A Rock and Roll Road Trip
By Brian L. Knight
The media has defined music in the 1990s in many different ways: the grunge age, the year of the women, techno, cyber, Skas third wave etc.... These may be all true, but there is one form of music that seems to be neglected. This music has many different names- groove-rock, noodle rock, jazz-fusion-rock, jam music, hippie rock or whatever. It is often hard to put a name on this sound for it is drawn from so many styles such as bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz, Brazilian, swing, Dixieland, fusion, progressive, Latin, ragtime and Cajun. To put it better, these bands take the best elements of all music and whip it all together into one fine concoction.
In an effort to bring together some of Americas finest bands and musicians, Lee Crumpton started the Homegrown Music Network in Bell Arthur, North Carolina. After graduating from East Carolina University, Crumpton became involved in many communications/media endeavors. His primary focus was the radio but on the side he became the manager of Purple Schoolhouse, a North Carolina band that has gained national attention. His experiences/misadventures/frustration with promoting and managing a regional act made Crumpton put his thinking cap on. He wanted to create a network of bands who would all work together in a symbiotic relationship. Like the clownfish and sea anemone, many bands were brought together to form the Homegrown Music Network.
The Network spreads the word about all the participating bands through publications, telephone hot-lines and the internet. All the information you need to know about a band right at your fingertips. In addition, the Homegrown Music Network hosts concerts and to date, has released two compilation C.d.s. Give a call at 1-800-6Leeway to found more about The Homegrown Music Network and better yet, the participating bands.
The groups that are part of the Homegrown Music Network are a reflection of the American landscape and its culture. There is a little bit everybody and everywhere in all of these bands. Many bands from the Homegrown Music Network have already graced the pages of the Vermont Review: Strangefolk, Moe., Medeski, Martin and Wood, Percy Hill, yeP! and The Ominous Seapods. There are many more to be had. From coast to coast, countryside to big city, their is good music everywhere. Listening to these bands is similar to taking a rock and roll American road trip. So pack some roadies and lets visit some Americas finest bands.
Heading south of Vermont, our first stop will be New Englands port city of Boston. There is a fine tradition of Rock and roll in Beantown as it was the breeding ground for bands as Aerosmith, Del Fuegos and of course, Boston. On this trip, you will not find the hard guitar riffs of 1970s rock and roll, but rather groovin sounds of Schleigho. Schleigho has just released a live album that is full of energy and superb musicianship. Every song on the album is at least over seven minutes long. Suke Cerulos guitar work finds its home somewhere in the land between Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa while Jesse Gibson could easily fill in as replacement for Keith Emerson. With these lofty comparisons, Schleigho might just be the 1990s answer to 1970s progressive rock.
The second song on the album deals with every Generation Xers greatest fear: Star Wars Trash Compactor Phobia. No lyrics on this 10+ minute gem just amazing instrumental work that can only be described as being the lovechild of Martin, Medeski and Wood, Al Di Meola and Led Zeppelin.
Jiggle The Handle
Boston is such a beautiful city, so you probably need two nights to really experience its splendor. Spend the day at Fenway park and the evening with Jiggle The Handle. Their newest album, Mrs. Whites Party, consists of 8 live tracks and three studio cuts. Through out the album, bassist Ethan Mackler, lays down the funkiest of funky bass lines while guitarist Bary Backstrom maintains a fine balance between guiding rhythms and exploding solos. Percussion maestro Greg Vasso keeps the beat while the album features the work of two talented piano/organ/keyboard players: Paul Wolstencraft and Rob Moellering.
In addition to having amazing content within the album, Jiggle The Handles first release may just win the award for best album cover of the year. Using the latest technology(which this author cannot even come close to explaining or describing), the album cover is a modern version of a psychedelic light show which somehow has been placed onto a CD cover. If the description of the music didnt entice you enough, I hope the album cover description did.
Blue Yard Garden
Heading south, we enter the land of terrapins and soft shelled crabs. Here you will find a less "groovy" band but one with a lot of blues-alternative vibe. This band is Blue Yard Garden who hail from Rockville, MD. On R.E.M.s first E.P., they wrote a song "Dont Go Back To Rockville." Was this the Rockville Michael Stipe was envisioning? Probably not.
The one thing that differentiates Blue Yard Garden from all other bands is Jeff
Zutants raspy, soul-filled vocals. On their second album, On The Galaxy, the emphasis seems to be on the song as an entire package. The production into the album is well done with every song put together with expertise and passion. This guys rocked the University of Maryland scene and this album destines Blue Yard Garden for further fame and success.
Day By The River
Georgia has done it again. From the town that has provided us with the sounds of REM and Widespread Panic, Athens has delivered Day By The River. Actually, these guys first came together at the University of Miami in 1992 where they took the region by storm.
In 1995, Day By The River moved to Athens where they recruited the sound producers from previous Phish and Dave Mathews Band albums to help create their newest release, Fly. The album has been receiving incredible media attention and favorable radio play. Day By The River is able to create that perfect blend of passionate vocals and improvisational jamming that keeps all music lovers content.
Day By the River spent the Summer of 1997 touring with the HORDE Festival. Unfortunately, they did not make the SPAC show, but we look forward for their arrival back to the region.
Across the Georgia border and into sunny Florida. The Allman Brothers Band have always been associated with Georgia, but lets not forget that Dickey Betts was born in West Palm and Greg Allman heard his first blues album in Daytona Beach. The Allman Brothers are just one of many influences that Apopka, Floridas Refried Confusion create their sound from.
Refried Confusion is six piece band whose "live performances are punctuated with spontaneous jamming, extended improvisations and experimentation, making show a unique and dynamic musical journey." Some times the press kit can say it better than any two-bit reviewer.
With this description of the band in mind, Refried Confusions first release, Bean, fits the mold. Better yet, they dont fit any mold whatsoever. Refried Confusion is pure jamming from beginning to end. In addition to their musical prowess, Refried Confusion has shown some business savvy as they started their own record label - Refcon Records.
Into the Pacific Northwest we go. Calobo started as the acoustic duo of singer songwriter guitarist David Andrews and Caleb Clauder who played parties, coffee houses and bars in both the Oregon State University and Lewis and Clark college scenes during the early 1990s. Over the years, the duo slowly melded into a full seven piece entity and started playing the larger venues. A similar beginning and approach as Vermonts own Strangefolk. The band created their own independent record label, Padre Productions, in which they have released four full length albums.
In comparing the sounds of their 1993 Running In The River and 1997s Stomp, you can hear both Calobos strong grip on its acoustic roots and its growth into a mature band. The two female members of Calobo provide the driving force of Stomp. Michelle Van Cleefs vocals are more confident and the perpetual use of Jenny Conlees acoustic piano is a refreshing sound in a world of effects and distortion.
In a region that dominated the musical media with the advent and demise of grunge, Calobo just kept on rolling through. Now that Pearl Jam has its ups and downs and Soundgarden is now a band of the past, we now can see that the Northwest truly belongs to Calobo. In a region that is synonymous with cold rain and fog, the band is ray of musical sunlight.
Making our way back across the great Plains, we stop in Ohio. In 1970, Neil Young immortalized the lives of four martyred Kent State students with a song titled Ohio. Today, Hookaville reigns supreme. Hookaville is a biannual three day concert full of camping, a little bit of partying and a whole lot of good music. When you finally decide to plan this rock and roll road trip, make sure you roll through Hookaville during this summer. Joined in the past by the Leftover Salmon, Merl Saunders and The Gibb Droll Band, Ekoostik Hookah hosts Ohios outdoor party.
As for the band, images of the Appalachians come immediately to the mind. Ekoostik Hookah is mountain music. There is a certain grassroots, "Bring the family out to the concert" feeling to this band. Dont let this scare you into visions of washboards and jugbands for these guys really know how to jam. To prove their abilities, they have released a double live CD Where The Fields Grow Green.
Returning to New England, we stop by Providence, Rhode Island. Providence is the home of some quality college parties as well as the legendary regional nightclubs of Lupos Heartbreak Hotel and The Living Room. Many a band has passed through these doors, including the local favorites: Foxtrot Zulu. These guys started at the University of Rhode Island in 1992 and then really started to take off in 1995. Since then, Foxtrot Zulu has steadily graduated from playing local college parties to becoming regional touring act.
One of the best aspects of these Foxtrot Zulu is its brass section. Through the use of horns, there is little options for the audience but too dance. The horns take a standard groove and blast onto a whole new musical plane. Foxtrot Zulu is seven piece band with a quintuplet of song writers. The combination of the shear size of the band and prolifity of songwriting abilities allow for diverse yet complete approach to their tunes.
Foxtrot Zulus second album, Slow Burn, features some excellent tracks. Moes Diner starts with the upbeat Latin rhythms of Santana which secretly deconstructs into the world of Panagea era Miles Davis and then gracefully returns to the tune in the spirit of the Grateful Dead. Watchcat has some Santana-like elements that blows you away with the great mixture of percussion and heavy guitar riffs. This song slowly segues into Solar Voyage which combines funky bass, hypnotic horns and improvisational guitar work.
After a an exhausting trip of good stories and quality music, return home to catch up on some well deserved sleep. Dont sleep for too long as all of these bands are frequent visitors to our region. Why go on the road, when all this music can come right to your door. These bands have built their popularity on continuos touring and steadily building regional fanbases. Vermont is regular stop on most of these bands rigorous tours, so keep an eye out for them. From the apres ski base lodge environment of Grizzlys to the smoke filled Club Toast, these bands will be making their appearances.