PERPETUAL GROOVE: LOVE CAN SAVE YOU

Words and photos by SuperDee unless noted otherwise


Perpetual Groove at the Georgia Theatre

I am standing in the center of the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA and the sound of a slide guitar is literally swirling around the room in 5.1 Dolby surround sound. I'm feeling that blissful feeling you only get when confronted with live music that commands your attention and drives your emotion. I'm present in this moment of music--it's touching my soul and it feels marvelous...

The last time you heard from me, I was crying on my keyboard listening to the last bits of my phavorite rock quartet of all time. Things seemed relatively bleak at that point. I was telling you I was optimistic for the future of music but really I think I was saying the words in the hopes that I would believe them myself--"To hear my words or heed my own advice"--as sung in Perpetual Groove's "Stealy Man."


Adam Perry

About a month before the whole Coventry mayhem, I made arrangements to travel to Georgia in October to spend a weekend with Perpetual Groove at Athens' Georgia Theatre and the Visulite Theater in Charlotte, NC. PGroove is one of my favorite new bands that I rarely get to see, since they've only made it out to the West Coast for their two trips to the High Sierra Music Festival.

Still, I'm glad I made the plans when I did. My post-Coventry mentality towards anything musical was generally unmotivated and uninspired; I don't think I would've bought a plane ticket if I hadn't made the plans before Phish. Yet here was October and my PGroove trip on the horizon. It seemed like a leap of faith to jump on tour with a band, but when you get knocked off a horse, they tell you to get back on it, right? Just because you had a bad break up doesn't mean you won't ever fall back in love again, right? These were the reassurances I told myself as off I went to the airport...


Brock Butler

"SuperDee," you may be thinking, "what is so effin' special about Perpetual Groove that you flew all the way across the country to see them play?" Well my friends, that's precisely what I'm gonna spell out in this here story.

First, let's get some history lessons out of the way and introduce you to the band. Seven years ago at the Savannah College of Art & Design, Brock Butler (guitarist/vocalist) casually joined in a conversation Adam Perry (bassist) was having about music. Immediately, the two became friends, played music together that very night, and planted the seed for Perpetual Groove. The band originally included fellow college buddies (Joe Stickney and Brett Hinton), but they've since moved on to their own projects.


Albert Suttle & Matt McDonald
(photo from pgroove.com)

The other half of Perpetual Groove as we know it today met in the army at Fort Stewart, Georgia. When Matt McDonald (keyboardist) returned from Bosnia, drummer Albert Suttle was there as a new member of the US Army Band. "Both Albert and I had the same ideas as far as making music we wanted to make as opposed to what we were doing at the time," Matt recalls.

Luckily Matt was done with his duty and Albert was given an opportunity to leave the Army a year and a half early. Albert often wonders what would have happened if he didn't take that opportunity right at that time. "There's a distinct possibility that if I were still in the Army, I would be in Iraq because they wouldn't have let me leave."


PGroove at the Visulite Theatre

The PGroove puzzle was completed when these two Army guys came to an open mic night where Adam and Brock were performing. And so, in 2001, Perpetual Groove became the quartet it currently is. Today the band members, as well as lighting designer Jason Huffer, all live together in a house in Savannah, GA. Huffer, I was told, "lives in the drummer's closet" conjuring images of the great Lazlo Hollyfield. Each band member has their own room they can escape to, and rehearsals take place in the living room. They compose music both as a unit and individually with Pro Tools on Brock's Mac. "The way we usually write," explains Adam, "is that one person will have an idea for a song. To what extent they take that idea before bringing it to the band varies."

I first discovered the PGroove sound about a year and a half ago when their first album Sweet Oblivious Antidote found its way to my desk. I was immediately hooked, and Antidote became one of those standby CDs I never wanted to take out. It was a perfect combination of fiery jams and sweet melodies, and when I heard the lyrics, it was just enough to break my heart.

I'm busy searching
Searching for what, I'm not really sure
Maybe an answer
Maybe some sweet oblivious cure

-"Sweet Oblivious Antidote"

Released earlier this year, their second studio album All This Everything showcases a more mature PGroove that has refined their songwriting skills and learned a thing or two about studio recording. Working with producer Robert Hammond (the Grammy-winning engineer on Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below) at Atlanta's Tree Sound Studios (where artists like Elton John, Outkast, and the Beastie Boys come to record) was a creative catalyst for the band and inspired the idea for their ambitious "Speed of Surround Fall Tour" featuring 5.1 surround sound.

My first impression of All This Everything was that it had an overall melancholy feeling, but as I continued to listen and spent time with the band, I realized that while it is in fact melancholy, it's also hopeful. The contrast of light against dark, good flirting with evil, alternating torment and calm--this to me is the essence of rock 'n' roll. The album swells with great melodies that drip with irony and heartbreak topped off by survival--and not a few delicious jams. Life, the universe, and everything are all just peaks and valleys, after all.

Daylight without sun
The race we didn't run
The victory we couldn't win

The purchase we never bought
The war we never actually fought
Now we're long past settled in

Chances we won't take
Music we'll never make
Now our patience is so thin

Daylight without sun
The race that we couldn't run
Now we're long past settled in

-"Long Past Settled In"

 

Albums Brock Butler would need on a desert island if stranded there for three months:
(We decided that "forever" was too much pressure)

1. Graceland by Paul Simon
2. Aja by Steely Dan
3. The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips
4. Sea Change by Beck
5. CDR of the GA Theatre PGroove show "for something new"

 

Young yet wise, Brock Butler is a portrait of conflicted emotions and the band's perfect leading voice. Always eyes closed, he soulfully delivers thoughtful lyrics and heartwarming guitar riffs, and can bring a crowd to tears. "Take 'em to church," he tells me with a twinkle in his eye. Brock and I had a long conversation when he drove me back to the Atlanta airport from Charlotte, NC. At the Georgia Theatre, they performed a new song called "It Starts Where It Ends."

"This song is the best example of both happy and sad being blended. Some of it is very melancholy sounding. Even the lyrics aren't directly sad: "You live, you love, you die." It depends on your own point of view whether you take that as a bad thing or not, whether you are optimistic or not."

Optimistic or not, this band has real soul and an honest spirit--and that's what brought me 3000 miles across the country. Not to mention, my friends, they rock! And you all know how I feel about rock 'n' roll.

If it's been with love, things that you've done
Then you did all you can do
If it's been with love, things that you've done
It can save you

-"Andromeda"


The inside of a truss

Let's get back to this surround sound business for a minute. This "Speed of Surround Tour" was perhaps overly ambitious for a band this size. Thanks to the sound company, Renkus-Heinz based out of Los Angeles, Perpetual Groove had top of the line audio equipment on the road with them this fall. Packed into their van were (and please excuse my lack of technical knowledge) channels, "point sources," subwoofers, and left and right line arrays which, according to the Renkus-Heinz web site, "bring live sound closer to the ultimate reference point (reality) in demanding environments." So you can actually pinpoint an area in the physical space around you where a specific sound is present. In the studio this type of sound manipulation is common, but to bring it to a live setting is rather unique.

In theory, it's an amazing idea in live sound experimentation and is at the core of the band's improvisation. In actuality, the tour was a pain in the arse to set up. With a full road crew (in addition to the wonderful Barefoot and Chris, who traveled with them this fall), things would have been more reasonable, but watching the band put together trusses and lifting heavy equipment themselves--for four hours, before they had to perform all night--was just painful.


The Gaster Blaster

Was it worth it? YES. The result was incredible. It made the sound a physical thing dancing around you yet didn't at all diminish the integrity of the songs. Standing at the sound board with the band's sound engineer Michael Gaster, I frequently saw kids looking all around as he used his stylus pen to send the different sounds from one end of the room to the other. And now listening to the shows on my headphones, I can feel the sound circling my mind as if it was recorded in a studio. Very cool stuff.

So what now? Between starting this article and right now, the world has become a very different place. Actually, the world is exactly the same but my perspective is different. The optimism I felt last week feels deflated, but thankfully, not totally gone. The idea of "hope" has become a very important one for me in the last couple of days. I'm grateful to have the positive force of music in my life, and Perpetual Groove is on the crest of that wave.

As my weekend with PGroove came to a close, the encore at the Visulite was "For Now Forget" which, in its hopefulness, has become one of my favorite songs. The lyrics of embody the final thoughts of All This Everything, and so I feel compelled to leave you with these words:

Sure we'll have our troubles
For now just leave 'em by the door
For now forget your worries
Don't you worry anymore.

-"For Now Forget"

Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

SuperDee
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Albert Suttle

Adam Perry & Matt McDonald

Brock Butler

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