The Ampersand Project
Sunday April 28th
1pm & 4pm
Lower Meadow Pavilion Stage
Free with Gate Admission
The Ampersand Project’ was born out of a simple unplanned, off-the-cuff jam…
Jeremy James was about 6 months removed from his local band and was contemplating an acoustic solo gig. In the midst of building an ‘idea setlist’ he played a new song he was working on for his friend, Paul Thompson. Immediately Thompson, being a percussionist for over 40 years, picked up his djembe and played an accompanying beat to the song – of which he had never before heard. There was a real nice feel to that song…
Paul Thompson had been in many bands throughout his tenure. Living in Elmira and enjoying that local live scene craze in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Thompson played with a few of bigger-known local acts – including ‘Tops Shelf’ and ‘Blooze Hangover’, for 15 and 3 years respectively. Having played in nearly every genre during these decadent years, when the late twenty-aught’s rolled around, a new opportunity and genre had presented itself.
With the fast-growing market in the Country Music genre, there was definitely a need for such in the Twin Tiers. So as luck would have it, he and a few others found themselves without a band. They recognized the demand and decided to try their hand at the Country side and out of that ‘Wendy Owens & Renegade’ was founded. It was during this period Thompson had first met James, aka ‘Rookie’, who was building his very first publicly-billed band.
After about 8 years with ‘WOaR’, Thompson tried his hand at something new, yet again. Meeting with friend and local legend, Brian Hughes, they saw a need for a local rock act. With a ‘See a need, Fill a need’ attitude, it didn’t take long to form the talent-packed Rock band ‘Bad Dog’.
Jeremy James has been playing rhythm guitar since he was 15. His father played acoustic guitar and James would sing along from an early age whenever his dad would play. Believing his son had a vocal gift, he took a gamble and bought a guitar for his son for Christmas. After 6 months of not playing it, James finally picked it up and tried it out. It wasn’t long before he was strumming along with his father at their stage – the kitchen table. There he stayed for over 10 years singing and strumming for crowds of 5, 6, even 10 people at a time! As still very evident to this day, James has a huge nervousness/anxiety issue with performing in public.
Being shy took its toll for nearly 2 decades until finally after the endless encouragement of friends and family it ended as James took a chance to try the live, full-band thing. His first trial was with Rock Music, as only a vocalist with the Hard Rock band ‘Section 8’. This attempt would prove to be short-lived though, as the band never did get an official public debut.
However, in preparation for his initial outing as a vocalist with ‘8’, having the anxiety of performing, James recorded a video of himself covering a song accompanied with his acoustic guitar and posted it on Facebook. This video eventually caught the eye of local live music legend, Bucky Sheldon. Sheldon, who had known James since he was 12, got in touch wanting to start up a new band. After some deliberating they decided the local scene needed a male-led, all-modern Country Music act. 6 months later, ‘Meads Creek’ was born and beginning their first practice. After 3 years ‘Creek’ disbanded, and a year after that Thompson’s ‘Bad Dog’ followed suit.
Having become friends and even sharing the same stage, Thompson and James hung out on the occasion sharing stories and laughs, and visiting local live acts on the weekends. It was one of those very supporting-weekends when the soon-to-be Ampersand boys were in the midst of getting around at Thompson’s house when he asked, “Hey, you been working on anything new?” With that, James picked up Thompson’s acoustic and smiled.
And well, you know the rest…
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