Country at Common Grounds

Kenneth Brian says somebody has to put the feeling back into country music. The 22-year-old songwriter has been playing music all of his life and has recorded three full-length albums and toured the U.S. and Europe. He hopes to do just that with the band he fronts, Kenneth Brian and the Beer Run Boys. The group is playing Saturday night at Common Grounds.

“It’s time to spit out what we are being force fed on today’s country radio,” he says with earnest. “Most modern country is crap. It doesn’t have the fire, and there’s no real life behind it.”

Brian says the problem is with the industry.

“Nashville is more like investment banking than music,” he says. “It’s all about product, not about music.”

It’s a familiar lament, and not limited to country music, but Brian’s got a point. It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish many country artists from pop artists, I offer.

“Exactly. It’s become so generic,” he says. “And so many of the popular country artists don’t even write their own songs.”

Brian, who writes all of his own material, draws influences from an eclectic pool or musicians. Although his roots are in traditional country – he cites artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, and Webb Pierce – by the time he hit his teens he was listening to punk rock bands like the Misfits and Dead Kennedys. He also greatly admires the work of Gram Parsons, and he and the band performed at this year’s “Gram Fest” downtown.

“A lot of music was stagnant at that time,” he says. “So I sought out bands with something new to say.”

Brian, whose grandfather was a country singer in West Virginia, was born in Newport News, Va., and moved to North Florida when he was in 9th grade. He has lived in mostly rural areas and currently lives in Old Town. But he’s a regular around Gainesville. You might have seen him wearing his trademark cowboy hat in the crowd at recent shows at the Side Bar.

He formed the Beer Run Boys – he says the name comes from the band’s inability to get through a practice without going out to buy more beer – in March of this year, and has played several shows in Gainesville and around the state. The band currently has a three-song demo CD which is available at shows and on its Web site at

Brian describes the group’s style as “honky-tonk, country, rockabilly and Western swing blended together to form a truly original yet classic sound.”

The band is made up of Brian on vocals and guitars, Mike Mutti on bass, Zach Givens on drums, John Gant on fiddle and Nathaniel Hawk on steel guitar.

Interestingly enough, this is Brian’s first real country band. Most of the previous groups he has played in were punk and hardcore, including the band that toured Europe.

“I wasn’t really an official member of that band,” he says. “I just played guitar with them for a while. It was a blast traveling Europe with a band at 18.”

Common Grounds is at 919 W. University Ave. Shows typically start after 10 p.m.