The whole enchilada: Franklin band makes major debut at Hops and Vines

This was a garage band in the truest sense.

The five members of the Happy Enchiladas came from different worlds.

They found a common ground through a love of music, playing out of a literal garage.

The quintet of Franklin residents has come together to spread laid-back Americana music to the masses. The group formed around a group of Franklin College professors, an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and a local attorney.

Their casual jam sessions have evolved into public performances, with their most high-profile show coming at the Hops and Vines Festival in downtown Franklin.

“We play good music and I think we enjoy each other’s company, so I think the energy comes out that we have fun doing this,” said John Boardman, the guitar player in the band. “It’s not the highest end of musicianship yet, but what’s been phenomenal is just having fun playing music and pushing yourself to the next level.”

The Happy Enchiladas have their roots in a project that emerged during the COVID pandemic. Boardman and Nick Crisafulli, who were each teaching at Franklin College at the time, started playing together informally, with Crisafulli on mandolin and Boardman on guitar.

They liked the same kind of music — a mix of folk, Americana and acoustic rock. Soon, they started looking for others with similar tastes to join in their session.

“John will be the first to tell you that when the guitar stops strumming and filling the sound during a solo, the mandolin doesn’t always fill in with the same amount of body in the music. So we were definitely looking for someone else to round that out,” Crisafulli said.

Through a conversation with Katie Burpo, an English professor at Franklin College, they learned that her husband, John Kochanczyk, played guitar. He was a fan of the Americana style that the duo were exploring, and Burpo offered that he might be interested in playing too.

“I thought he needed a hobby,” she said, laughing.

Boardman, Kochancyzk and Crisafulli all met to play together one night. When the group mused about adding a singer, Kochancyzk paid his wife back and volunteered Burpo.

“We played in our garage that following week,” she said. “Then we started practicing once a week from there. (Boardman) got very excited about us and thought we were quite good and wanted us to start playing publicly for other people.”

The fifth member of the group, Jay Hoffman, came on board through his friendship with Boardman. He had purchased an upright bass for fun, and wanted to try playing it with other musicians.

“We could use an upright bass player. So he came out one night, listened to us all play and said it was so much fun. Then he started bringing his bass out each week,” Boardman said.

What binds the band together is a love of bluegrass and folk music by artists such as Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and John Prine — they took their name from a misheard lyric in one of Prine’s songs.

One of their favorites is Jason Isbell, whose blend of raw emotion, expert storytelling and prolific musicianship made all of them fans. The band has woven five or six of Isbell’s songs into their setlist.

“They’re so fun to sing, and the lyrics are so good — he’s such a great lyricist. A lot of people don’t really know who he is, and when you perform his songs in public, it gets some of the most strong audience response,” Burpo said.

The Happy Enchiladas started playing by themselves, then for small groups of friends in the community. Only recently have they branched out to more public settings. Opening for headliner My Yellow Rickshaw at today’s Hops and Vines Festival will be their biggest show yet.

“We’re very excited, and we feel pretty lucky. The fact that the city built (the amphitheater) and we get to be a part of that in the first summer that things are going on,” Crisafulli said.


Hops and Vines

What: An annual festival celebrating the breweries and wineries of Johnson County and central Indiana, with a 21-and-older beer and wine garden, live music, food trucks and more.

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Amphitheater at Youngs Creek Park, downtown Franklin

Beverage garden: Adults 21 and over can pay $5 to enter the beer and wine garden. Sampling tickets are $1, and a glass of beer or wine is $5.

Music: The Happy Enchiladas perform from 5 to 6 p.m., My Yellow Rickshaw performs from 7 to 10 p.m.