Best Folk/Traditional: String Theorie
String Theorie — guitarist Joel Weik, bassist Karl Messerschmidt and percussionist Jordan Critchley — are a Hartford-area trio known for progressive, ambient instrumentals, propulsive grooves and eye-popping musicianship. But for Weik, the group's principal songwriter, virtuosity is never an end in itself. "When we are working on songs together," he said, "our approach is, 'How can we make this a great song, what's the vibe and how can we enhance that vibe?' We are never thinking, 'How can we make it more progressive or add more virtuosity?' It's always about what's going to enhance the song." String Theorie are a still relatively young group (they won Best New Band in last year's Grand Band Slam). But they've made the rounds of the local venues, and then some. Earlier this year, a release party at Hartford's Studio @ Billings Forge for a new CD, Little Elephant, was standing-room only. They are savvy self-promoters without being pushy. When they first started out, they took gigs wherever they were offered, regardless of what they paid. "We figured, 'Let's play. That will be the way that we grow,'" Weik said. "One show leads to two more, to five more... We weren't out there hawking ourselves. We were not trying to artificially create demand that wasn't there." To that end, Weik refuses to invite Facebook friends. "I'm not going to shove it down their throats," he said. "It takes a lot of time and energy to play in a band. I didn't want to trick myself into thinking we were growing and successful. I wanted to find out as soon as possible how much viability we had as a band. The best way to do that is just let the band exist. If it isn't reaching people, that's fine."
Listen to the band: