The Gin Blossoms - Coming 'Round Again
Arizona Alt Rockers Take
Acoustic Approach in Church Setting

A Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The Gin Blossoms formed in Tempe, Arizona in 1987. The band's fans soaked in their jangly pop rock sound and by 1993 the group's infectious songs were all over the radio. It was the strength of their debut album titled New Miserable Experience that left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of their fervent adherents who still follow the band today.

The Gin Blossoms Live in Montclair, New Jersey
Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms on stage in Montclair, New Jersey.

Like many bands the Gin Blossoms have had their fair share of trials and triumphs including a number of line-up changes. They are back in 2010 touring and finishing up an album that should be released later this year. The alternative rockers performed at Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, New Jersey on January 22, 2010. The concert was held in a classic old church with high ceilings, chandeliers, stone walls and wood floors.

The multi-platinum selling quartet (Jesse Valenzuela - guitar, Bill Leen - bass, Scott Johnson - guitar and Robin Wilson - vocals) subtly slipped on the stage for a stripped down set of their classics. Tonight's event was a mostly acoustic affair with Robin aptly handling rhythm on tambourine.

"Let's do this thing," stated Wilson, blowing the first notes of "Follow You Down" on a harmonica. He alternated between harp and vocals on this song. Standing center stage Robin raised his hands over his head encouraging the crowd to clap along as the group expanded upon the instrumental parts of the tune.

After band introductions and a shout out for the various causes that Outpost was supporting the Gin Blossoms performed a peppy version of "Until I Fall Away". After a bit of a debate they played "Learning The Hard Way" with added arrangements from Scott on guitar. "As Long As it Matters" showcased pleasing guitar parts supported by plucky bass lines and fine vocal variations. "Found Out About You" was edgy and engaging with Wilson encouraging the audience to clap along.

There was applause for the opening notes of "Long Time Gone" that flowed on feisty guitar exchanges and fetching bass lines. Fans were having fun dancing along and becoming more vocal in their reactions to the music. Robin handed a tambourine to a young girl in the front pew to assist him with rhythm.

The Gin Blossoms Live in Montclair, New Jersey
The Gin Blossoms' Bill Leen on bass and Scott Johnson on guitar.

"Allison Road" was animated as Wilson called out to the crowd to sing along. At the end Robin made the astonishing observation that Bill broke a bass string at an acoustic show! Their tech worked on the instrument as the three played a new song. "Miss Disarray" was a reflective, radio friendly piece about relationship woes, a formula that has worked well in the past for the Gin Blossoms.

The bass was back for "Cajun Song" which was a combination of pensive and peppy prose and playing. "Seat of our pants, rock and roll" was Robin's description of "Mrs. Rita" as there were a few forgotten lines but it was still a fan favorite of the night.

"Super Girl" had a dramatic feel enhanced by dueling acoustic guitars with a quick foray into the Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star". "Til I Hear It From You" featured singular guitar solos and lead into the closer - a jolting version of "Hey Jealousy".

For the encore, Robin called the crowd to the front of the stage for a nifty cover version of The Plimsoul's "Now" with Wilson high fiveing fans. Now, with a new record and live revivals of their classic catalogue the Gin Blossoms are coming back around again.

Opening for the Gin Blossoms was Loretta Hagen. "Its a real pleasure to be here," said Loretta as she strummed her way though her first song - a visual piece about building a house and building dreams. Next, Hagen thanked the Gin Blossoms and all the volunteers at the Outpost. Her second song was a prayer about the day - a hopeful poem that featured pretty picking.

The Gin Blossoms Live in Montclair, New Jersey
Jesse Valenzuela helped emcee the evening and the band's most recent release, Major Lodge Victory.

Loretta had a rich voice and her songs were insightful. The title track from her album Sundown Till Down was personal and poignant and was written for her mother who has Alzheimer's disease. Another tune was a call to compassion and "Mirror, Mirror" was a wistful song reflecting on life and moments in time.

After Hagen's set, George Devanney from the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation briefly spoke about how mountain climbers and rockers are raising awareness and building cancer centers around the world. Musicians the world over - including Robin of the Gin Blossoms - have hiked famous peaks to help fight the illness that afflicts so many annually. He also talked about the bone marrow registry, mentioning that 30,000 people are in need of bone marrow transplants but only 3,000 a year get matched. George urged fans to visit their table set up in the back of the church to sign up for the registry, which entailed filling out a form and a mouth swab.

The Outpost was also collecting for Haiti and sold snacks to support other projects. Their chocolate cookies were delicious. Outpost In The Burbs' venues are intimate and ideal for music. Montclair is a fun town with many restaurants and shops. We had a flavorful and festive dinner at Cuban Pete's before the concert. On a side note, as we were leaving the city we saw a long line of people waiting to meet the cast of the TV show the Jersey Shore. Although it was a chilly winter night there were some folks scantily dressed fitting into the stereotype that the show portrays - proving that there is something for everyone in Montclair.

Follow You Down
Until I Fall Away
Learning The Hard Way
As Long As It Matters
Found Out About You
Long Time Gone
Allison Road
Miss Disarray
Cajun Songs
Mrs. Rita
Super Girl
Lost Horizons
Til I Hear It From You
Hey Jealousy

Robin Wilson - guitar
Jesse Valenzuela - guitar
Scott Johnson - guitar
Bill Leen - bass
John Richardson - drums

The Gin Blossoms Live in Montclair, New Jersey
Opening act Loretta Hagen had a rich voice and her songs were reflective.

Related Links: For more information on the GIN BLOSSOMS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- | | |

(Originally Published on January 24, 2010)




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