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Woodstock II
by Jon Pareles
New York Times, New York, NY
Aug 13th, 1994



Blues Traveler, the first band to bring the entire audience to its feet dancing, revives a hyperactive form of 1960's blues-rock that doesn't have much to do with the blues. In Blues Traveler's songs, every instrument -- drums, bass, guitar harmonica -- crams as many notes as possible into every run.

The band doesn't mesh like the Grateful Dead, one of its models; instrumental parts constantly stumble over one another behind John Popper's harmonica solos, which zip up and down the scale frantically but never arrive anywhere. Yet the band never lacks energy, and for its fans, Blues Traveler evokes the kind of communal enthusiasm -- translated into eager, free-form dancing -- that goes with the mythic 1960's. "Take a little trip with me," one lyric suggested. Blues Traveler also made the inevitable neo-Woodstock gesture when Mr. Popper played a solo-harmonica version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

But unlike the 1969 Jimi Hendrix guitar solo, which shrieked like air-raid sirens and bombing victims, Mr. Popper's solo only showed off his lung power. Hendrix's own performances are running on videotape in the Surreal Field.