40A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 18, 1996
Blues Traveler concert drags
By Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Arts Writer
Harmonicas: Not just for polka bands anymore.
If anyone still questions the truth of this statement, last
Wednesday's Blues Traveler concert at Hill Auditorium
proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Most of the evening was a laid-back blues-rock fest, but
unfortunately, the opening act introduced
a jarring pop-radio influence to the show.
This was the Wallflowers, a pop band
best known for the single "Sixth Avenue B
Heartache." Audience members unfamil-
iar with the group's other work, however,
were not at a disadvantage. As it turned
out, every song of the Wallflowers' set
was reminiscent of "Sixth Avenue Heartache" - simple
backbeat, strained rhymes and a slow, melodic pace. The
group drew some comparisons to the Gin Blossoms, but
without that band's more interesting lyrics and poppy, infec-
'One intriguing 'aspect of the Wallflowers' performance,
though, was the crowd response. The group's set was punctu-
ated by enthusiastic screams and exhortations to "Play
'Hollywood,"' a request that the band did not oblige. As the
Wallflowers' mediocre performance was met with uncritical
crowd adoration, the scene resembled nothing so much as a
New Kids on the Block concert, back in the day.
A half-hour intermission gave time to ponder this chilling
thought. Luckily, Blues Traveler began its set with "But
Anyway," a fast-paced, catchy song that provided a good dis-
traction from Donnie Wahlberg flashbacks. In what became a
pattern for the evening, the band played the first two verses,
then paused for an instrumental jam, led by frontman and har-
monica-meister John Popper.
As the evening went on, it became apparent that the
Wallflowers - and many other current bands - could learn
a lot from Blues Traveler. Like the Wallflowers', most of
Hill A uditorium
Nov. 13, 1996
pieces like "Hook"
Blues Traveler's songs were similar: har-
monica solos, simple, repeated refrains
and a basic verse-chorus-verse structure.
In live performance, they kept to this pat-
tern, only extending the instrumental
bridges. However, Blues Traveler man-
aged to make every song sound different
and new, even when playing well-known
One reason this happened was the band's mix of music. As
on their 1994 album "Four," Blues Traveler alternated slower
songs like "The Mountains Win Again" with faster, blues-
influenced songs like "Fallible." The band played several new
songs, nearly all of which were bluesy, highly instrumental
pieces. Titled "Carolina Blues," "Last Night I Dreamed" and
"Great Big World," these will probably be heard on an album
in the near future.
Hearing covers of songs is usually a good reason to go to a
live performance, and Blues Traveler didn't disappoint here,
either. A few songs into the first half of the evening, the stage
went dark, and Popper played a harmonica version of "The
Star-Spangled Banner,"reprising his performance of it during
the World Series. The first half concluded with a cover of
The sexy men of Blues Traveler chillin' in an alley.
"Low Rider" and at the end of the night, Blues Traveler
encored with a subdued version of "Imagine."
The one fault of the performance was seen in the second
half. At this point in what turned out to be a four-and-a-half-
hour show, the crowd was simply worn out, though it man-
aged to revive its enthusiasm when "The Mountains Win
Again" and "Runaround" played. Blues Traveler followed up
"Runaround" with a half-hour instrumental jam that would
have been much more engaging at a shorter length. As it was,
much of the audience simply tuned out, or left the auditorium
Overall, the evening was a mix of contrasts, which perhaps
is the true appeal of Blues Traveler shows. Slow and fast
songs; traditional rock instruments and harmonicas; simple
song patterns and instrumental riffs; frat boys and aging hip-
pies ... none of these would seem to harmonize well togeth-
er, but somehow they did. Unlike many lesser bands, Blues
Traveler demonstrated the ability to synthesize many diverse
elements, and to provide a unique, energetic show at the same .
Emotion, honesty make Sense Field succeed
By Colin Bartos
Daily Arts Writer
The recent success of some hard-
working bands brings a spark to the
music industry that has been lost for a
while. Bands like 311 and Face to Face,
who are now achieving commercial
years of toiling in
are paving the
way for other ciu
lesser-known acts with the Mig
to get their music
out. The road has been cleared, and
now is just as good a time as any for a
talented band like Southern
California's Sense Field to break
Don't let the "Southern California"
thing fool you: Sense Field is not anoth-
er boring three-chord punk band. They
originated in the punk circuit, they have
that punk ethic, and their songs are
completely honest and forthright, but
they're not what you would expect from
a band that was on indie straight-edge
label Revelation Records.
Jonathan Bunch, Scott McPherson,
Rodney Sellars, Slow Johnny and
Chris Evenson are not your average
emo-power pop band. Sense Field's
music covers all bases from slow,
thoughtful ballad-like wanderings to
fast, loud bursts of emotion and ener-
gy. Upon first listen, you might think
you've heard it before, but a closer lis-
ten reveals many elements a lot of con-
trived "alternative" bands today try to
emulate, but fail miserably to capture.
Sense Field is the
real deal, without a
doubt. The emotion
ense Field and sensibility of
the music, coupled
TCar iontigh with John Bunch's
y Mighty Bosstones overwhelming deep
lyrics and delivery,
makes Sense Field a band that every-
one should get to know.
Sense Field started around 1991, and
have been toiling in the indie circuit
now for six years. Lead vocalist Bunch
said he is not getting discouraged yet,
"I've been doing (music) since I was
14 and things have always gone well,"
Bunch said in a telephone interview
with The Michigan Daily. "I mean,
we've taken small steps that've gotten
us to plateaus the band's been really,
really, excited about, like the Warped
Tour. It's just, we have new things hap-
pening all the time. We did our first
Warner Bros. Records picked up
Sense Field's contract from Revelation,
and released Sense Field's latest offer-
ing, "Building," in September, although
the record has been out over six months
already on Revelation Records. They
haven't pushed the record yet, but
Bunch and the band remain optimistic,
something that also shines through in
"Basically, we're at the same point we
were before except one good thing is that
we're getting a lot more support on our
tours," Bunch said. "Hopefully you'll
start hearing ("Different Times") on the
radio like sometime later this month."
"Building" is a collection of songs
Sense Field wrote almost two years
ago, but is still fresh on their minds.
"We still are really excited about
('Building') and we'll probably be
touring on this record for the next few
months," Bunch explained. "We know
what we gotta do. We can't, like,
expect not to play these songs if the
video is successful or if it's successful
on the radio. We can't just turn our
backs on the album. It'll be worthwhile
when people know the songs. We're
not in any hurry to push this album
aside and move on. We want to put
energy into it."
In the past, Sense Field's work has
been fairly personal, and Bunch thought
that it was time to talk about someone
else on "Building," rather than retread
"On 'Building' I wanted to focus
more on you and almost talking to the
person listening," he said. "'Killed For
Less' is all about 'I', where 'Building'is
all about 'you."'
The songs on "Building" also have a
harder, faster edge to them, a little more r
akin to Sense Field's roots, which
Bunch attributed to constant touring
before recording the album.
Sense Field is different in that they
don't feel the need to write angst-ridden
songs in order to put their point across.
It's refreshing to hear positive thinking
for once, as displayed in the "Building"
tracks like "Overstand," "Shallow
Grave" and "Sight Unseen." It's all
about taking yourself out of where you
are and making your situation better,
and being content with it.
Touring with the Mighty Mighty
Bosstones is a feat in itself for the band.::
They're playing bigger venues, and the
two bands don't exactly mesh that well Sense Field took this press shot as the band's house slid off a cliff into the o046..
musically, but their attitudes seem to
follow each other's.
"Playing with the Bosstones is not
easy 'cause their audience is real, real
protective, kind of, and selective,"
Bunch said. "So we make it clear that
the Bosstones invited us out here, you
know ... The Bosstones personally
invited us ... all of a sudden, the crowd
will warm up."
Bunch believes that with Sense
Field's ethic, determination and talent,
they'll win people over soon enough.
He feels bands like No Doubt, 311 and
Rage "follow their hearts, and work
their asses off, and it pays off." If that's
any indication of future stardom, Sense
Field is poised and ready. If things do't
happen right away, though, don't expect
them to give up.
"I'm not worried at all," Bunch said.
"I don't feel like, you know, that things
aren't happening. It's one of tho se
things where you've gotta believe, even
though it's not easy from time to time"