If a band’s journey to the Amphitheater starts at the gates of the Turner Community Center, it is probably worthwhile.
“We’ve played on almost every single stage you could imagine in Western and Central New York, except Chautauqua during the season,” said John Streed, general manager of The Probables and owner of Blue Moon Management. “How do you take a regional band and put them in an amphitheater like this and make it make sense?”
Well, it all started one morning at 6:30 a.m. while Streed was waiting to swim at the Chautauqua Health & Fitness Center.
He happened to meet Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer for the Institution, whose determination to bring local talent to the grounds impressed him.
“She has a really great vision” on how to get more people from the region involved in the Chautauqua experience, he said.
Now, the end results of the chance meeting will come together with The Probables performing a “blend of folk, rock, bluegrass, and a little bit of reggae” at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday in the Amphitheater.
Born in Western New York, The Probables combine a range of music genres and styles. Together, the five band members play eight instruments, including mandolin, electric guitar, Hammond organ and fiddle. Streed said this is what makes the band stand out.
Versatile in more than just instruments, he said the group’s singer-songwriter Steve Johnson creates songs for those who are ready to dance all night long, as well as those who want to “sit back, relax and take the music in.”
“They have a lot of upbeat songs and intense slow songs,” Streed said.
The ability to “connect with people of all demographics” is what drives the band and prompts them to create music, he said. So far, The Probables have released four studio albums with plans to make more later this year, according to the band’s website.
“If they weren’t connecting, they wouldn’t be doing that,” Streed said.
Every concert The Probables play has a different setlist, catered to each venue and crowd, he said.
For Chautauquans, Streed said The Probables will “ease into the show to form a connection with the new folks who had never heard (their) music before and then bring up the intensity … and get the crowd dancing.”
The inspiration behind Johnson’s songs comes from profound emotional situations, Streed said: “Sometimes, it’s heartbreak; sometimes, it’s jubilation.”
By The Probables’ side since the band’s first concert in 2016, Streed and Johnson go back 25 years. The two started working together when Johnson played in another band, Big Leg Emma, which toured nationally and performed at the Institution in the early 2000s.
Now, Johnson returns to the Amp stage, while the other Probables are making their debut on the grounds.
Streed said the Amp is “as high-profile and legendary as Red Rocks,” and the performance in it serves as the band’s biggest milestone to date, surpassing “the Big Leg Emma shadow,” musically and otherwise.
“They work increasingly hard, but smart,” he said.