JD Eicher Will Make Pit Stop at Federal Frenzy Rock Fest

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When it comes to gas station coffee, JD Eicher is an expert.

The Columbus-based rocker has drunk his fair share of it while driving to and from gigs. But his absolute favorite comes from Speedway.

When Eicher professed his love for their brew in a zany Instagram video, it went viral. Speedway caught wind of it and contacted him.

Now, Eicher can be seen in a series of ads for the gas-convenience store chain. The short spots, which also reflect Eicher’s offbeat style of humor, have been on television, YouTube and streaming services for two months.

The rocker, who hails from Canfield, shot the ads with two other actors at a new Speedway in the Chicago area in January.

“It was so fun,” Eicher said of the shooting session, which took 12 hours. “It was a marathon day.”

Errr, that’s marathon, as in a long race – not the gasoline-convenience store chain.

While it’s been a great opportunity, it wasn’t something he planned.

“It’s due to the nature of my job that I’ve had so much gas station coffee,” Eicher said. “I just happen to prefer Speedway’s.”

Eicher isn’t about to chuck his rock career to be a store pitchman.

He’s got a new, as-yet untitled, album on the way and will release the first single from it – “Where We’re Going” – on Friday.

On Saturday, Eicher and his band will perform in one of the final spots at Federal Frenzy, the annual free rock festival at Penguin City Brewing in downtown Youngstown.

Afterward, he’ll release a new song every two months.

On the new music, Eicher and his bandmates – Jim Merhaut and Dylan Kollat – are going it alone.

“We kind of alternate between having a large number of collaborators and musicians on our albums [and just us],” he said. “For this one, we’re back to home base, just the brass tacks of what we sound like. It will sound familiar, with a few diversions that come naturally as you try to grow.”

Eicher and his band have been together for a long time. Merhaut has played guitar in the outfit for about 15 years, and Kollat has been the drummer for almost 12.

That longevity is apparent in the new music.

“You can hear the certain gel between me and the band,” Eicher said. “There is something more automatic about how we do things. We’re in the same headspace, and it feels more natural. We’ve been playing together so long that we read each other’s minds.”

Eicher and his band have a full slate of shows in the coming months, including a few in the Youngstown area.

He’ll open for Red Wanting Blue at Westside Bowl on May 3, and for Davy Knowles at the same venue June 13. Eicher and his band will also play at Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana on July 21.

Return of Bully

The lineup for this year’s Federal Frenzy, as always, includes a sampling of the area’s bands.

Eicher, who has played the festival at least three times already, will go on at 8:05 p.m.

The Goners will play the final main stage slot before headliner Bully’s set at 10 p.m. It will be Bully’s second time at Federal Frenzy. The Nashville-based act, led by Alicia Bognanno, played the inaugural event about a decade ago.

Alicia Bognanno and her band, Bully, will headline the festival. (Photo by Bobbi Rich)

Bognanno writes cathartic songs that lay bare her personal experiences, and then sings them with ferocity. Her 2023 album “Lucky for You” was one of the year’s best, and followed the band’s acclaimed 2022 release, “Sugaregg.”

Even when discussing her music, Bognanno lays all of her cards on the table.

With a recurring theme of grief and loss, the “Lucky for You” album was inspired by the death of her dog, Mezzi, who is shown on the album’s inner jacket.

“Mezzi was my best friend,” Bognanno explained in her press materials. “She made me feel safe and empowered. She showed me that I was worth loving and never judged me or viewed me as a let-down. I always felt accepted, understood and so much less alone. Mezzi was living, breathing proof that I was worthy of being loved.”

Another source of inspiration was her continuing sobriety.

“I’ve been living in this house for seven years,” she said of her current Nashville abode. “Once I stopped drinking, I felt like I was still haunted by mistakes and things that had happened when I was drinking, and it’s still taking me a long time to forget about that. How do I shed the skin from a path I’ve moved on from?”

With that mindset, the new album became a document of perseverance. 

“I’m so overly emotional and sensitive, it’s a blessing and a curse” she said.

In an interview in the fall 2023 issue of Creem magazine, Bognanno expounded on her mental highwire act, and how it affected her writing and delivery.

“I feel like I’m going through a perpetual identity crisis over and over again, and I feel like you could almost hear it on ‘Lucky for You,’ she said.

Festival Schedule

Federal Frenzy will feature 26 bands on four stages. Two smaller stages will be inside Penguin City, and the two larger ones will be in the street and the parking lot.

Nine food trucks and dozens of vendors from Youngstown Flea will offer their products.

The HELMS Foundation will once again lead a community art project during the festival, preparing tiles for a mural in development for Dave Grohl Alley in Warren.

Additional activities will be coordinated by Youngstown State University departments. The festival is sponsored and produced by Penguin Productions of YSU.

Attendees are encouraged to park at the Wick Deck on YSU’s campus (free with YSU parking pass, $5 cash without pass). Shuttles will run on a continuous loop from Wick Avenue to the event site from 1 p.m. to midnight.

Here is the schedule of band performances:

Main Stage (Federal Street)

  • 2:15-2:45 p.m.: The Knockouts.
  • 3:20-3:50 p.m.: Hywater.
  • 4:20-4:50 p.m.: Wine & Spirit.
  • 5:25-5:55 p.m.: Yacobucci.
  • 6:25-6:55 p.m.: Madame Marlowe.
  • 7:30-8 p.m.: Katy Robinson & the Wanderers.
  • 8:55-9:40 p.m.: Goners.
  • 10-11 p.m.: Bully.

The Summit FM Stage (Penguin City Parking Lot)

  • 2:45-3:15 p.m.: Easton Union.
  • 3:50-4:20 p.m.: Angie Haze.
  • 4:50-5:20 p.m.: Riley Burke.
  • 5:55-6:25 p.m.: Black Wolf & the Thief.
  • 7-7:30 p.m.: Big Pop.
  • 8:05-8:50 p.m.: JD Eicher.

The Platt! Stage (Penguin City Taproom)

  • 2:15-2:45 p.m.: Wednesday Demonstration.
  • 3:20-3:50 p.m.: Phatz Elliot.
  • 4:20-4:50 p.m.: The Crxssing.
  • 5:25-5:55 p.m.: Chris Lombardii.
  • 6:25-6:55 p.m.: Franklin Dead Rose.
  • 7:30-8 p.m.: The Berrys.

Jambar Student Media State (Penguin City Pollock Ballroom)

  • 2:45-3:15 p.m.: Ohayo.
  • 3:50-4:20 p.m.: Drake Morris.
  • 4:50-5:20 p.m.: Dave Buker.
  • 5:55-6:25 p.m.: Lauren Brabson.
  • 7-7:30 p.m.: Andrew Slater & the Wickies.
  • 8:05-8:35 p.m.: Nick Aducci.

Pictured at top: JD Eicher will perform at the Federal Frenzy rock festival Saturday. (Photo by Rena Laverty)

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