Kim Peralta hasn’t officially been a Mainer until just this past October, but she always has wanted to be one, thanks to summers in the Lincoln County town of Coopers Mills as a child, and in Brooksville as an adult.
“I’ve always had deep affection for Maine, and I’ve always known that I wanted to be here,” she said. “The stars aligned this year, though, and this was the time to do it. I can’t believe what a wonderful community we have here. My neighbors came over with the snowplow and plowed us out this week. It’s incredible.”
When she finally moved to Blue Hill just over two months ago with her two teenage sons, she made herself right at home, in the way that she knows best: by starting a band. Hoot!, Peralta’s new reggae-calypso band, will have its debut performance on New Year’s Eve at the Blue Hill Town Hall, in a community dance from 10 p.m. to midnight.
Fusing Peralta’s roots as a folk-rock musician with her new friends in the steel drum scene in Blue Hill, which includes groups such as the Atlantic Clarion Steel Band and Flash in the Pans, Hoot! is a dance party band with an island outlook. The sunny vibe of calypso merges with the rhythmic foundation of reggae, accented by horns, steel drums (of course) and Peralta’s appealing alto voice.
Before her new life in Maine, Peralta was a New York City-based musician, going by the name Rebel Red. Her sound was more grounded in roots rock and folk, and it established her as a part of the East Coast singer-songwriter scene. Though she took time off to raise her children, Peralta performed as Rebel Red for more than 18 years. Her move to Maine, however, allowed her to pursue a different creative path.
“I’ve always wanted to try something a little funkier, and I’ve always loved island music, like calypso and reggae,” she said. “I just never really felt like I had a way to do that, or people to play with.”
Blue Hill is, oddly enough, one of the best places a budding calypso musician could move to. There are five steel drum bands in the area, thanks to Carl and Nigel Chase, the father-and-son team responsible for bringing steel drums to the Blue Hill peninsula. The Atlantic Clarion Steel Band, Flash in the Pans, the Rhythm Rockets, Planet Pan and Bagaduce Steel all have at various times brought hundreds of people of all ages to the steel drum — a fun, versatile instrument.
“I have this never-ending supply of people who love this kind of music,” said Peralta. “It’s satisfying a musical direction I’ve wanted to express for a long time.”
There’s a song available online at www.hootonline.net that showcases the irresistibly funky rhythms Hoot! trades in, featuring Peralta on guitar and vocals, Tim Semler on drums, Duncan Hardy on saxophone, Jay Petersen on guitar, Lake Larsson on ukulele and Finnian Peralta, Kim’s 17-year-old son, on bass.
“My son is a great bass player, but he’s never really wanted to play with his mom until now,” she said. “Once he found out about this being more of a reggae band, he was all about it.”
Hoot! intends to enter a recording studio soon and record a debut album to be released sometime in 2011. Rebel Red, as Peralta says, is still “simmering on the back burner,” though her focus at the moment is on Hoot!. In the meantime, the band is set on one thing: making people dance.
“It’s very, very party-oriented,” she said. “We want to make people feel like they just have to get up and dance. And that’s a pretty good way to ring in the new year.”
Hoot! will perform from 10 p.m. to midnight Dec. 31, at the Blue Hill Town Hall, as part of Blue Hill’s annual Last Night New Year’s Eve celebrations. For a full schedule of all Blue Hill New Year’s Eve events, visit www.flashinthepans.org/events.html.