to the bergenPAC and Brings the Jam
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Blues Traveler - the road tested music warriors - found themselves back in their home state to perform at the bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey on May 17, 2015. Blues Traveler formed over 25 years ago in the town of Princeton. The group has 12 studio albums to their credit with a number of them going gold and platinum. Their music is a mixture of blues, folk, psychedelic, rock and soul.

Blues Traveler brings Blow Up The Moon to the bergenPAC.

Blues Traveler is touring in support of their latest release Blow Up The Moon (2015). This diverse record has guest appearances from 3OH!3, Jewel, The Dirty Heads and more with explorations into country, hip-hop and reggae. Having heard the new album we were wondering if Blues Traveler would still be a jam band fronted by the earthy and expressive John Popper (harmonica/vocals) or something stylistically different. On Sunday night they were the improvisational quintet we were anticipating.

As soon as Blues Traveler took the stage an alliance of fans stood and swayed for the rest of the show enjoying the good grooves that the group was crafting. At one point the harmonica sounded like a crazy bird - a cool trick. Everyone in the band had techniques to add to the experimental element of their music. "What I Got" a Sublime cover was a crowd pleaser as folks clapped along. The catchy tune flowed into the popular "Run-Around" that also took us on a number of musical twists and turns.

John Popper was in fine voice on Sunday night in New Jersey.

Popper mentioned the new album before presenting the island flavored "Castaway" from Blow Up The Moon. They enhanced the tune with sound effects that altered the mood before it meandered into another jam where keyboardist Ben Wilson armed with a keytar traded licks with guitarist Chan Kinchla. Ben moved to the B3 to converse with the rousing rhythm team of Tad Kinchla (bass) and Brendan Hill (drums) before John and Chan blended back into the beguiling grooves. Singular solos were woven into many of their songs throughout the show.

"Top of the World" also from the current album was a combination of pop, philosophy and John's signature harp. The tune was a collaboration with Hanson who Popper observed are now adults. Blues Traveler continued their expansive instrumentation punctuated by Popper's harp and spoken-word like singing. At one point, John declared that this concert was dedicated to the recently departed blues legend B.B. King.

"Cara Let The Moon" was a moving slower piece balancing piano and vocals. It was an opportunity for Popper to show that his singing is just as emotional as his harmonica playing. After more animated jamming to close the concert, Blues Traveler quickly returned for an engaging encore featuring "Hurricane." The new single spun into the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The first time they sang the hook they changed Georgia to Jersey. John aptly handled the fast fiddle parts on the harmonica. It was a feisty fun way to conclude their home state show.

Blues Traveler stayed true to their jamband roots,

Blues Traveler has certainly been around the touring block but their new material created with a number of alt-rock bands proves that Blues Traveler can traverse new roads as they maintain a jam band following. Their sound is still a varied ramble of styles rooted in the blues.

Opening for Blues Traveler was Lovetester a five-piece also from New Jersey. Their music was a mix of jam and progressive rock. Lovetester took the crowd on a manic musical journey. Highlights of their set included the daunting "Drone Scan at the Junction" and the spooky "Swampy" both enhanced by heavy riffs and rhythms.

The bergenPAC - centrally located in downtown Englewood, NJ - continues to host an eclectic range of artists such as Blues Traveler. Up-coming events at the venue include Vince Gill/Lyle Lovett, The Midtown Men, RRR, Bonzo Bash, Dance Showcase, Merle Haggard and the NJ Symphony Orchestra.

Lovetester was a manic mixture of eclectic prog and blues.

Related Links: For more information on BLUES TRAVELER and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Blues Traveler | Lovetester | bergenPAC

(Originally Published on May 18, 2015)




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