Twanging in spring break with Kentucky bands Vessel, Fat Box


Jonathan Bramel started playing guitar as a young boy, and went on to become a valued member of multiple bands in the Kentucky area.

Matt Wickstrom

All roads lead to Lexington on Saturday night, as Louisville’s own Vessel joins Bowling Green’s Fat Box for a knockout one-two pairing of Kentucky bands at Cosmic Charlie’s to ring in spring break.

Both bands are stuffed to the gills with various musical influences, ranging from commonplace rock to funk, jazz, soul and everything in between. According to Jonathan Bramel, electric guitarist, banjo-master and founding member of Vessel, the group does a good job of not stepping on one another’s toes when it comes to mixing and matching their different styles.

At the age of 12, Bramel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The resulting effects left him sitting at home often, where he eventually picked up his older brother Gordon’s guitar and self-taught himself how to play by casually experimenting, studying guitar terminology and studying tablature, a musical notation which indicates finger placement rather than the pitch of notes.

Vessel’s journey began abruptly and unexpectedly when Bramel became acquainted with acoustic guitarist Joshua Blair and bassist Isaac Raymond at an after-party for a Widespread Panic show at the Louisville Palace in 2006.

“I’m sitting there people watching and Josh Blair, our acoustic guitarist, walked up and not knowing me put his arm around me and said, ‘You look like you play some music,’” Bramel said. “We jammed the next day, and it’s taken off from there. I don’t think Blair knew what he was getting into when he put his arm around me.”

Bramel also recalled Blair being enamored with Raymond’s dreadlocks throughout the night of their first encounter.

Vessel’s lineup has shifted in the 10 years since the group’s formation. The current lineup is lead by the Bramel, Raymond and Blair. Joining them are Harry Francis Ennis Jr. on drums and percussion, Myron Koch on saxophone and electric wind instrument, Curtis Lewman on lead guitar, and Joshua C. Collins on keys and piano.

Not having released a record since their 2013 self-titled double album, Vessel has been hard at work in their home studio in Louisville. According to Bramel, the album is being done acoustically and will be titled “Poa Pratensis,” the Latin word for Kentucky bluegrass — the actual grass, not the music genre.

“We’re putting on the final touches, adding a few more instruments onto the tracks,” Bramel said. “We’re touching in some harmonica, piano and maybe some electric guitar. We’ll be done in the next month or two.”

The group plans on mastering the album at Goldsmith Records in Louisville, and already has plans to immediately hop back into the studio after the release of “Poa Pratensis” to record an all-electric album.

Aside from his work in Vessel, Bramel is also commonplace in several other Kentucky-area bands, including the Allmanacs, an Allman Brothers Band cover outfit, and Hollow Bone. Recently, Bramel has been sitting in with Lexington favorites Restless Leg String Band extensively.

“What I’ve found out about myself in life is that I love Bluegrass music,” Bramel said. “Restless Leg has given me an outlet for my banjo and acoustic side … I love those guys. More than musicians, they’re like brothers to me. We have an agreement that whenever I’m not playing a show somewhere else and have the means to get to their show that I’m more than welcome to play with them.”

Doors open Saturday night for Vessel’s show with Fat Box at Cosmic Charlie’s at 9 p.m., with music starting around 10 p.m. Tickets are $10, and attendees must be 21 years old to enter.