By John-Ryan Hevron
SCOTT "BOOTS" METZGER called me a few weeks ago and left this message on my voice mail:
"Hey, if you're looking for a way to start your story, well, we're on the road and the van just broke down outside of Elk Horn, Ohio. We've been waiting for three hours in the rain for the tow truck, and we're all out of cigarettes. It doesn't get any more rock-and-roll than this."
Van breakdowns not included, Scott has had a great year. His main band, RANA, returned to writing and performing after an eight month hiatus, and his list of sit-ins and side projects grows every day. So far this year, he's been invited to share the stage with Gov't Mule, Cracker, The Duo with Mike Gordon, and Galactic. His current side-projects include Flying Circus (with Marc Brownstein and Aaron Magner from the Disco Biscuits and Joe Russo), The Party (with Dave Dreiwitz and Claude Coleman Jr. of Ween), Bustle in Your Hedgerow (with The Duo and Dave Dreiwitz), DanjaBoots (with Joe Russo of The Duo), Hell Is For Children (with Joe Russo, Claude Coleman Jr., and Dave Dreiwitz), Chris Harford's Band of Changes (a rotating lineup including most of Ween), and Scott's new band, Greetings from Metzgerville (with Justin Wallace of Ulu and Kevin Kendricks of Fat Mama), which is currently in the middle of a residency at The Knitting Factory in New York. Perhaps Scott's coolest guest appearance of the year was a solo performance of "Little Wing" as the bride walked down the aisle at an upstate New York wedding this summer.
The first time I remember seeing Scott play was in the summer of 2001 at the now defunct Wetlands to celebrate club booker Jake "Flaco" Szufnarowski's birthday. It was one of those epic New York City late-night Thursday shows where everyone is pushing it on a school night. The club was brutally hot, the band was raw, and the crowd was sloppy. In addition to their own songs, RANA covered songs by Prince, Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, Ween, and Weezer. They even tackled the theme from The Legend of Zelda and played their own song "Backstage Pass" twice on Jake's request. What stands out in my hazy memory of that night is the punkish intensity with which Scott attacked his black Les Paul. I can still see him standing at the front of that low stage, a mess of hair, purpled-tinted from the stage lights, with a lit Camel barely hanging from his bottom lip as he soloed open-mouthed, teasing and working every note. Scott's playing has developed an amazing flexibility, fluidity, and confidence since that show, but somehow he's managed to maintain the wasty, heavily Ween-influenced rock-and-roll vibe of that night.
Though Scott is still relatively unknown outside of New York City, a lot of big-name artists are well aware of him. He recently auditioned to play with Joan Osborne's band, and last fall he flew down to Nashville to play on some sessions with Steve Winwood. Disco Biscuits bass player Marc Brownstein explains the appeal of Scott's playing, "The way that he can get one note to sing, that's what Metzger brings to the table that a lot of younger guys don't have. Also, he moves from one genre to the next so seamlessly. I'm not talking about within the course of a song. I'm talking about going from one band to another and being completely comfortable. It takes musical maturity to be able to seamlessly blend in with different genres." Mickey Melchiondo aka Dean Ween adds, "He's a great guitar player. [When I first saw him play,] he was young and he was really, really good. And every single time I've seen him play since then, it seems like he's improved 200%." Scott's Amfibian band leader and Phish lyricist Tom Marshall says, "Man, all I remember is just how positive he is, just always looking to the future, how to make the song better, and how intense he was at learning stuff. I begged him to play on the new album that we're recording now." Perhaps the greatest compliment so far comes from Warren Haynes, who recounts one of Scott's sit-ins with Gov't Mule this past summer, "Scott sat in with Gov't Mule at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut for our encore performance of Neil Young's 'Cortez The Killer.' No rehearsal whatsoever, we just winged it, Scott playing totally by instinct and intuition. He did a great job."
Scott Metzger with Gov't Mule by Eric Mohl