Progressive, when you apply it to music, means an innovative approach. It means a continuous growth or exploration. It means a focus on technique and arrangement, rather than flash or aesthetic, or even tradition.
The bands playing the Blind Pig on New Year’s eve have grown beyond the verse-chorus-verse approach of pop, rock, or even modern indie-punk styles of guitar-centric music, and instead employ zestier flavors of funk, psychedelia, and bluegrass. Their songs might be five minutes long, they might be seven or even nine minutes long.
Prog, despite my hangups over the stereotypes and stigmas of 70’s groups like YES, or 90’s jam groups like Phish, has come to mean something much more nuanced in my heretofore narrow-sighted regard. Stormy Chromer, Chirp, and Wire In The Wood, have redefined it for me…
I’m talking about Stormy Chromer and Chrip, two Ypsilanti bands that have their roots in rock music, but employ some of the downright fun aspects of things like disco and new wave, as well as funk and jazz, into a complexly layered jam. And then there’s Ann Arbor’s Wire In The Wood, traveling more in the tract of bluegrass, bringing an equally buoyant energy to that strummy/see-sawing acoustic music, with compositions of frenetic guitar and freeflying violin.
Also on this lineup, there’s Gyp$y, a prog producer, if you will, of intricate beats that blend psychedelic funk and hip-hop!
Here’s a few samples from Chirp, Gyp$y, and Wire In The Wood…
Stormy Chromer just released a new single, and I was able to catch up with drummer Amin Lanseur, to chat about this show, as well as the evolution of jam bands.
How’d this show come together?
Amin Lanseur: We knew Chirp would be on board; we have a long history of collaborating and we have a blast every time we play together. We started thinking about other acts and decided to try to showcase some different sounds that you might not normally hear all in one night. Wire In The Wood is an amazing group and I was super excited when they were available and interested. I love what they’re doing with psych-folk & bluegrass. I found Gyp$y through recommendations from friends and I really dig his downtempo grooves. It’s is an eclectic lineup and to me that is the most exciting part. To me, it is sign of how the music community in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti has really been thriving lately.
What’s new in Stormy Chromer’s world?
We just recorded a few tracks at Solid Sound Recording Co, engineered by our good friend Josh Wiechmann, who also worked on our album. The first of which, “Stare” has already been released… The plan is to release them as three singles over the next couple months or so. I’m very excited about the way the tracks sound and can’t wait to have them all out in the world.
How’s the group evolved over its first few years, in terms of sound, style, or performance…?
I think our sound has evolved in many ways. We are much more patient than we used to be. Both in our improvisation and in our songwriting. I think a lot of our older material consists of us sort of merging different ideas into songs. Which gives the music a sort of angular quality that i like.
But lately we’ve been working on taking an idea and really developing and stretching it and seeing where it goes. I’m excited. to be able to write songs that do both of these things, as i believe sometimes an audience wants to be sort of tossed around musically, but sometimes they just want a smooth ride.
Jam and fusion were dirty words in the 90’s and early 2000’s when I was coming up… Or, at least, I can say that the Hipsters hated Phish… and for whatever reason, they didn’t get down on jazz or funk. But I feel like that shifted somewhere before 2010… Talk about your thoughts on the style(s) of music you play and what draws you guys to that vibe
This is a very interesting question and it is something that i think about often. I think one of the reasons Jam music sort of has a negative stigma about it is that it is just a different approach to music than what some people are used to, or what some people want music to be. To me, the connecting thread between Jam, Jazz, Funk, Bluegrass, ect. is that they are genres of music that use music as a language. They use their playing as a way to create a context in which a musical conversation takes place. And that is what fans of these styles of music are looking for, it’s what they love. There is a quality of uncertainty that is exciting. Where will this conversation go? how will it end? some people really like that.
But some folks just want a structured pop song…I guess it’s all in the presentation?
Right, some people prefer their music to appear as more of a piece. Something that is deliberately constructed to be a certain way, intentionally crafted and frozen in place, like a painting. I believe both of these forms that music takes to be equally beautiful and important; I think, yeah, it just comes down to everyone having a preference as to how they want music to present itself to them.
What’s a major misconception some might hold against jam bands or prog?
…that it is all just this sort of noodley Bluegrass/Folk/Americana that is mostly associated with the worlds biggest jam bands… When in reality, you can find the musical approach that makes Jam applied to many different genres and sounds. There is Progressive rock, trance electronica, post-rock, shoegaze, ect. All these sounds can be found making an appearance in today’s jam music and to me that is really really cool because if music is a conversation, then context is everything. And people are starting to have these conversations in all sorts of new contexts that didn’t exist 25 years ago
Can you speak for Stormy Chromer, or maybe just personally, as to what draws you to Jam?
I am drawn to this type of music both as an audience member and as a player because the live show offers unique experience that only exists at that time in that place. Each show is an opportunity for the band and the audience to connect in new ways, this is an aspect of jam music that really keeps the die hard fans coming back for more.
The fact that, if you think about it, there are really endless possibilities for how a show might turn out. So it’s hard to get bored.
New Year’s Eve at the Blind Pig
Featuring Stormy Chromer, Chrip, Wire In The Wood, and Gyp$y
Sunday, Dec 31st