Musketeer Gripweed Brings Revival and Reckoning to Scene’s ‘Sunday Dinner’ Shows

By Conor Hooley

Blues rock revivalists Musketeer Gripweed are set to headline the second edition of the Scene ‘Sunday Dinners’ concert series, and will be bringing their own special brand of old-school jams to the Hodi’s Half Note stage. Entry to this special show, which will take place on February 27, only costs five dollars. But better yet, bring a preferable donation of at least three canned food items and you can get in without paying a cover charge. Afterwards, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for contributing to a great cause, since all charitable contributions will be sent directly to the Larimer County Food Bank.

It really is appropriate that Gripweed is set to play ‘Sunday Dinners,’ since both ventures share two pretty important interests: putting on some great music and, cliché as it might sound to the cynics, taking some time to help out your fellow human.

“We’re very vocal about getting the message across to take care of each other,” says Gripweed frontman Jason Downing. “I say the same exact thing every show: take care of each other, it doesn’t take a lot of money. Treat everyone with more kindness and more love. So I think the idea for the show is great.”

Good intentions aside, the chance to see the up-and-coming Gripweed is easily worth the price of admission. The band will be performing material off their new, critically-acclaimed concept album Dyin’ Day, a few yet-to-be-released songs and no doubt a couple other unexpected surprises. Gripweed sees its sound as old school American “stomp holla music!,” and audiences have described their shows as something akin to attending an old-time “get up and testify” church. Both labels fit.

“I like to think our music is pretty interactive; we get the crowd involved and add a visual element to it to give it another dimension,” says bassist Ben Hockett.

While an infectious and energetic performance is a given for the group, Gripweed has recently begun adding an additional layer of theatricality into the fold. Playing in support of Dyin’ Day, which is set in the Jim Crow-era South, Downing has recently been taking stage dressed as one of the album’s primary characters: Reverend Monkey Paw Patterson. That means donning a historically accurate 1930’s preacher garb: black hat, black coat, white collar. And a guitar. Which, for Downing, follows logically.

“I’m preachin’ up there anyway,” says the singer. “So once we found the right clothes to go with it everything fell into place.”

The release of Dyin’ Day has garnered buzz and praise across the state (including this very publication, which gave the album a perfect score). And the warm reception is due not only to its stellar music, but its creative and evocative take on themes such as exile and injustice.
“Parchment Farm [the album’s primary setting] was interesting because it was a prison with no walls, but you couldn’t run away – that’s pretty bleak,” observes Downing. “If there are walls around you then you can justify why you can’t escape from something. If there aren’t, and the oppression is everywhere, I think it’s interesting and oppressive in ways that I almost can’t imagine.”

Gripweed’s members didn’t initially set out to create exactly what ultimately became Dyin’ Day; instead letting the sound and concepts develop naturally in the recording process.

“There were a few songs we’d written that caused a few of these old images to start going through each of our heads,” recalls Hockett. “Then we started talking about it with each other, and then it began to take shape.”

“I just kind of played what I thought felt right,” adds keyboardist Matt Goldberg. “We play all different kinds of music, but with this project it just kind of came together.”

Whether or not you’re a religious person, the February 27 edition of Scene’s ‘Sunday Dinners’ is providing more than enough reason to attend a very special kind of ‘church.’ With Musketeer Gripweed at the helm, you’re guaranteed to dance, sing, perhaps even chant along…it may indeed get a little spiritual. But the best part is that it’ll all be for a very worthy cause.

Check out www.myspace.com/jasondowningandmusketeergripweed for more information on the band. Logon to www.hodishalfnote.com for information on how to buy tickets for the show on February 27, which will also feature local jam-masters Hot Gazpacho. Doors at 8pm.