Two albums later and with the addition of a few steady band mates, the once two-piece who started at open mics in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the mid 2000s has become known as Cabinet, a nationally touring new-grass or self-described “slamgrass” band most at home among the music festival scene. Cabinet plays an enormous amount of festivals each year and on their schedule is this year’s Hot August Music Fest coming up on Saturday with the likes of Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek and Dr. Dog.
A band that has certainly set some roots in and around Frederick in addition to their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre home, I spoke with band member J.P. Biondo (vocals/mandolin) to get his input on festivals, expectations for the Hot August Music Fest, and recent band happenings.
Cabinet might be a raucous and rowdy bluegrass genre-bending band, but in actuality, they’re serious about the music they play. It’s a paradox that can be tough in the music festival party-time environment and that can make the difference between a fun festival to play, and a not-so-fun time for the band.
Biondo explained, “I like the festivals where people are going to listen to the music more so than to party. We all like to have a good time and everything, but it’s nice when you’re at a festival and you can really feel that people are there for the music. We’ve been to great festivals like FloydFest or DelFest where you can tell the music is really at the core of those festivals, and that’s where it’s really at for everyone attending.
“We haven’t been to Grey Fox or Tulluride – those two are right up there for me,” he added.
As for the upcoming Hot August Music Fest, the singer noted, “we definitely never have been on the same bill as Nickel Creek or Doctor Dog before. So that’s definitely exciting. I have a lot of respect for both bands and their musical abilities. Actually, I took my girlfriend to see Nickel Creek not too long ago in Philly. It’s was a good time.”
Cabinet has frequented Frederick and Hagerstown throughout their years as a band and Biondo noted how they played at Café 611 here in town, as well as Hempen Hill BBQ in Hagerstown. What makes this area a bit special from other small towns, however, is the music scene, he said.
“It’s just nice that the whole area’s been friendly to us in general,” the singer noted. “We’re grateful for that. Every little step that we’ve made there depends on people helping us out and we appreciate the community there for sure.”
One of the highlights for any Cabinet fan is the unique variety of merchandise the band carries on every tour, which is actually a bit of a top-secret subject nowadays.
“There may be a new thing or two in the mix coming up,” Biondo explained. “I’m not at liberty to really say right now.”
Instead, Biondo talked about some of his past favorites.
“I’m really a big fan,” he said. “I mean it’s not necessarily that unique of an item as far as merch goes, but I really love the Keystone Key-moon tee shirt. It has a big Pennsylvania Keystone with a moon inside of it. For a while, we also had really unique individual sweat shirts and screen-printed our design – the design we were using at the time for t-shirts, then cut it out and had it sewn onto sweatshirts that we bought at the salvation army. We had just bought a whole bunch of cool sweatshirts and heavy flannels and coats and actually a lot of the Cabinet wives and girlfriends helped us sew on these cabinet patches onto the back of the hoodies and jackets and stuff. Those went really quick as soon as we had them out. I liked those because they were very unique.”
Also, fans will be happy to know that there is some studio recording in the works.
“Actually we have been in and out for the last month or so,” Biondo said. “We’ve been laying down a bunch of tracks. Maybe, not going to release anything anytime very soon, but we’ve been doing some recording and there’s a lot more to be done as well for some other albums possibly.”
As with the first two albums, Cabinet is again working with the Windmill Agency Recording studio.