David McKeon grew up with bluegrass music listening to his father play the banjo on the porch of their Poplar Ridge home. This Saturday, together with his band Moonshine Falls, McKeon will be bringing his own brand of bluegrass back to his old stomping grounds.
The New York City-based band is named after the real Moonshine Falls just outside the village of Aurora, where the band will be playing, and McKeon said the name is meant to reflect the kind of lighthearted, fun spirit of time spent at the falls in his youth.
"That was where we snuck off to do all the stuff you aren't supposed to do in high school," McKeon said with a laugh. "We had a lot of fun."
Together with his wife Mary Moecker, who plays bass and sings for the band, along with fiddler Clarence Ferrari and mandolinist Cesar Moreno, McKeon and his bandmates will bring their version of bluegrass to the Morgan Opera House.
Although McKeon previously came to Aurora to play his music in a different format, this weekend will be McKeon's first show in the area in 10 years and the first with Moonshine Falls, making it something of a homecoming, he said.
As a teenager, McKeon played at the Opera House when it was undergoing restorations, and his father, a carpenter, even made some of the stairway spindles, he said.
While McKeon's first love was bluegrass, his time playing in Southern Cayuga High School's jazz band had a big impact and influence on his musical career, and helped teach him about all kinds of different aspects of life, he said.
"Southern Cayuga had a tremendous music program for such a small school, and the teacher's really cared. They put a lot into it. I think it made a lot of difference to anybody who played there," McKeon said.
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Moonshine Falls isn't the only part of the show with a local connection, as the show's opening act will be performed by Matt McCabe, with whom McKeon got his start playing sideman after meeting at the Aurora Inn.
The two met after McKeon, then 18, performed at the inn and McCabe wanted to get a look at his guitar.
"He goes 'You know you're not getting out of here without playing that, right?'" McKeon said.
Moonshine Falls' style puts a modern twist on traditional bluegrass, McKeon said, but still remains faithful to the genre's roots, with the show even including selections from bluegrass icons like Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers.
The show will also feature performances of the band's original songs like "Sweet Annie Mae" and "Weeds in the Ballast," McKeon said.
McKeon's classmates from the Southern Cayuga High School class of 1992 have been buzzing about the show on Facebook, he said, with some ready to turn the show into an impromptu class reunion.
"I think it's going to be a really good turnout," McKeon said.