sliding scale from $6 to $15 (cash only) at the door. No advance tickets will be sold. The Wendell Full Moon coffee house is situated inside the old historic town hall at 6 Center St. in Wendell. This show is a benefit for Launch Space at the Orange Innovation Center. For more information visit You can also catch Lunar Carnival at the Old 78 Farm Fall Festival in Warwick on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Paula Bradley and Rafe Wolman at the Great Falls Discovery Center

In other coffee house news, the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A in Turners Falls, will welcome Paula Bradley and Rafe Wolman to its monthly coffee house on Friday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. Both of these musicians are well known throughout the Pioneer Valley for their involvement in a variety of projects.

Paula Bradley is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with everyone from banjo great Tony Trischka to the band Uncle Earl. I know her best from her work with the local all-female honky-tonk band Girl Howdy, but she’s also played in many other bands and duos. For the last 18 years, she performed with her late husband, Bill Dillof, in the old-time duet “Moonshine Holler” and these days she leads her own juke joint band “Miss Paula & The Twangbusters.”

Fiddle player Rafe Wolman might be a familiar face to many of you as, like Bradley, he has played with many different people in all kinds of venues. You might know him from his work as a teacher at Artspace in Greenfield or maybe you heard him play at a square dance or even on the street in Shelburne Falls. Like Bradley, he also has a vast musical background. When these two come together, expect a great night of music. They will play old-time and early country music with some Cajun thrown into the mix. There might also be some clogging, so it promises to be a fun evening for all.

Doors open at 6:30 pm. There’s a suggested sliding scale donation fee from $6 to $15. Admission is free for children. Donations help the Friends of the Discovery Center provide free nature programming for the public. For more information, please call the Discovery Center at 413-863-3221 or go to

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy