Manayunk’s ‘The Byways’ play rock and roll, Americana style

Fast cars, moonshine and Americana – these are the elements comprising The Byway’s brand of rock music. Their guitarist and frontman Forest Glen has spouted a few colorful terms for their sound – “ghetto redneck”, “suburban gangster”, and “American barbecue served on the best grill ever made.” Whatever one calls it, The Byways will play The Grape Room on Saturday night, just a few steps down from Glen’s house. “I call it home base,” Glen says. “[The Grape Room] is all musicians, that’s why I like Manayunk.” Having grown up in Sourth Carolina during his teenage years, Glen spent time with a family member who was a mechanic. Glen says he would drive this family member for errands and see him work on cars, and their relationship showed him a rare glimpse into the gritty small town America through its grease and oil-stained garages, prostitutes and drugs. Glen himself is a clean shaven, baby-faced 28-year-old with straight black hair. But it’s easy to see the aesthetic effect these memories have had on him with songs like “Good Times” and  “Whiskey Road”. Their most recent E.P., 2011’s “Dark Corner”, deals with the mountainous region between Ashville, N.C. and  Greensboro S.C. that are notorious for its history of moonshine running trails. “The songs tell the story, men and women who have their back against the wall, and give it their all,” Glen says.

Although, the dark corner of moonshine country is but one aspect of the group’s influence. Glen is also a self-professed recovering Broadway kid – having performed in several musicals growing up, because his mother was a Wyoming native who loved theater so much that she moved to New York City. This theatrical background seems to have found its way into the group’s music too, says the group’s bass player Ben Rose.

“We work off each other’s energy and tell a story, and we play it off for the crowd,” Rose says. “The other night we were doing these hand gestures with the song that just happened on the spot, but people thought we had rehearsed them.”

The Byways will perform at 10 p.m. tonight at the Grape Room, along with the bands Hierosonic and Study Electricity. Tickets are $7.

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