Pete Lanctot plays Union Hall

Fiddling around: Slope songster brings a new sound to old-timey styles

Brooklyn Daily
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This genre-bending multi-instrumentalist has more than one string to his fiddle.

Pete Lanctot and his band will mix deep-seeded but disparate styles of American music at Union Hall on June 12 to create brooding and moving original numbers. Draped in an old-timey aesthetic, the tunes draw on jazz and new music influences to create something both new and old.

“These songs kind of straddle the generations,” said Lanctot. “We take skeletons of these old forms and reupholster them.”

At Union Hall, Lanctot will shuffle between guitar, violin, viola, and tenor banjo, but the tunesmith also plays the Stroh violin in New Orleans-style swing band Hot Sardines. The steam-punk-esque fiddle looks like a mash-up between a violin and a gramophone, sporting a trumpet-like horn that amplifies sound in place of a wooden body typically found on stringed instruments.

Lanctot said he wasn’t always so steeped in roots ditties and obscure instruments.

He started playing classical violin at the age of six, but got burned out on music by high school. However a chance encounter with the “Anthology of American Folk Music” — often described as the Bible of folk music — opened up new sonic vistas for Lanctot.

“That was a moment of — ‘I didn’t know you were allowed to do that,’ ” he said.

Now the Park Sloper is preaching the gospel of Americana from the stage and from the lectern. Lanctot teaches music at Bantam Studios, a Navy Yard workshop he shares with his partner Ginger Dolden.

The pair teaches group lessons to beginner adults who might otherwise think it’s too late in life to pick up an instrument. Lanctot said he throws in a little social lubricant at the so-called “booze guitar” and “booze violin” lessons to help newcomers feel more comfortable learning their lutes.

“The idea is going back to the social roots of music,” he said.

Thursday’s performance will bolster the unfolding folk revival that has found a nexus in Brooklyn over the last decade — something Lanctot says has less to do with a prevailing fixation on nostalgia and more to do with the timeless quality of the music.

“What people connect to in roots is not antique-ness but the fact that they were written 100 years ago and are still relevant,” he said.

Pete Lanctot at Union Hall [702 Union St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 638–4400,]. June 12 at 8 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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