INDIANAPOLIS-BASED ROOTS MUSIC TRIO RETURNS SATURDAY NIGHT TO THE LIVERY By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO – Sight & Sound Editor | Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2017 6:00 am BENTON HARBOR —

Fans of the Indianapolis-based roots music band Flatland Harmony Experiment often are attracted to the band’s quick-witted lyricism, energetic live shows and three-part harmony. One of the things that makes the trio of Scott Nelson on upright bass, Johnny Plott on banjo and Kris Potts on mandolin so interesting, however, is something that it lacks – a guitar. While there may be some philosophical, sonic reasons for the guitar’s absence, truth be told, it has more to do with Plott’s personal penchant for the banjo. “I actually started with the guitar when I was like 3 or 4, but I’ve always been a fan of the banjo,” Plott says by phone from Indianapolis. “But it wasn’t until I was about 25 when I really decided that I wanted to get a banjo and try it. I’ve always been kind of a dead-head so that might have sent me in that direction, when I discovered Jerry (Garcia’s) bluegrass band, Old and in the Way. … I asked my dad for a banjo for Christmas, and I haven’t been able to put it down for a whole day since then. That was about 10 years ago now.” Plott also believes it was largely because of the banjo that in 2011 he and Potts were able to team with Nelson to form Flatland Harmony Experiment, who performs Saturday in a return to The Livery. Plott and Potts, who were then members of the gypsy jazz outfit Midwest Rhythm Exchange, decided to start a bluegrass jam on the patio of the Mousetrap, one of Indianapolis’ oldest north side watering holes. “The main guy in that band got a job and had to take four months off, and so we decided to start a bluegrass jam at the Mousetrap, which is right across the street from my house basically,” Plott says. “Scott showed up at one of the jams, we started playing together and it just clicked. The banjo is, I think, what caught Scott’s attention right away, and then there was our ability to harmonize, which just came naturally. He’s the one who sent out the calls and tried to get us together as a band.” It didn’t take much convincing. Soon the trio began writing songs, and hit the studio as Nelson eventually stepped away from a corporate job as vice president of sales to play music full time. In 2011, they released the EP “Eleventh Hour,” followed by the 2012 full-length debut “On Our Way.” But Plott says one of the biggest moments for the band, which continues to influence them today, was reaching the finals of the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition in 2013, where they finished third overall. “Telluride was a big deal for us because one of the requirements was that we play with a single mic,” Plott says. “Up to that point, we had always plugged in and had separate mics, but since Telluride, that’s how we perform live. It’s just more fun to play around one mic, and our instruments are loud enough that you don’t need to plug them in. That’s one of the things that seems to separate us from a lot of bluegrass bands in the area is playing around one mic and not plugging in.” In 2014, the band released their second full-length album, “The Great Squirrel Stampede,” and after a few live recordings, came back with last year’s four-song EP “Chrysalis.” Like past recordings, “Chrysalis” is representative of a specific time and place in the band’s five-year history, best characterized by the tune “Leaf on a River,” which is based on the Inca myth that gold was the sweat of the sun, and silver the tears of the moon. As the name of the EP suggests, Flatland Harmony Experiment’s songwriting and musicality continues to unfold and grow with time. “We’ve been writing a lot of new stuff and we’ve been writing a lot of stuff together lately, which is awesome,” Plott says. “There’s a song called ‘Sundance’ that’s a good one. We wrote that one in Michigan City, Ind., as a matter of fact. We were hanging out at a friend’s house the morning after a show, and we hung out and practiced, and this song came out of it. It’s about an old, dilapidated farmhouse, and it has a great hook.” Plott adds that the band will not only be playing some new material on Saturday, but they soon will put down “Sundance” and some other tracks for what they hope will become their third, full-length album due out this spring. “We don’t have a firm date yet, but that’s the plan,” Plott says. “I think when we write together, we come up with better (stuff). And what we have been writing lately is some of the best we’ve ever done. We’re ready for people to hear it.” Contact: jbonfiglio@TheHP.com, 932-0364, Twitter: @HPBonfiglio If you go Who: Flatland Harmony Experiment When: 9 p.m. Saturday Where: The Livery, 190 Fifth St., Benton Harbor How much: Free Contact: 925-8760 or www.liverybrew.com Artist info: flatlandharmony.com