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H.O.R.D.E. lives up to its name
by Steve Morse
Boston Globe, Boston, MA
Jul 29th, 1998

No other summer tour has such wide parameters. "We're the least exclusionary tour out there," says Chan Kinchla of the band Blues Traveler, the host and headliner of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, which brings its traveling circus to Great Woods tomorrow.

"A lot of festivals lean to an alternative-rock edge or a skate-punk edge or a women's edge," adds Kinchla. "But we're all over the map."

The H.O.R.D.E., which stands for Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere, has lived up to its name. Tomorrow's show includes main stage acts Blues Traveler, Barenaked Ladies, Paula Cole, Ben Harper, and Alana Davis; second-stage acts Government Mule, Marcy Playground, Catatonia, the Jim Kelly Band, and Jiggle the Handle; and even a third stage, manned by New York's Mosaic and Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors. All 19,900 tickets have been sold.

The H.O.R.D.E. started out as a neo-hippie festival eight years ago (Blues Traveler was joined by Phish, Widespread Panic, the Spin Doctors, and the Aquarium Rescue Unit), but has expanded ever since. Neil Young, Beck, and Primus played it last summer (the only year that Blues Traveler was absent), and this season even featured the Smashing Pumpkins on four Midwest dates.

"The Pumpkins were looking to do something different. Their manager didn't want to do it, but the band did," says Kinchla. "We had first met them at the Bridge School benefit that Neil Young does every year in California."

This year, the H.O.R.D.E. also lucked out by booking Barenaked Ladies, who are red-hot at the moment. "We've been lucky that way," says Kinchla. "In the past, we've also had the Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow, and 311 just as they were getting big."

What also distinguishes the H.O.R.D.E. is the amount of inter-band jamming that takes place during the day. The main stage is referred to as "the Blues Traveler workshop stage," where Traveler has jammed with everyone from Warren Haynes of Government Mule to the Klezmer All-Stars from New Orleans. "We called it Klezmania," says Kinchla.

"Things couldn't be better," he adds. "We didn't know some of the bands coming in - like, Barenaked Ladies we'd only heard about. But all the bands are getting along really well. The Barenaked Ladies even did an impromptu rap session at the third stage, which is in the concourse. And one day, Chris Stills and Warren Haynes did `Ohio' together. A lot of cool things have been happening there," he says. "I've been up to play there and so has John Popper," Traveler's singer and harmonica/guitar force.

"Last year we went to Europe and did our own thing, playing at some festivals over there," Kinchla says. "But we're glad we're back. We've been having fun this summer."

Blues Traveler is doing a bunch of new material from an album to be released next year. Some of it lacks the harmonica focus of the past, which has made some fans wonder what's going on.

"Harmonica, being a diatonic instrument, points the music in a certain direction. We're still finding places where the harp will work, but we don't want to be obligated to using it," says Kinchla.

Finally, what about the talk that some H.O.R.D.E. dates haven't been as strong as others at the box office? "Well, one of them has been in Dallas and a lot of people don't want to go out in heat. I can't blame them," Kinchla says. "But, overall, our ticket sales are pretty much where they've always been. We're making plenty of money and everybody's having a good time."