Tarzan had Jane. Charlie Brown had Snoopy. Why, even Mork had Mindy. What did they all have? Friends played a very vital role in our lives, both as children and as adults.
At the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, held in Guthrie, OK, I had the privilege of chatting it up with Pretend Friend. You might think that’s an odd band name, but after talking with Grant Boesen (acoustic guitar, songwriter, and vocalist), the name makes perfect sense. Pretend Friend was named in relation to an earlier band with which Boesen was involved. They couldn’t come up with a name, so Pretend Friend it was, and Boesen has kept it going every sense.
Boessen brags, “I even stole my band members from other bands.” Among those stolen members are Evan Ogborn, 2021 Kansas State Mandolin Champion, Brody Wellman who plays bass, and Garrett Briggeman, banjoist.
Each of these four come from a hard rock background, but in 2017, the quartet organized as a progressive bluegrass band that is making moves across the midwest.
From Wichita Kansas, the band doesn’t disappoint when they take center stage. Always playing barefoot, regardless of temperature, this foursome entertains with a style that shows echoes of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, and the Stanley Brothers with gallons of diesel poured on it. They create an enormous explosion of songwriting and virtuosity every time they perform. “We started playing barefoot for comfort, but then realized that it was easier to hit the pedals and ‘feel’ the music without any shoes,” stated Ogborn.
Evan and Garrett were also semi-pro soccer players. “The band performs just as athletes do,” Briggeman said. “We practice, and we listen to one another. We are teammates, just not band members.”
The Walnut Valley Festival holds a special place in the hearts of this band. In 2019, Boessen’s song, Fear, won the Songs for a Better World category in their songwriting competition. Evan’s tune, Pickin’ In The Road, placed as an alternate in the same category. A year later, the band was crowned champions of the Battle of the Bands contest.
Recently returning from an eleven day tour, which consisted of 11 shows, six dudes, one PA system, lights and hazer, and 50+ frisbees, all in one van, Pretend Friend used their talents to charm and were welcomed home in Kansas with open arms.
A tumbleweed of fire comes to mind in describing not only the personalities, but the talents of Pretend Friend. Often posting to YouTube, the guys can be seen performing live in the shop, such as in this original titled Squirrel in the Attic, which accentuates the capabilities this budding foursome offers.
Pretend Friend leaves an audience with mouths agape and hungering for more. This comes from Boessen’s unique voice, and the skill of the instrumentalists. While they truly respect traditional bluegrass, they are not shy about pushing the limits with their progressive style and high energy performances.
This is one friend, you will want to follow, and stay in touch with.