John Brown’s Body – Tickets – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC – February 19th, 2014

John Brown's Body

John Brown's Body


Wed, February 19, 2014

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Cat's Cradle

Carrboro, NC

$12.00 - $15.00

Off Sale

John Brown's Body
John Brown's Body
If you've been paying attention, you'll know that Kings And Queens is a synthesis of every aspect of John Brown's Body's storied career. It's as if, after close to two decades of existence, this pioneering band has finally crafted their ultimate statement, tying together styles they've dabbled in, paid respect to, created, or pushed forward into one tightly woven mosaic. JBB's Future Roots is now present tense.

John Brown's Body formed (in Boston in the mid 1990s) at a time when there wasn't what you'd call a U.S. reggae scene. The American bands that played reggae were regional at best, touring little, and many were primarily cover bands of the best known Jamaican reggae. JBB was one of a handful of groups that began touring nationally and created distinctly American reggae, steeped in traditional vibes but incorporating elements from other genres. Whereas most groups tackled typical reggae themes –religion and marijuana – JBB acted more like an indie band, writing songs that used the vocabulary of reggae to express their own experiences. Over time, this style has become the norm. The U.S. scene has grown tremendously – to the point of having two bands debut records in the Billboard Top 20 in 2012 – and many in the genre point to John Brown's Body as a key influence.

However, this is not your typical story of an influential band doing what they did 20 years ago now trying to cash in on the movement they helped foment. Because a funny thing happened along the way for John Brown's Body – they evolved and grew, taking their music ever forward, and have continued to influence the scene as much today – some might even say more so today – than they did at the start. The band's relentless touring schedule helped pave the way for the nationwide scene, showing other bands that it was okay to be from the Northeast and still be comfortable playing in California, Hawaii, Colorado or Iowa. Early on, members of the band formed their own record label to highlight their local scene, which has since become the norm in many pockets of the scene. JBB delved deeply into dub effects from the start, incorporating elements of electronic music well before that became standard for today's bands. Yet, JBB is somehow still utterly unique within the scene, even after two decades at work, which brings us back to the record at hand.

Musically and lyrically, lead singer/songwriter Elliot Martin has crafted a work that seems both self-reflective and visionary. A song like "Old John Brown" is obviously open to interpretation that Martin is commenting on both the man for whom the band is named after, as well as the legacy of the band itself. Musically, the song evokes riddims Burning Spear used in the 1970s, which has been an undercurrent influence on the group since the beginning, but has rarely surfaced as obviously as it does here since the band's earliest breakthrough records.

The group's last full-length record, Amplify (#1 on the Billboard Reggae chart in 2008), was extremely forward-thinking, steeped in electronic effects. Last Fall's JBB IN DUB EP (#1 on iTunes' Reggae Chart) stripped things down to the bedrock elements of reggae. Kings And Queens utilizes the best aspects of both these records, while bringing back much more of the classic JBB sound into the mix and production. This is reinforced by working with engineer Matt Saccuccimorano, who worked on some of the band's earliest successful albums, and the involvement on numerous songs by former guitarist/keyboardist Nate "Silas" Richardson. Bassist Nate Edgar continues to astonish with his nimble and muscular bass lines. The bass and drums have always been at the center of Martin's songwriting, but in Edgar and founding drummer Tommy Benedetti, he has found his most spectacular partners-in-crime. Martin has crafted his strongest batch of songs ever, coupled with startling horn lines written by the JBB Horns. Saying the JBB Horns are an influential bunch is no small talk, considering past alums have gone on to play for Slightly Stoopid as well as form the eclectically amazing band Rubblebucket.

The most obvious touch point for the band's sound has always been classic UK reggae, especially the work of Aswad, Steel Pulse and Dennis Bovell, and that unmistakable influence permeates every track, most noticeably in the heavy drum and bass and complicated horn lines. As it was in that scene, JBB's songs are more focused on sufferation, urban realities and overcoming, with songs like "Plantation," "Empty Hands," and "The Battle" sparking protest over haunting minor chords. This is not beach resort reggae. This is reality. However, the record is by no means all gloom and doom! Songs like "Shine Bright" and the love song "Fall On Deep" both add lightness, and even in his darkest metaphors, Martin can find hope and positivity (listen to the chorus of "Plantation" for evidence of that).
Kings And Queens is bookended by three songs ("Step Inside" and "Invitation" at the start and "Searchlight" at the end) that invite listeners into the live arena where this band has excelled from the beginning. Evoking sound systems from the music's origins in 1960s Jamaica as well as JBB's own powerful live show, these songs remind all listeners about the strength in numbers found in the reggae community, especially at live shows and festivals, and how John Brown's Body has long been one of the greatest live acts in the genre.

This record shows that John Brown's Body continues to lead from the front of the pack. They look forward by looking back and find a way to invite JBB fans from all eras into their packed and sweaty tent. As the opening song says, "So many people / Step inside, step inside / Come one and all / Got to make the dancehall tight."
Lionize: Jetpack Soundtrack

Sunday afternoon in Belleville, NJ, and The Machine Shop studio is quiet. Sessions for Jetpack Soundtrack are shut down for a day off, making the members of Lionize restless. "We jam a lot," admits keyboardist Chris Brooks. "We'll even jam today ... but we have to get cigarettes first."

The Maryland-based band formed in 2004, learning to play music by jamming and listening — really listening — to each other. But now, ten years later, the band has matured into a much more powerful, tight unit. Lionize still hammer out most songs in the studio and rehearsal room from the basic spark of an idea. Jetpack Soundtrack, their fifth album and first for the Weathermaker Music label, is no different.

"There's really only so many ways to work on music. You just have to play it, then work on it," says bassist Henry Upton. "We just exhaust all our ideas and put them down."

The band obsessed over thirteen songs, working off four notebooks crammed with ideas, ultimately narrowing the finished album to eleven tracks. Pre-production became a never ending process of upping the musical ante. Eventually, chasing perfection stopped only when producer Machine finally told them to leave.

The veteran producer proved invaluable to the process, not only in terms of sonic quality, but also performances and even song structure. "The opposite of low key, that's what Machine is," Upton jokes. His enthusiasm — basically, a conductor whose animated reaction to the music guided its development — was contagious.
"He's very excited about whatever his hand is on," Nate agrees. "He's a guy with a track record of making incredible records. The sound he gets — like Earth Rocker and Blast Tyrant — whatever that guy touches is awesome."

Jetpack Soundtrack is the first time Lionize made use of such an extensive process to develop their music. Touring typically left little time in the past to deconstruct and rebuild ideas. This album became more deliberate in terms of crafting the songs. All thirteen songs went through major revisions, something else extremely unusual for Lionize. "There were exponentially more changes than we've ever done," Chris says. "There are a couple songs that have been through six or seven variations."

That development was largely the result of the band paying close attention to dynamics. The longer a band is together, maturing as players, the more conscious they become about it, says Bergman. "Great bands learn finesse, when to pull back and pull people in, then release that tension. There's definitely a focus on that, and that was the goal for us, as far as the listener's experience — to feel like there's an interaction."

The songs still lean toward metaphorical sci-fi, lyrically populated by a wonderfully imagined cast of characters. Musically, though, there's a greater depth, revealing a creative and performing leap from Superczar And The Vulture. The rhythm section has become more focused, certainly a direct effect of Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster co-producing the album. It's a better understanding how the moving parts of a song should support its framework to better draw in the listener.

"Breather" is an example of that newfound tightness. The Hammond organ riff builds tension, peaking with a climactic pause, followed by earthy funk verses that explode into a descending riff anchoring the chorus. The title track, "Jetpack Soundtrack," lives up to its name in that regard, literally launching into a blast-off chorus. "Reality Check" shows precise musicianship, smoothly shifting through the gears and coming out the back end at an exhilarating pace.

Touring extensively in the past on a limited budget, or playing to 10,000 people at the majestic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, Lionize always seems to look for a challenge. The exacting process behind Jetpack Soundtrack is just the band proving another thing they can do, says Nate: "We can record in this fashion. That's a big part of it for us, the fighting spirit to do it, just to say you did it."

Space Pope And The Glass Machine (2008) revealed their affinity for reggae. Destruction Manual (2011) and Superczar And The Vulture (2011) broadened into a more multifaceted musical direction by incorporating rock, soul and blues influences — such as Deep Purple, O. V. Wright, Led Zeppelin and Solomon Burke — that became the proverbial keys for taking the Weathermaker Music machine out for a late night joyride.

Lionize first supported Clutch on tour in 2006 and over the course of time became close friends with Jean-Paul Gaster, whom they had initially metat the Washington DC home of drum instructor Walter Salb. They found a shared regard of music as a sacred cultural and intellectual art form, particularly jazz and rock and roll. That bond endeared the younger band to their seasoned patrons. Weathermaker Music — the label Clutch established in 2008 — eventually signed the band and the ensuing Jetpack Soundtrack is the first release of this new co-operation.

"We were shocked as anybody that they wanted to put our record out, honestly," says Brooks. "They're kind of vouching for us here, investing serious time and energy, and all sorts of means. They saw we were trying to work hard, and we just wanted to make an awesome record and make them proud."

Which they did. "We caught a different vibe through this process, and we were all kind of on the same page with the direction we took — from us to Machine and Jean-Paul. It's not like anything
we've done before, and hopefully not like anything anybody else is doing." Brooks says.

"Is Jetpack Soundtrack more bad-ass than the last record? Yes." says Bergman, and continues: "We were passionately obsessed in the making of this record. Now we hope that our existing fans and people new to the music of Lionize agree that we made an exciting record."
Venue Information:
Cat's Cradle
300 East Main St.
Carrboro, NC, 27510