Blues Traveler was at the forefront of the whole “jam band” movement of the early 1990s, along with Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic and Phish. The New York-based group fashioned an amiable blues-rock boogie that earned them a hardcore, somewhat glassy-eyed, loyal following (those eyeballs brighten right up after some eyedrops and sleep, and maybe an indulgence of the munchies).
These are sons of Jerry Garcia, compelled to let long sets of tie-dyed blues unwind in the minds of listeners. Anchored by founding members John Popper (vocalist and harmonica-blower), Chan Kinchla on guitar and drummer Brendan Hill, with more recent additions Tad Kinchla on bass and Ben Wilson on keyboards, the band has settled into a nice, B-movie life after living large in the mid-‘90s when their “Four” album went quadruple platinum and you couldn’t swing a dead cat at a radio without hearing the song “Run-Around.”
There’s nothing wrong with that B-movie life, either. The band tours a lot, playing decent venues (such as the Fine Line this Friday night), but they’re no longer hanging out with David Letterman and MTV babes with the regularity they did back in the day.
Instead, they’ve worked on their music, making this year’s release, “Bastardos!” perhaps their most revelatory yet. The band has moved a bit from its trademark boogie to a darker, denser version replete with psychedelia. Check out the melty psychedelicized guitar-churn of “You Can’t Stop Thinking About Me” and the smoldering “She and I.”
While Blues Traveler evolves musically, the band members’ hearts remain completely entangled in the glory days of all-day jams.
Take a look at these goofy-lovable responses to a question posed on the band’s Web site (www.bluestraveler.com): “If you had one last night to jam, who would you choose besides each other?
Bob: “Jerry Garcia.”
Chan: “That’s a hard one. There’s a lot of people I want to play with. But I think if I only had one night, I would probably want to play with my son.”
John: “I have a band in mind. It involves J.S. Bach on keyboards, Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane heading up the saxophone section, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpets, Beethoven arranging the string section, Mozart arranging other reed instruments, and Stevie Wonder and Prince doing all sorts of rhythmic pads. On drums, I would like Omar Hakim and Buddy Rich. I think this would sound cool.“
Brendan: “Led Zeppelin.”
This is exactly the kind of question my friends and I used to toss around back in high school. It’s nice to see that the Blues Traveler guys, now approaching their 40s, still engage in this type of deep thinking. Rock on with your bad selves, men.
Carbon Leaf opens the show.
: F Oct. 21, 8 p.m. Fine Line Music Caf/, 318 1st Ave. N. $23-$26. 338-8100, www.finelinemusic.com.