Ann Arbor’s Smokestack, an eclectic groove quartet well versed in the world of Jazz as well as modern jam, has put together a Colorado tour that brought them to Quixote’s True Blue in Denver. The club, which has quickly become my home base, provided Denver with another up and coming act. Smokestack, after studying Music at Michigan, is now graduated and ready to move on to new levels. The first step in this was to head west and see the response from crowds spoiled by a constant array of incredible acts. The band has played with the likes of Jerry Garcia Band, The Slip, Strangefolk, Umphrey’s McGee, The OM Trio, The Global Funk Council, Larry McCray, and Howie Day. Smokestack is keyboardist James Sibley, Chuck Newsome on guitar, Brennan Andes on bass, and Dan Eichinger on drums.

The band had a good sized crowd at Quixote’s many of whom were familiar with the band’s repertoire. I had caught wind of the band back in Indiana, when I heard they were a good college band with a heavy repertoire of jam covers. Two years later I get the chance to see them for the first time and was impressed. They still have the good-time feel of a college band, with some musicianship that requires them to be taken seriously. It was made obvious that James leads the band from the seat of his keys. The groove section of bass and drums holds everything together, often times with Brennan shaking around like a convulsing funk-star, while James flows on top creating superb jams. The band appeared to be confused of how much time they had to play and so ended up with a 45 minute encore to the crowd’s delight. The highlight for the crowd was an excellent version of “Walk Like an Egyptian,” which included all of the words to the delight of many.

The band is young and that is obvious, but is quite ok. It was quite nice to see a band that did not require all of my attention to decide if they were ready to blow up. This band will not be headlining a major national tour any time soon but that is part of their charm. The band is enjoying their time traveling and playing music, and they certainly enjoy seeing others that are on the scene. I ran into the band at the second night of the Particle late night shows. I talked to them before and after, and they seemed to get excited about their own music by seeing Particle. Realizing how much they have to learn and how far they can go with new trinkets and toys, and especially new ideas. That seems to be the key for this band to continue to grow and learn by experiencing the scene. This seems to be a high priority for them as they are scheduled to play with the Dark Star Orchestra, The Big Wu, Keller Williams, Jazz Mandolin Project and Ekoostik Hookah this year. The lessons learned by watching these bands will be invaluable to Smokestack as they continue to live their lives through music. The band is very young and appears to have music in their future for quite some time, and as time passes on they will grow and become more and more factors in the music world. Any time this band comes around whether it is at a festival or a small club check them out because they are determined to make you shake, and will definitely do so.

Greg Berman

[Published on: 7/3/02]

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