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    Blues Traveler
    April 25th
    Derby Fest-a-Ville
    Free (with purchase of Pegasus Pin)
    9:00 PM
     

    Blues Traveler is a band that never quite fit in, even in their heyday of commercial success they were an industry anomaly.  In the fallout of grunge, in an era when pretty-boy alt-rock was blooming, they were a band of road hard serious musicians with faces that weren’t exactly designed for the teen heart throbs and fashion magazine circuit (including lead singer and frontman John Popper, who at the time weighed in at over 400 lbs.).


    (Blues Traveler promo shot circa 1992)

     They also stood out in a time of sludgy guitars and sad bass lines, by stepping forward with harmonica as a primary lead instrument, and long, energetic live shows that relied heavily on improvisation.  And instead of wearing their angst ravaged hearts on their sleeves they managed to hide 90’s cynicism behind light hearted pop-hooks, and witty lyrics.  It wasn’t until the release of the band’s 4th album, Four, that they finally saw commercial success with hits like “Run Around” and “Hook” – the latter of which lambasted the very idea of pop-stardom.  Their success peaked with a string of hit albums, their own annual touring festival called H.O.R.D.E. (which was like a hippy version of Lollapalooza), and countless appearances in movies and film including “Roseanne” and the movie “King Pen.”

    This weekend the band will be returning to Louisville to perform at Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront, and bassist Tad Kinchla took time to chat with us about the band’s new collaboration album, “Blow Up the Moon” (which finds the band working with Jewel, Dirty Heads, Hanson, 3OH!3, Plain White T’s, Bowling for Soup, and more), as well as their two-and-a-half decade long career.


    (Blues Traveler bassist Tad Kinchla)

    Louisville.com:  It’s been twenty-five years since your first album, what has been like watching the music industry change in that time period?
    Tad Kinchla:  It’s clearly a different beast now that it was twenty-five years ago; as far as how you sell and market albums, the nature of the beast has changed a lot.  One thing that we have been fortunate enough to be able to do is play live, so we haven’t been subject to as much of the record company stuff as others have been.  We’ve kept our touring schedule consistent and thankfully fans have come with us, which a lot of bands just aren’t able to get out as much as we do.  And the nature of the industry now is that you aren’t making as much money on records as you used to; that model just doesn’t exist anymore.  So if you can sustain yourself by playing live music, that’s the best world to be in.

    Louisville.com:  Improvisation has always been a big part of your live show that was very unique to you all among your peers as mid-90’s alt-rock giants, how did that become such a part of the band?
    TK:  Yeah, I suppose we were in there with a class of bands that were coming up that were doing a lot improvising like that.  But we borrowed a lot from bands like Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers, by playing things how we wanted, changing them up all of the time, segueing one song into the next into the next and into the next.

    Louisville.com:  A lot of the touring festivals of the 90’s are being reborn as three day festivals, can we ever hope for H.O.R.D.E. to come back around?
    TK:  Yeah, actually we’re starting this year.  We’re doing a gig in Detroit that we’re calling The H.O.R.D.E. and it’s going to be us and 311 and some other bands that we haven’t finalized yet.  We’re hoping to get that off the ground as something that happens annually, as opposed to the 90’s when we had multiple stage traveling tours.  That dynamic and that kind of budget just doesn’t exist to do it successfully anymore.  Having the three day festival that people come to seems like a much better philosophy than actually bringing the festival to them, because it’s just not viable in this day and age.  So yeah, we’re trying to bring H.O.R.D.E. back into the summer concert landscape.


    (Lead singer and harmonica player John Popper)

    Louisville.com:  Do you all approach to writing an album the same way you did twenty-five years ago?
    TK:  It’s kind of a round-robin, where we each just kind of come in with song ideas, play together and try to work them out into songs.  And still the bulk of the lyrical ideas are John’s domain.  This album was a little different because there was so much collaboration with other artists, but we still kinda work the same as we always did.

    Louisville.com:  Your albums have always been collaborative, but the new one, "Blow Up the Moon" seems like a Blues Traveler duets album – did you all know going in that every song would have a guest on it?
    TK:  Yeah, that was kind of our goal.  We put out a bunch of invitations to people we liked and could work schedule wise, there were a bunch that couldn’t and there were a bunch that could – but at no point were we just going to stick them on tracks with us, we really wanted to collaborate with them as artists.

    Louisville.com:  Did you try to bring Blues Traveler to the collaborator’s world of music, or bring the guest into Blues Traveler’s world?
    TK:  That’s an interesting question.  We definitely didn’t want to come off as trying to play their kind of music, because we play the way we play.  We didn’t change the instrumentation much.  I think it was just whatever served the song best we would try to create it.  There are definitely some different styles on there, leaning toward country or reggae – but we did just try and make it good.

    Louisville.com:  When you’re touring behind an album like "Blow Up the Moon", is it hard not having the collaborators with you on tour all of the time?
    TK:  Yeah, we’ve started incorporating the songs, and sure there’s stuff we have to work out, like when you have Hanson on a song that adds three-part harmony, stuff like that.  But what’s really cool is that there are some loops and samples in some of these songs that we are going to get to incorporate into the show, which is something we’ve never done before.

     

    (All photos courtesy of Blues Traveler managment)

     

    Brent Owen's picture

    About Brent Owen

    Born and raised in Louisville, I have lived here most of my life (except during a short furlough, when I, lovelorn and naive, followed a girl to Baton Rouge). My roots are here, my family, my friends, and my life are all here. I work primarily as a free-lance writer for a few local and regional publications. I have also written two books (one a memoir, the other a novel) that barring some divine intervention, will probably never see the light of day. I find myself deeply ingrained in the local bar scene, or perhaps better said, I often indulge in the local drinking culture. I love music, movies, comedy, and really just about any other live performance art.

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