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Friday, April 12, 2013
When guitarist Jeb Puryear first caught wind of the old time fiddle players at traditional music gatherings around Ithaca NY in the early 1970s he was convinced the sound was already an international phenomenon. The founding member of Donna the Buffalo, his popular American roots music and jam band, also noticed how these events provided everybody a chance to be part of something larger than themselves.
"I thought fiddle music was going on all around the world,” Puryear said from his home in Ithaca. “I figured if I could learn to play like that I’d have it made. As I got a little older I realized it was only going on here and a few other places.”
Puryear wasn't alone in feeling a sense of community at these events. He and a future yet-to-be-introduced band mate were about to find each other and, in turn, a lifelong joy of learning and playing music together.
“I’d go to these music festivals and play in the fiddle contests," Puryear said. "It’s a very social music. You’d bring your instrument and you could play with all these different people. That’s how I met Tara (Nevins).” (Nevins, an old-time fiddle player herself, helped co-found D the B)
Puryear feels that artists provide a service, of sorts. This utility gives all people--front of the house and back of the house--an equal chance chance to participate. In his view, music is a conduit.
“If you’re at one of our shows and the sound is good, you’re in it as much as anyone; just as much as the person playing guitar or drums,” Puryear said. "We have an ability to go out as a band and connect with this thing that we all enjoy. We’re fortunate that when we do other people have a similar ability to connect to it.”
D the B carries a socially-conscious sticky note. Puryear credits his father, who was on the academia staff at Cornell University in New York, with showing him how to live outside the norm.
“He was one to stop paying attention to societal expectations. He grew to dislike academic circles. Often the main topic around the table was what was working in society and what was not.”
Puryear credits the early fiddle exposure, as well as the music of the Highwoods String Band, for how his guitar style sounds today.
“My guitar playing is half trying to make fiddle sounds that I remember and the other half is trying what I heard Jimi Hendrix do on guitar,” he said with a laugh.
Donna the Buffalo finds continued success by fusing thoughtfully crafted lyrics and indigenous American sounds, like Cajun and zydeco, with Caribbean island rhythms. The consistency is entirely groove-laden. Together these elements provide an opportunity for positive individual interaction.
“I think people are looking for more of a bond to earth and a new humanity,” Puryear said. “By creating with our music we’re able to tap into the nice feeling we get. It also allows us to express ideas about the way we feel things ought to be. More often than not this comes down on the loving side of living.”
Donna the Buffalo wsg Big Dudee Roo and The Turnips, Saturday, at the Intersection. Doors 7, show 8.
The Bar: www.sectionlive.com
Heed the Herd: www.donnathebuffalo.com/
Saturday, April 6, 2013
The Twistin' Tarantulas' doghouse bass player 'Pistol' Pete Midtgrad is road savvy enough to know when his band is being given the once over when playing for the first time in a new bar.
"When people in the bar see that a rockabilly band is setting up, we get looks of 'Oh, here we go again with another 50s, no-hair-out-of-place, dog-and-pony show retro band,'" Midtgrad said. "But no. We surprise many by hitting the ground running, ready to rock hard, and playing loud as hell."
"Which leaves people saying, 'Who are these guys and who pissed them off?'" Midtgrad said laughing.
By arriving the hard way honestly--via the gritty streets of Detroit--The Twistin' Tarantulas are certainly more swagger than swing, much too rough-hewn even for matching suits, and definitely more punk than purist. When Midtgrad looks to book the band into various clubs, he tries to avoid being stuck where only rockabilly bands play.
"I look for the places which have a built in base of patrons because we do better outside the rockabilly scene," Midtgrad said. "The blues and rock crowd likes us, and then some in the rockabilly scene think we're not always true to form."
Tarantula shows are energetic and edgy affairs. The doghouse is one of the largest instruments you can play onstage--you can never just strum it either--so you get a full visual workout to go with a speedy cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."
"Most bands play like they're playing along with a record," Midtgrad said. "Even our slow tunes come with some desperation and sweat. The conviction has to be there for us."
Occasionally during sound checks at different clubs, The Twistin' Tarantulas get smirks and rolled eyeball looks taking them for granted without actually hearing them.
"We have a saying, 'In like chumps, out like kings,'" Midtgrad said. "They think we're the coolest thing by the end of the night."
The Twistin' Tarantulas tonight at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids. $6, 8 pm. The ChupaCobras open.
More Things Arachnid : www.twistintarantulas.com/main.html