Monday, January 19, 2009

Downers Grove

The Music

My first thought was, “Oh my god, they're babies!”

After saying good bye to our friends at the Acoustic, Jacq and I headed for The Snout in Chippewa Falls to check out Downers Grove. We headed for the back of the bar, finding seats close to the band. My initial response was soon corrected, for while the bass and keyboard player look pretty young, it's apparent that the drummer has some maturity. And they certainly don't play like kids. Their style is kind of jazzy-funk with lots of instrumental pieces and a waa-waa guitar.

Drummer Mark Krohberger plays with a single-minded intensity, and while Jacq thinks he looks like Silent Bob, with his brown eyes, dark hair, and baseball cap, to me he looked like he could be playing for Cake, fitting well with their aura of blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth-ness. He is also the lead singer, belting out both cover tunes and originals—again with intensity—shining-on both Chippewa hecklers and a fickle sound system.

I met guitar player John Nietz at The Mousetrap where he cued me in to tonight's gig, and while he admitted to having a cold then, he didn't act sick Friday night. He played with classic garage/jam-band style complete with floaty riffs. John, along with Dan Sebern, bass player on The Mark Joseph Project, also plays with Bill and Dan's Excellent Adventure.

Leaning close to my ear Jacq said, of Brandon Hertz, keyboard player, “He's so Ray Manzarek! Even his facial expressions are like his!” Jacq is younger than I by about six years, and I was a bit embarrassed that she knew what The Doors' keyboard player's name and what he looked like and I didn't. I guess my teenage Dead Worship years were a bit single-minded. Still, I think I know a good keyboard player when I see one (Donna Godchaux rocked!), and Brandon struck me as very good. Brandon is also a DJ for local radio station WHYS, hosting “The Extended Set” Wednesdays from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

The bass player looks like the youngest member of the band, but thought of Matt Seymour's age were soon eclipsed by his superb playing. I'm a tyro in musical knowledge, but I don't ever remember seeing a bass player playing like a lead-guitar before. His hands looked huge as his fingers spanned the frets and his face angelic as he stared into space, channeling the music muse through his body and out his fingers.

As mentioned before, a lot of their music is orignal heavy on the instrumental; I particularly liked the song, Silent Sounds: “It kills me when you walk away....” They also covered other songs, most notably the Chili Peppers', “Falling Into Grace.” And they neatly diverted the Chippewa Falls hecklers' cries of “Free Bird!” with a nice rendition of Pink Floyd's “Dark Side of the Moon.”

The Venue and Audience

The Snout is one of those townie places where people plop down at the bar for “just a couple” and end up staying for decades. The audience didn't appear to be overjoyed with the live music scene and it was here that I really clicked into what musicians do: they're driven. They play because that's where their passion lies and sometimes it is simply enough to play. An appreciative audience—while wonderful—isn't necessary. I understood perfectly: I write 'cause that's what I do. If people read then that's great, if they like what I write then that's wonderful, but I would still write without these elements. This is what I saw with Downers Grove.

Recovery Note

The Snout is a hard-drinking bar and unless you really want to catch a specific band for specific reasons, it's probably best avoided in early recovery.


Downers Grove

Drummer Mark Kronberger

WHYS Radio, 96.3 FM

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