A Bethesda performance is a celebration. The six-member band's blend of banjo, violin, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals energizes a crowd. Beer bottles shoot up, girls dance and even the most uptight characters bob their head.
Lead singer Shanna Delaney shows her musical theater and opera roots as she performs the band's carefully crafted songs with wide eyes and outstretched arms. But the connection she's striving for goes deeper than theatrics. "One of the best parts of the show for me is after the show, when I get to have conversations with people about real world things," she says.
Delaney says one of the band's new songs, "Fit to Leave," about her brother who died in a motorcycle accident, has spurred discussions with concertgoers who have also lost a sibling.
"We want our stories to be a genuine representation of ourselves, but we also put them out there in a vulnerable way," she says. "We are hoping they make a difference for someone else."
Delaney and her husband, Eric Ling, started the band after meeting drummer Justin Rife and bassist Dan Corby at a community church in 2008. Bethesda released its first full-length album in 2010 and followed it with an EP in 2011.
When it came time to record another full-length album, the growing band (which had added Jesse Scaggs on guitar, and violinist and keyboardist Christopher Black) wanted to continue working with producer Tim Gerak, who had produced its first two albums. But Gerak had moved from Akron to Denver.
So all six members drove to his Mammoth Cave Studio to record The Reunion (released in the spring).
Delaney says Bethesda has found its sound with The Reunion, which has a more cohesive folk-rock vibe than its previous releases. The theme of reunions organically emerged as she and Ling were writing the album, starting with the title track he penned after the death of his grandfather.
"He wrote this song to try to capture the beauty of his grandfather and his grandmother," Delaney says. "At the end of the song, it's about seeing death differently — as a celebration."
The band's sound and conscientious approach has earned it a slot playing at major music festivals such as SXSW and Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Bethesda will play locally at the Cleveland Museum of Art July 5, Taste of Tremont July 21 and Burning River Fest July 27.
"Right now we are touring and doing the part we love the most, which is the live shows," Delaney says. "Hopefully people grab onto that."
MORE INFO: bethesdaband.com