“We are your Cure for the Common, and we invite you to strap on your helmet and come aboard. Your spaceship is about to blast off into an experience known as ‘Montana-grown Electro Thunder Funk,’ where we and our fellow fun-loving cosmonauts jettison Earth’s atmosphere to explore a universe of captivating musical influences.”
Oh, my! That is a tall self-introduction right there. If you’re a bunch of boys from Montana, and you’re going to spout off like that, you’d better be prepared to back it up.
Little did we know.
Cure for the Common just finished a national tour that took them from their home in the Rocky Mountains through the midwest to Virginia, and down the coast through North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida for Purple Hatters’ Ball at Suwannee Music Park before heading back for a series of dates in Colorado. Now they are gearing up for a full summer schedule, kicking off with three sets at Wakarusa (June 6-9) and two sets the following weekend at the inaugural Contour Music Fest in Jackson WY.
We would suggest that you Wakarusa folks grab your helmets AND fasten your seat belts, because it’s safe to say their two appearances at the recent Purple Hatter’s Ball launched more than a few of us into orbit.
During that weekend of magnificent music, it never got better than the first three bands we saw perform at the pre-party Thursday. All three confirmed our suspicions the next day with their second sets. Flat Land from Gainesville FL, Mouth from Lawrence KS and then Cure for the Common from Bozeman MT (!?!?!) set the standard for the rest of the festival, demonstrating their hard work and pursuit of national recognition. They were that amazing.
Bozeman, Montana? How the heck does a band get all the way to Florida from Montana? It just so happens that the band’s lighting designer and Tallahassee native, Frank Douglas, was well integrated into the regional music scene before he moved to Montana for the skiing. He fell in love with the place and stayed for several years until making his first return trip to Purple Hatter’s Ball since the inaugural festival eight years prior. Like many of the festival attendees and organizers, Frank was very close to Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, the young lady for whom the festival is named and dedicated, making his return to the tight-knit group all the more special.
Thank heavens for the connection that helped this superb band craft their first national tour to the east and south. Several festival organizers who were at Purple Hatter’s are clamoring to get the band back to Florida in the near future.
So who are these guys from Montana? Guitarist Weston Lewis explains:
“Cure for the Common‘s name comes from a goal we share to create original music by combining genre’s and experimenting until we have come up with something that we feel hasn’t been done before. We want to give back to the music world that has given us everything. If we can inspire others to live passionately and love one another, then we’re doing it right.”
The core group of four have been together since 2008 and have experienced several personnel changes since their formation. The members hail from all corners of the U.S. and were brought together by a mutual love for the place and lifestyle they live high in the Rocky Mountains. In the past three years, the band added Matt Rogers’ lead guitar and Steve Brown’s lead vocals to the mix, rounding out their funky, progressive rock-driven sound and solidifying a lineup and sound that will surely carry them well into the future.
Drummer Joe Sheehan described the Purple Hatter’s experience from the stage perspective:
“We didn’t know what to expect and were stoked that the response was so overwhelmingly positive at PHB. The first set on Thursday, we were tasked with helping to kick off the festivities while also getting our feet set in the experience. We really wanted to deliver a strong, passionate performance to give folks a taste of what we’re all about. The response was great, and we were feeling really good heading into Friday. By the time our set rolled around on Friday, we had really gotten comfortable in the midst of all the energy at Suwannee and felt ready to let it all hang out on stage. It was great to see the audience respond well to that musical freedom, because that’s what we love to do.”
“We really enjoy mixing up the genres and cover a lot of ground stylistically, which makes the experience that much more interesting both for us and the audience. For instance, our latest album, The Squeeze, which just came out in April, hits on a bunch of genres… driving funk and disco, hip hop, gospel-influenced rock, some deep and heavy electro, reggae, jam, pop, and some long improvisational sections that really take you on a musical journey. Our live improv sections, known to us as ‘shark sammies,’ have really become an integral part of our sound as well. A ‘shark sammy’ allows us to break off from the beaten path, open up a song’s structure, and explore different keys, tempos, textures, time signatures and more. Nothing is off limits, and sometimes things get pretty strange before we bring it home. It all depends on the feeling in the crowd and on stage, and needless to say, the energy in the air on Friday at Purple Hatter’s Ball had us smiling and swinging for the fences all night.”
This kind of exploration and variety is exactly what we saw over the course of two performances in two days. The band slid effortlessly from genre to genre, causing head-bobbing and booty-shaking throughout. Toward the end of their set Thursday, they hit a spectacular jam that makes me invoke my musical mantra: in the moment, this was as good as it gets. The song was an original called “Pinnacle,” and if that hadn’t just put us completely into orbit, then a sick cover of “Rock the Casbah,” with a ridiculous jam sandwiched in the middle, did the trick.
Somehow, they found another gear Friday and put us all in a tizzy. At one point, Douglas was coaxed to the stage to sing a tune. He dedicated the piece to the memory of his friend Rachel, and they were off. As Frank spoke, out spilled Jim Morrison’s voice, while the band played a subtle textural groove that Doors fans everywhere would recognize as “Ghost Song.” The tune was originally a cappella poetry performed by Morrison, which the band added music to years later. Douglas was eerily awesome, and the tribute and message of the piece resonated strongly in the setting. Later on, in the midst of some heavy jamming, the band broke into a fierce “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” adding one more twist to the band’s varied sound with Steve Brown’s remarkable lead falsetto.
So just in case you think ‘electro thunder funk’ can’t possibly come from Montana, think again.
CFTC’s plan for world domination starts next week, as they aim to make an equally positive impact at Wakarusa. After that, they hope to keep the energy going at Contour Festival in Jackson Hole the following weekend. The band is gearing up for their biggest summer yet in the Rockies, and are eager to plan the next Southeast tour for the fall of 2015. In the meantime, the band will continue to write, record, perform, and expand the definition of what it means to cure the common.
The band just released its third album and the first featuring its expanded line-up. Titled The Squeeze, its 11 musical tracks (and two fun interludes) are a superb effort that you need to check out.
The Squeeze refers to the time and events that pressure our lives in all directions. From the album cover: “We must greet the brink of disaster as the gift of opportunity and charge headlong into the unknown or surrender to the grip of the squeeze.” The album blends superb music with intelligent and socially conscious lyrics.
The bands who survive in the jam world and on the road are built on rock-solid rhythm sections. CFTC is fully loaded in this department. Jordan Rodenbiker and Joe Sheehan (bass and drums) were extremely impressive live, and that talent shows clearly throughout this album. It IS all about that bass… and drums!
It takes 15 seconds for the funk to take hold on the first track, “Get Some,” as in “get some rest, it’s fine, but you best not waste your time.” The horns, organ and guitar build an engaging tune, and then there is a complete tempo change to a sweet reggae beat, then back to the funk, a quick guitar flare, and back to reggae for the coda. CFTC has your attention now.
“Gas Can” opens with Garrett Rhinard’s electric piano; then the three horns enter again, and the syncopated beat bounces along.
Maybe at this point you are wondering about that “Electro Thunder Funk” business. Here is where you re-check your seat belt, right before the start of “Digital Blackout,” a kick-ass tune with twin guitars wrangling (Matt Rogers and Weston Lewis), with Rhinard’s synthesizer riding on top. A trance-like jamtronic section features guitar first and then synthesizer, with Sheehan killer on drums.
After a brief interlude with a drunken 6 AM phone call (“Tango”), a beautiful guitar lead is joined by funky bass and drums into “Let’s Ride,” which features hip hop vocals à la Brownie of the Biscuits, then a great horn break right out of the Blue Note tradition.
“Como I” has a sweet jazz guitar intro, with piano coming in, then rhythm section. When the horns enter, it’s a ska feel with synthesizer, the vocals punctuated by the horns, closing with piano and guitar. And this is sonically a superb recording, everything perfectly showcased.
The horn section includes: Jon Gauer, trombone; Tully Olson, trumpet; and Ben Johns, tenor sax. These young men are dedicated. For Wakarusa, the band will fly in Olson, who is at Berklee, and Gauer, at U of North Texas. These two did all the horn arrangements for The Squeeze while finishing up their masters’ degrees in jazz.
The title track is an almost pop-ish tune with a hip hop lyric section, very impressively done. That is followed by “Bizarre the Days,” opening with slow majestic piano, then ramping up to a great midtempo rocker with great vocal, horns and guitar. There is a second quick phone call (“Kilo”), and then the band really digs in.
For more than half of “First Light,” there is an ostinato guitar figure. Slowly, cymbals are added, then bass and drums, tension building like the rays of sunrise, and suddenly it’s a reggae song, with a great piano lead. As the band members explained, they can – and will – go in any direction, at any time, AND make it work! “First Light” and “Backbone” are meant as a unit, because the former leads logically into the latter.
“Backbone” is a piano pop marvel with great vocals, excellent horns, and then Ben Johns on tenor sax. The “Shark Sammy” featured on the CD is clearly just the launching pad for the creativity, mayhem and insanity that gets sandwiched in the middle during a live performance. Weston Lewis’ guitar intro meets the funk rhythm section and funky electric piano. There is a fascinating hesitation that the band using in the second half of the song that builds great tension and then releases it.
This band belongs on the jam circuit for certain, but up to this point no song has ventured past seven minutes. They pull out all the stops on “Big Brother,” an excellent indication of how they roll on stage. For six minutes, it is a great vocal rock tune. Then, it’s time to jam. Lewis goes first on guitar, followed a solo piano outing, then drums returning, then guitar and percussion. They return to the head of the song for the closing minute of this great album.
Left to right: Matt Rogers – Guitar; Jordan Rodenbiker – Bass, Vox; Frank Douglas – Lighting Designer, Tour Manager, Spiritual Guide, Occasional Front Man; Joe Sheehan – Drums, Vox, MC, Marketing Wiz; Garrett Rhinard – Keys, Vox, Raps; Weston Lewis – Guitar, Vox, Management; Steve Brown – Vox, Percussion