If you're like me, then you may be growing tired of the jamband for jamband's sake. The big P hiatus has given a good deal of exposure to lesser acts, and perhaps highlighted a good deal of mediocrity. Witness the endless message board debates that necessarily rank bands into bar band (The Big Wu), second tier band (Deep Banana Blackout) and first tier bands (String Cheese Incident). Depending on your bias you may be likely to elevate a bar band to a higher status and vice versa.
Now imagine the same scenario but you live a good 8-12 hour drive from any marquee show whatsoever and you are left with the plight of the Atlantic Canadian Head. Throughout Nova Scotia (think of Florida as the American penis and Nova Scotia as the Canadian) and New Brunswick (think half hour drive from Limestone, ME), there are a great abundance of heads yet we have so few opportunities to catch great shows. While this can grow more than a little bit depressing, it also makes us much more grateful to catch heady live music - our rave scenes are similar in this way as well. Therefore it was with great intrepidation that we all witnessed the birth of the newest Canadian jamband Grand Theft Bus. Having had a couple of chances to catch the boys play I'm ready to put in my two cents.
Founded by brothers Tim and Graeme Walker with Bob Deveau (along with the recently added Dennis Goodwin), Grand Theft Bus is primed to take the Canadian scene - and possibly the American scene - by storm. All of the band members have a strong pedigree (Tim and Graeme founded the seminal group Wooderson, Bob played with Fly Jimmy Swift and toured Canada with Kilt) as well as an aptitude for song writing and composition. I am reminded of a comment made to me about SCI from Darren Shearer of The New Deal who felt that they wrote songs akin to the songs he wrote in his high school era band Gypsy Soul (a valid criticism if you ask me). His comment only served to highlight how a well-marketed band can shoot to stardom even if their compositions aren't great or they can't sing [you know who you are... okay, you're Bisco]. Fortunately, GTB can both write quality songs and sing strong melodies. At this point in their young career they are eschewing all covers whatsoever, favoring their constantly evolving cadre of songs. How many American bands do you think would have the balls to make such an unequivocal call?
Regardless, from the first moment I caught this band I knew they had the legs to go the distance. Original songs such as Lake Wallow, Out Of Place, Slinky, Climb and Absent Minded all possess some sort of engaging hook that remains in the brain like resin in a glass pipe (without which you can't see all the pretty swirling colours). On the whole, their jamming style is a combination of fervent creativity tempered by a studied and restrained approach. At first I dog eared their style in terms of their rolling cyclic cadence reminiscent of a song like Moma Dance. At the second show, this was most certainly the case during the first set, but the second set revealed the hidden birth of an altogether different beast. Clearly the band has adopted some of the mentality which finds the second set opening up to more exploratory fare.
On this night in Halifax, February 10, 2001, Grand Theft Bus gave no exception. During the second song, First Foot Forward, a local trumpeter Caleb was invited up to jam with the boys and the addition served to highlight their finer points. Caleb returned later in the set to perform on a new number Theory which was followed by another new song Methuo. The segments of the show with Caleb were likely the strongest; the funk was too deep and they turned corners on dimes. One might be led to believe that a constant horn or piano addition would be prudent as the sound may in fact demand it. Considering this band is only four strong, they certainly do a stellar job of filling out their sound without resorting to excessive effects and MIDI wizardry. The show closer was the band's obvious standout song. Streetsleeper possessed of an anthemic quality with infinite hummability. The boys are at work doing what they do best - writing good songs.
Coolhand Luke Bowden
JamBase Canadian Correspondent
Go See Live Music!