By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
On Friday, Oct. 12, Blues Traveler will come home to New Jersey.
The Princeton-based, blues rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, soul, and Southern rock band, will kickoff their 30th anniversary tour at the Wellmont Theater.
The show in Montclair coincides with the release date of their new album, “Hurry Up & Hang Around.”
Today, members of the band call California, Washington and Texas home, but the band began during their high school years.
The Grammy Award winning, multi-platinum rock group’s 13th album takes fans back to their unique brand of blues they played back then.
“The new album is old school Blues Traveler. We are chameleon-like in many ways. There’s a reggae song, Caribbean tune, rock. We will interpret all that into Blues Traveler style, us showing our colors, our true colors. For us, being together, writing together, there is nothing better,” said drummer Brendan Hill from his home in Bainbridge Island, WA.
The group includes John Popper on vocals and harmonica, brothers Chan Kinchla on guitar, and Tad Kinchla on bass, Ben Wilson on keyboards and Hill on drums.
Going back to basics meant working with the original band, not with other artists as they had for the last few albums, said Hill. Grammy Award-winning composer Matt Rollings produced the album.
“He let us create and listen to the demos and then take it to Nashville. Sound Emporium in Nashville was a great experience through and through and we can’t wait to take it out on the road,” Hill said.
The band rented a house in Nashville during the process, and wrote in the garage, sort of the way they started in Princeton 31 years ago.
The concert will bring the band’s jam band experience to the fans. “When you play together for 30 years there are some things that comes naturally and some things happen on stage,” he said.
There’s been some ups and downs for the band. One was the death of bass player Bob Sheenan in 1999. A year later, the band added Ben Wilson on keyboards, and Ted Kinchla’s brother Chan on guitar.
Adding keyboards, a new instrument, reset the band to allow them to move forward, he said.
HOME ON THE ROAD
Touring is a must for a rock band in a digital age. Fortunately for the members of Blues Traveler, they love being on the road.
“It’s our passion, something we love to do, plus its Jersey. We can’t wait to get back to Jersey. That’s where it all started, where it all began. So many friends and family still live there.
It’s the perfect place to kick off the tour,” said Hill, adding that New Jersey also has the best pizza.
The Wellmont is no stranger to the Jersey-routed band. The group performed there in 2011.
“We have been to the theater a few years ago, it’s a beautiful theater,” said Hill.
Band members rotate creating the night’s setlist.
“We rotate between band members to choose their favorite songs, it allows for improv between songs, keeps it fresh. Spontaneity, keeping things fresh, is what we crave out on the road, that’s how we keep it interesting,” Hill said.
The evening will feature a mixture of their older music and songs from the new album such as their first new single “Accelerated Nation,” and soon to be released single “When You Fall Down.” Classics “Run-Around” and “Hook” bring everybody together, Hill said.
Blues Traveler’s music appeals to an intergenerational audience: not surprising for a band that’s been together 30 years.
“We have everything from teens all the way up to my parents’ ages,” Hill said.
At the Wellmont, he expects mostly adults, but at Red Rocks, CO, Hill said, the band expects children and grandparents.
The Blues “Traveler-esque” sound, as Hill calls it, combining blues and rock, always brings the audience together. They become a community, and “let go a little bit.”
“It’s been a fun journey so far, can’t wait to see what next 30 years takes us.”