These days there’s so much craziness, confusion and terror in the world that we really need a good laugh (or three) to relieve the tension and help us forget our troubles for a while. Fortunately here in Maine we have a band — not an app — for that: the Half Moon Jug Band. When this trio from Portland hits the stage be prepared for a fun time of jokes and toe-tapping music. The band will feature Troy R. Bennet, Steve Brewer on bass and Dean Clegg on drums. In a recent telephone interview from his Portland home, Bennett chatted about his band and their upcoming show, which is part of the Johnson Hall Waterfront Concert Series on Friday, June 23.

Q: To prepare for this interview I went through a lot of your Youtube videos. The older ones include four members. Nowadays you’re a three-piece, correct?

Bennett: That’s right, yup. There were four of us for a long time but we had trouble keeping a hold of a fourth person so we decided to go with three.

Q: Well, there has been a precedent set by the likes of Cream and Rush — all the great ones have three members.

Bennett: (Laughter)

Q: The three of you who are now in the group, have you been together since the beginning?

Bennett: No — who’s been there since the beginning? I guess just me, at this point, but I’ve been playing with the same bass player since 1999.

Q: Is the majority of what you do original material?

Bennett: Yeah, well, it’s about half and half. We do half of our own stuff, we do maybe a quarter of traditional tunes — jug band or folk tunes — and then we throw in some covers. People got to hear something they know already.

Q: Are you fairly busy?

Bennett: We’re always busy in the summer, we don’t play a lot in the wintertime because we play mostly fairs and festivals, municipal concerts series like the one in Gardiner — stuff like that.

Q: Have you done the Gardiner one before?

Bennett: Yeah, we played it last year. We were the last act last year and we’re one of the first acts this year. Mike Miclon (Johnson Hall’s executive artistic director) has been very nice to us over the years. He’s booked us at every venue he’s been involved with from the Maine Festival and Oddfellows Theatre to this.

Q: Do you have any CDs out?

Bennett: Yeah, we’ve released four full-length albums. The last one came out in 2015 and we probably have enough material right now for another one, we just have to get around to recording it.

Q: As far as touring goes, how far afield do you get?

Bennett: I don’t think we’re going to leave the state this year but in years past we’ve played all over New England.

Q: Now what can folks expect at your show in Gardiner?

Bennett: Well, they can expect to be forced to sing along. Nobody gets out without singing, nobody! These singalongs are sort of mandatory because we think collective action is vital. If we can get 100 people in one spot to focus on the same song and the same lyrics for a couple of seconds that it has kind of a ripple effect on the world by bringing people together, we hope, and to get those same people to laugh out loud all at the same time, it’s really the reason we do it.

Q: It’s that connectivity that’s so important.

Bennett: Yeah, definitely. We’re just out there to make connections. I mean, we like making videos and we like making records, but a live show is really what we live for. The whole reason to do it is to hear people laugh and get applause and make people forget about the crazy news for an hour and twenty minutes or something.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Bennett: Well, just that people should take advantage of the really interesting place they have. Not every town has a place like Johnson Hall and a guy like Mike Miclon, who are out there basically making the world a better place. I’m sure he could have made a great living doing something straight but he’s dedicated his life to raising the spirits of whoever he has a contact with, and that includes us. He’s made our lives so much better by finding us work and then I feel like we can pass that on to people who are out there. That’s an opportunity he’s given us and not every town has that. I’m so glad Gardiner does, it’s a great town.

Q: Is there anything we haven’t discussed, Troy, that you think we should?

Bennett: I don’t know — how to get perspiration stains out of garments?

Q: Well, having watched some of your videos you do really throw yourself into your performances, that’s for sure.

Bennett: I do and I don’t know how I remain so hefty over the years. But, yeah, we put everything into it for an hour and a half and when we’re done, we’re tired and we go over with the people for pizza.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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