‘Ghost Tour’ haunts Pittston

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First Posted: 8/18/2014

Come for the cool name, but stay for the unbridled musical spontaneity that is Ellicott City Ghost Tour.

The Maryland-based four-piece, which seemingly defies any rational categorization, will play their first “proper” Northeast Pennsylvania gig at Diane’s Deli in Pittston Friday, Aug. 2 along with NEPA locals The Russello Project, Drive, and Gawd Jam It – promising to be one of the most mind-expanding musical blowouts in recent memory.

Ellicott City Ghost Tour formed on St. Patrick’s Day little more than a year and a half ago. Vocalist Eli Herrnstadt and drummer Craig Thomas’ high school band, Mad Hatter, had run its course so the part punk aggression, part progressive scope, and part jam-band was formed.

Ellicott City Ghost Tour, rounded out by guitarist Grant Goldberg and bassist Frank Mason, didn’t begin life playing in bars or basement parties – they opted for something a little more uninhibited and rustic. The rocked out in the woods.

“The great thing about Ellicott City, where we’re all from, is that there are these great old abandoned places in the woods,” said Herrnstadt, who now calls Lake Ariel home. “There were always people hanging out there along the Patapsco River, several generations of kids all getting along. Coming back there a little older, in our 20’s, we started playing music there to catch people’s attention, being that we needed a place to play music.”

Herrnstadt recalls one particular time when his music perked up the ears of passers-by.

“I was sitting on this rock, recording something with a little four-track recorder that we had. I looked up, and there were these two families standing on the rock watching me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, this is awesome.’ They told me that it sounded great – it was really incredible.”

It’s that off-the-cuff musicality and lack of pretension that tends to be the focal point of Ellicott City Ghost Tour’s sound. The band, which is currently finishing up work on their first professionally recorded CD, set for fall release, has a smorgasbord of tracks currently available on their Reverbnation page. Some standouts, like “Action Jackson” and “Part II,” came to fruition via simple feelings that Herrnstadt, the band’s primary songwriter, was experiencing at any given time.

“For example, with ‘Action Jackson,’ I was really angry and I was jamming with Craig,” Herrnstadt said. “I started playing these three chords from a punk song I had written prior, because I hadn’t played punk until recently but I’d always wanted to figure out how to write it. Then, I just started yelling things along with the chords, and that became the song. We were like, ‘Wow, this sounds pretty catchy.’ Honestly, most of the songs come about like that.”

Part II was similarly derived.

“The first thing I heard from that song in my head was that chorus,” Herrnstadt said. “I heard the words, so then I put the chords to the melody. From that, the rest of the song just came out. It’s called ‘Part II’ because I realized the ending riff in it is from one of our older songs, so it’s kind of like the epilogue to that song.”

With such a non-conformist musical style and sound culled from a myriad of influences, the band has that unique ability to crossover and appeal to fans of varied assortment.

“Everybody that we play to usually finds something they like in our music,” Herrnstadt said. “It’s a great strength to have, and I was surprised, because it’s just this stuff that we make. It’s really an incredible feeling when people like our music how they do. We don’t’ really want to stick to one genre. We want to play what’s in our heads. We don’t ever want to say ‘We’re not putting that in our song because we’re not that type of band. To us, if it sounds good, it sounds good.”

The band’s live show is most definitely the place to get turned on to the music.

“We bring a lot of energy to the table,” Herrnstadt said. “We find that in turn, that gives the crowd more energy; it’s cyclical. We basically just go up there and run through our set list, I talk to the crowd, and we do what we do – it’s whatever comes up. It all ends up nicely.”

Does Ellicott City Ghost Tour have any particular bridges they’d like to cross in the near future of plateaus they’d like to reach?

“We’ve been playing a lot of shows lately,” said Herrnstadt, including more in Pennsylvania. “This is our first official gig here, other than open mics, which is how we got this (Diane’s Deli) gig. We found out that the Scranton community is incredibly welcoming to this kind of music. So, I guess down the line, a big goal of ours is to go on tour. We want to get in front of as many audiences as we can, because that’s one of our biggest strengths; the live performance. I know if we can get in front of people, we can get fans.”

Herrnstadt said that with each live show, his band becomes more of a living, breathing, musical animal.

“We seem to get better, and tighter as players. Our last show this past weekend in Baltimore, we got a bunch of new fans from that show and it went really well,” he said. “It was one of the larger venues we’ve played so far, and it was exciting that we could see tangible progress being made.”

Herrnstadt hopes that his band’s music will make a lasting impression upon those who decide to indulge.

“For them to want to come and see us again, I guess, is the goal – for them to become fans. We want to share this music with people, and also to interact with them. We love when there are musicians in the crowd as well. For our last show, we added this rapper we’ve been working with to one of our songs, and people went crazy for it.” Herrnstadt hints that this particular musician and the song on which he guested will appear on the band’s forthcoming disc as a hidden track.

“That personal connection is really what we want – something lasting,” he said.