With an average life span of seven to 11 days, Blues
Traveler's John Popper's harmonicas don't seem to stand a chance.
And, after being exposed to other elements, some don't even last
"I can burn one out in one gig," Popper said in a
recent press release.
It gets worse. Sometimes running out of breath, Popper has even
vomited into his harmonica.
"The thing you've gotta do then is just suck it up, chunks
and all, and keep on playing," Popper said.
No matter, the ravenous spirit of Popper's harmonica keeps Blues
Traveler's fan base increasing in numbers.
The soul and sheer energy Popper puts through this instrument has
helped Blues Traveler evolve from a "live" band to one
too popular to be ignored by the music industry.
Endlessly touring, Blues Traveler will stop in Ames while
promoting its sixth album, Straight On Till Morning.
"Over the past seven years Blues Traveler has proved to be
one of the prime movers in keeping the spirit of the Grateful
Dead alive," said an article in the Los Angeles Times.
"The incisive, passionate sound it's cultivated through the
years of diligent touring really shines on the group's latest
The quartet, consisting of harmonica player John Popper,
guitarist Chan Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill and bassist Bob
Sheehan, was able to spend less time on the road and more time
recording this album.
"The only pressure we felt in making this record was to
continue an honest dialogue with our audience," Popper said.
"We wanted to be completely free and completely honest. I
think that we pulled it off, and I hope it comes across that way
to our fans."
With influences such as J. Geils, Foghat and Z.Z. Top, Blues
Traveler has fashioned and refashioned a genre of blues that can
only be accredited to them.
Rolling Stone described Straight On Till Morning as a restoration
of the balance between "aggressive interplay and melodic
"We've always been conscious that the live vehicle is a totally
different mode of expression from capturing a performance in the
studio," guitarist Chan Kinchla said in a press release.
"We've always loved doing both. But the ability to really make things
work in a vacuum, like you have to do when recording, is something we
worked very hard at," he added.
Playing together since high school, the band averages more than 250 shows
a year playing clubs, street fairs, benefits and nitrous parties.
Blues Traveler relies on word-of-mouth by the fans in promoting itself
(the band has not always been commercially popular).
So far, this means of self-promotion has worked.
Sometimes performing for an audience of 10, Blues Traveler can return to
the same place to perform for an audience of hundreds, according to a