HARRISONBURG — Craft creators are collaborating with local talent to celebrate the creativity and the artistic achievements that are bringing recognition to Harrisonburg.
Pale Fire Brewing, recently awarded a bronze medal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, joined efforts with Harrisonburg-based band Illiterate Lights to brew a pale ale to commemorate the big break of the duo’s recent signing to a major record label and releasing their debut album.
Illiterate Light Pale Ale is a crushable, citrusy beer filled with a distinctly dry hoppiness and tangerine flavor, said Tim Brady, founder of Pale Fire Brewing. He said the beer is the first the brewery has created with musicians.
“We haven’t worked directly with a band, but we also haven’t had a Harrisonburg band sign with Atlantic Records before either. We’re big Illiterate Light fans, and they’re big Pale Fire fans,” Brady said.
Illiterate Light is a two-piece psychedelic indie rock group created by Jeff Gorman, who plays guitar with his hands and synth bass with his feet, and Jake Cochran, the self-proclaimed “fun one” who plays a standup drum kit.
The two met while studying at James Madison University and formed their first band, Money Can’t Be Eaten, nine years ago while also co-running an organic farm. When they decided to focus full time on music, the first musical project fell apart. Lo and behold, the two were not ready to give up their dreams and electric on-stage chemistry, so they flipped the switch and Illiterate Light began to shine four years ago.
Since then, the band has climbed the ladder from performing at house shows and small venues to festivals and arenas around the nation. Despite the ascent, Gorman said a big part of the band is still tied to its roots in Harrisonburg, and the two dedicate a lot of energy to help spread the name of other talents in the area.
“We are still really invested in the community here, but at the same time, we’re touring the whole country and soon to be globe,” Gorman said. “One of the big differences, we used to be really rooted here, you know, literally, and now we’re kind of all over the place and we come back and we’re really trying to see friends and give what we can while we’re here.”
The band has sold out both its upcoming Friday and Saturday shows at Golden Pony. Paul Somers, owner of Golden Pony, said this weekend marks the first time the venue has ever sold out two nights in a row for a local act, with the only other back-to-back sellout being Drake Bell, and the beer is as popular as the band itself.
“We will be serving the beer upstairs and downstairs. In fact, it’s been selling really well already for the last couple weeks and definitely getting people excited,” Somers said.
Illiterate Light Pale Ale was released two weeks ago, and there are only two kegs left of the draft at Pale Fire. Glasses of the brew are also available at Golden Pony, Vito’s Italian Kitchen, Capital Ale House, Clementine Cafe and Corgan’s Publick House.
The ale is not only named after the band. Gorman and Cochran dove straight into the beer-making process and experimented with over 20 varieties of hops to help create the flavor alongside Pale Fire’s brewers.
“On the actual brew day, Jake and Jeff came back and actually went through the whole process of brewing the beer,” Brady said. “We got them a little dirty, got them a little sweaty, but it was very cool in the fact that it was a true collaboration.”
Cochran said Harrisonburg’s creative culture is unmatched in its unique style, and Illiterate Light loves collaborating with local artists to advance the community.
“There’s a specific type of weirdness to a lot of the art and music that happens here that is pretty distinct, and it’s not even the same kind of distinct. It’s just there are creative people in the community who are willing to kind of take those risks,” Cochran said.
From brews to tunes, Harrisonburg’s art scene is a multilayered, intersecting community that Gorman said has fostered the band and played a core role in their evolution to the artists they are today.
“We just really want to reiterate how much this community has given to us. Like, we really feel like the essence of this band couldn’t exist without Harrisonburg’s music scene, and really the Harrisonburg community in general,” Gorman said.