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Blues Traveler jams with Hootie's Rucker
by Devin Grant
Charleston Post & Courier, Charleston, SC
Oct 16th, 2003



A decade ago the New York City-based band Blues Traveler was poised to be sitting on top of the world. The band was about to release its fourth studio album, cleverly titled four, was selling out shows in medium sized venues across the country, and was enjoying a healthy following in the jam band world. four would change all of that. The album went multi-platinum, the band began selling out arenas, and a pair of singles from the album, "Run-around" and "Hook," would become huge hits on radio and MTV.

Fast forward to 2003, and things have changed considerably. The band released two more studio albums, Straight on Till Morning and Bridge, to general indifference from the media. The band also had to deal with the death of longtime bassist Bobby Sheehan shortly after the release of Straight on Till Morning.

Sure, things aren't what they were ten years ago, but you wouldn't know it by watching Blues Traveler at work last Wednesday night at the Music Farm. It was the band's third appearance at the local music venue, and it was a bit comical walking into the Farm and seeing the setup on the stage.

The Music Farm's performance area is quite generous compared to many of the other local stages. However, the combination of keyboardist Ben Wilson's three-sided bank of equipment, drummer Brendan Hill's rig, and the remaining amplifiers for guitarist Chan Kinchla, singer and harmonica player John Popper and new bassist Tad Kinchla left only a small sliver of space for the non-stationary band members to move around.

Blues Traveler hit the stage to the cheers of a packed house. Kicking off with "Can't See Why," a track from the band's latest release, Truth Be Told, the band treated the Charleston audience to two full sets of music that spanned the band's entire career.

Blues Traveler is an interesting band to watch on stage. While Popper is all concentration while singing or wailing on one of his many harmonicas, just a few feet away you'll find guitarist Kinchla playing his guitar while hopping around with a blessed-out look on his face. The rest of the band members are fairly laid back, and most of the songs that Blues Traveler play live differ wildly from their album versions.

This is a band that enjoys stretching out and experimenting with its creations. Over the course of the first set, the band performed new songs, such as "Partner in Crime," as well as fan favorites, including "Sweet Talking Hippie," "Run-around" and "Love & Greed."

The highlight of the first set was a heartfelt performance of "The Mountains Win Again," into which Popper seemed to pour his entire soul. The first set ended with a surprise appearance by Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish. Fresh from playing a benefit concert with Hootie on Daniel Island the Friday before, Rucker joined Popper and the rest of the band for a loose version of the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," even encouraging the crowd to sing along.

After a brief intermission, the band returned to the stage. Popper thanked the crowd for its enthusiasm and promised another long set of music. Blues Traveler proceeded to make good on that promise with a string of great songs that began with a beautiful version of "100 Years." New songs, such as "Let Her & Let Go" and "Stumble & Fall," mixed well with older material, such as "Mulling It Over," "Crash Burn," "Hook" and "All Hands."

The show suffered from a few audio glitches. The bass and drum levels were set a bit too high, sometimes drowning out Popper's harmonica solos. Blues Traveler supplied its own mixing board for the show, setting up behind the Farm's equipment, so why the mix was uneven is a mystery. Overall though, the show left no doubt that the band's rise to fame hasn't spoiled the members of Blues Traveler.

But neither has coming back down to earth in recent years.