Tonawanda News

August 27, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Rusted Root always performs a 'fresh' show

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — In recent years, Rusted Root has been a frequent visitor to Western New York. The Pittsburgh-based band opened the Lockport Canal Series for two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010, and drew huge crowds.

Tonight, the band closes out the free series in North Tonawanda at Gratwick Riverside Park. One never knows what to expect at a Rusted Root concert, as the band is one that changes their set each show, giving their fans a unique show every night.

“We write the set list right before the show. We check out what kind energy is in the crowd and then check and see what we played the last time we were in town and try and change it up from that,” Rusted Root front man and founding member Michael Glabicki said during a recent phone interview.

Rusted Root’s commercial breakthrough came in 1994 with the album “When I Woke,” which dominated college radio with songs like “Ecstasy,” “Martyr” and “Send Me on My Way,” a song that had second life in the movie “Ice Age.”

Their latest album, “The Movement,” was fan-funded by the group’s loyal followers known as “fortunate freaks.”

“We have always had a strong connection with our fans; some of our first shows were done by renting out a warehouse, having a public dinner and then playing a show afterwards. Any kind of connection with our fans is good creatively and musically.”

The result is one of the group’s strongest albums filled with songs that the fan base has embraced and newer fans will certainly enjoy.

 “On this album I was really focused on what was going to enhance our live set.”

Rusted Root’s unique sound defies description. They have been categorized as everything from world beat to alternative rock. Perhaps the best way to understand their sound is to explore the music that inspired Glabicki.

“For me it was Cat Stevens, the Beatles and Jim Croce that I listened to early on. They say you try to get back to your childhood when you are being creative, and that was on the stereo when I was 6 and listening to those albums for hours, it got me into the acoustic guitar. When I got older I started listening to the heavier rock stuff like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Van Halen and I liked the big excitement on those albums.”

“Around the age of 17, when I decided to become a musician I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s “So,” a lot of U2 and Toni Childs. At the same time, I had these two cousins in Pittsburgh and they got me into world beat and a lot of African drumming. Another one of my cousins was in a popular reggae band.”

Throughout the band’s catalogue, one can hear the list of influences, some subtle and others more prominent.

The band’s current lineup features longtime members Patrick Norman on bass and Liz Berlin on too many instruments to name. They also feature one of the best drummers in the world, Preach Freedom, and two excellent supporting guitarists, Colter Harper and Dirk Miller.

At the front of the stage is Glabicki, who decided a long time ago that he wanted to be a full-time musician.

“When I wrote my first song in college I thought that I could really make it as a musician and I dropped out of college my second semester and rented a studio that was in a dilapidated building. I didn’t tell my parents I dropped out, but I knew that music was what I wanted to do for a living.”

Since then the fortunate freaks have been living in ecstasy.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at