Funk at the Farm: Earthnight at Connolly Ranch feat. Con Brio


We all know that sound. A direct message.

This time it was from my talented photographer friend Josh Platt. He works during the day as, “Farmer Jo.” He’s a school teacher at Connolly Ranch School an outdoor and farm school for elementary students, in Napa, California. He was inviting me to see one of my favorite bay area bands Con Brio at “Earthnight,” the school’s charity event. Josh shares my passion for live music and art and most nights he can be seen photographing and videoing the most up and coming bands in the Bay. I always have fun when in his company, so this was an easy, “YES.”

“I put your tickets under the name Lawrence Platt (his Father), use his name when you check in!”

I then sent that “DING!” sound to another friend. “Hey Madison, Wanna go to see Con Brio Tonight!”

Madison, “Hell Yes!”

Madison tasting some cider at the entrance to "The Grove"

With that, we headed to Browns Valley, a wealthy little suburb in Napa. We parked and entered Connolly ranch to be greeted by the nicest volunteers. We got our wristbands promptly, then headed in. As we climbed the hill we saw the student’s projects, artwork, and animals. The gardens were heaving with produce and flowers, and the smells reminded you of a tame mall candle shop. Smoke from a bonfire with laughter from children filled the air, and fine wine flowed everywhere.

After petting a pig, taking selfies on a tractor, and grabbing a Sawhorse Cider, Madison and I finished the climb to “The Grove” to see the first of Con Brio’s two live sets. Con Brio is a band that formed in 2013 in SF. This show is the 11th time I’ve seen them live. In the past, I have met many rabid fans that follow and adore this group and this night was no exception.

Napa obviously adores Con Brio, evident by the fact that they have been invited played at Bottlerock twice and have opened for the amazing jam band “Galactic,” at Jam Cellars Ballroom. This charity event at Connolly ranch was put on with help from Jam Cellars.

The first set had an amazing feel. The music kicked off around 7PM as the sun started to drop over the farm. I’ve lived in Napa for over twenty years, and this was one of the most magically warm spring nights ever. We grabbed a seat on the closest redwood stump and listened while Con Brio delved into some of their newer music. It is very difficult to avoid moving your body to their music. One kid ran by me waving a stick with a flag on it. Another fell while running, got up, then started to “floss” dance. At least twice I was invited by the very hospitable students to play tag or ride on the tire swing.

We saw soccer Moms getting their swerve on, and Con Brio just kept stoking the flames.

Con Brio performing in "The Grove" at Connolly Ranch School in Napa, CA

Bassist Jonathan Kirchner lays an amazing foundation for the rest of the band to build on. Songs like “Saddle Up” and “All Over Me” demonstrate the band’s evolution and dedication to improving. While a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” played to the Gen X crowd. Lead guitarist Benjamin Andrews always adds an edge to the group which pushes them out of music genre classifications.

“We are going to take a break and be back” – was my cue to grab another sample of cider and meet up with Josh. On the way, I ran into Brendan Liu (trumpet) and Patrick Glynn (keys) from Con Brio. We had a great talk about their upcoming tour in North Carolina and the summer festival tours. These are people you root for and it is very endearing how they respect their fans. “I want to see you up front dancing!”- Patrick challenged a younger fan that awkwardly said hello, then beamed with acceptance.

Madison found Josh, he had 12 kids in line and had completely turned the tire swing into an event.

“Me next, Me next”… echoed through the grove as the kids waited for the ride. The swing was in a larger Bay tree and carried over the band while they performed. Everything about this event had a very down-home feel.

The band Con Brio hit the stage for their second set of the night under a clear sky laden with stars. This set included crowd favorites like “Kiss the Sun” and “Money” which showcase the bands commanding stage presence and rhythmic front-man Ziek McCarter‘s creative dance moves. Saxophone player Marcus Stephens enamored the crowd with a few long jazz-influenced solos while Brendan hyped up the crowd and encouraged everyone to let loose. During the finale, it was finally my turn to ride the tire swing! I can’t say that I have ever done this, however riding a 30-foot tire swing during a concert is a pretty wild experience.

Con Brio during Connolly Ranch's Earthnight

Connolly Ranch really put on a great event, let’s hope the event was profitable for the school! Thanks for the invite, Josh! You can see Con Brio in Napa at Bottlerock May 26th,2019  or catch them on SE Tour starting May 9th, 2019 in Ashville, North Carolina.

Brendan Liu (Trumpet) of Con Brio cheers on saxophonist Marcus Stephens

You can support and donate to the Connolly Ranch education program here: connollyranch.org

For more on Con Brio

About the author

North Bay Visual Artist and Promoter credits include: Napa Porchfest, Napa Battle of the Bands, Joshua Festival 2010-2013, Rock of Ages Festival 2004-2010. Huge music fan. Deadhead. Currently seen over 2100 live shows. Plays a crappy harmonica.