Much Obliged to perform at Park Amphitheater on Saturday

Published 11:30 am Friday, June 2, 2023

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“We are Much Obliged.” That’s what you’ll hear Lexington-based indie rock band Much Obliged say at the end of each show. The band’s name is multi-purpose: The familiar phrase is used as a thank-you to listeners, a nod to the band members’ pop-culture influences (the expression is often used by video game “Bioshock Infinite’s” protagonist, Booker, and appears in the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”), and a reminder of how the five-piece band has grown and changed.

Much Obliged’s beginnings are traced back to 2013, when college sophomores Daniel Lay (guitar, vocals) and Jeffrey Alford (drums) formed a cover band. A nature-inspired name, Evergreen, fit the bill: the band’s first show was at a local marina on Herrington Lake, booked by Lay’s mother. The band came together quickly: they were ready to debut in just a week.

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This iteration of the band played just a few shows with a rotating crew of musicians—the only consistent members were Lay and Alford. Nevertheless, Evergreen took home first place at a Battle of the Bands competition at the University of Kentucky.

That’s when Lay and Alford felt compelled to solidify a full-time line-up and reflect the band’s evolution with a name change, landing on Much Obliged. Michael Clark, a longtime friend of Lay and Alford, left another band to join Much Obliged as the lead vocalist. Clark also contributes guitar and keyboard. Next to join was Max Galbraith—a friend of Clark’s—lending guitar and vocals. “We all clicked immediately,” the bandmates recall. Finally, Bassist Keenan Ray joined the group a few years later. Friendship has always been a significant theme for the band. While Much Obliged has been around for about 10 years, the “original three” band members started making music together much sooner: Lay, Alford, and Clark have been friends since fourth grade. They each joined the Burgin Independent School (Mercer County, KY) concert band the following year. In middle and high school, they played together in church bands.

“The freedom to experiment musically and collaborate with each other” is what Alford calls his favorite part of being in a rock band with life-long friends. “We’re all different, yet similar, and when we play together, we all bring something to the table that just really works. And that creates a bond that lasts.”

Much Obliged incorporates country, folk, and jazz influences into their signature jam-rock sound. True to jam tunes, their music is also a little bluesy, a little psychedelic, and a whole lot of fun. “We don’t try to hold to any specific genre,” Alford says, but “no matter what song of ours you hear, it always sounds like Much Obliged.” This trademark vibe has taken the band of five to bars, breweries, and music halls as far as Cincinnati. But, for Much Obliged, there’s no place like home: they particularly enjoy performing at The Burl in Lexington, Kentucky. “It’s always a great time there,” the bandmates say.

One memorable time at The Burl has become integral Much Obliged lore: after a show, Much Obliged went across the way to The Burl Arcade, where they happened to meet actor Norman Reedus (best known for his role as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead). Alford offered Reedus a CD, and Reedus offered back a roll of quarters equaling $10. “We have some awesome memories together, both playing music together and just hanging out.”

Hear from Much Obliged at Riney B. Park Amphitheater on Saturday, June 3, at 6:00 p.m. The concert, hosted by Jessamine County Public Library (JCPL), is free of charge—no tickets or registration are required. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. Ready yourself: Stream Much Obliged’s record Paradise on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, and Bandcamp.