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Front Porch Party

Karl Wente’s band is a game changer in the Tri-valley scene.


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Courtesy of Wente Vineyards

The Tri-Valley’s coolest rock band was born when local winemaker Karl Wente started taking guitar lessons with multi-instrumentalist Jim Hurley.

“I was his last lesson every Tuesday night,” Wente recalls. “And I started bringing a bottle of wine to every lesson. We would sit there and ask each other questions: He would ask me about grape growing and flavors, and I’m asking questions about music theory and Django Reinhardt.”

The lessons turned into a weekly jam session on the porch of Wente’s Livermore house. A guitarist here and a fiddle player there were added for flavor, and soon the impromptu porch jams led to the creation of the Front Porch Band, and a series of indie music festivals at Wente Vineyards known as the Front Porch Music Festival.

In 2012, lead singer Wolf Hamlin, 27, entered the scene. Hamlin, who made a big splash on American Idol in 2012, says he fits in better on the porch than he did on the TV show.

“Don’t get me wrong: American Idol was pretty cool—but I was on there with a bunch of high school kids,” says Hamlin, laughing. “The kids were like, ‘Dude, this guy has a beard and tattoos: What’s his deal?’ ”

These days, the outlaw country sounds of the Porch’s offshoot, Wolf Hamlin and the Front Porch Drifters, are making a splash in the Tri-Valley’s live music scene. Their shows pack Sauced BBQ and Spirits, and they’re all set to play 2014’s final Front Porch Music Festival on August 30 and San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in October. They’ve also been raising money for arts education in the Livermore Valley, a passion project of the Wente family.

“My life is richer and more awesome because of music,” says Karl Wente. reverbnation.com/wolfhamlin.

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