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Published: 2010/11/11
by Dan Berthiaume

Jamband Alums Now Playing In The Brand

Steve Rowen today

Rowen grew up in the 1980s and 90s and didn’t have to worry about draft deferments, but as someone who played in college jambands for four years and wistfully listed to tales from a friend who had left school to perform full time in jamband Dear Liza, he had no hesitation when asked to fill in as Dear Liza’s vocalist/lead guitarist for a two-week tour right after graduating from the University of Maine in the late ‘90s.

“I got the call on a Sunday, auditioned that Monday and was in a van driving across the country Thursday,” says Rowen. Two weeks turned into two-and-a-half years of playing 300 dates a year, opening for acts such as Blues Traveler and earning a spot on the 1998 HORDE Tour that also featured Ben Harper and Smashing Pumpkins. When the group disbanded shortly following their good friend Bobby Sheehan’s untimely death in 2000, Rowen also decided to enter the “real” world, joining a dotcom start-up specializing in developing software for musicians.

Rowen and Kilcourse both progressed with their IT careers, Kilcourse becoming the CIO of a major West Coast drugstore chain and Rowen becoming editor of a technology trade publication where his path crossed with Kilcourse’s. Quickly bonding over their shared love of music and performing history, the two decided to go into business together in 2007 with the founding of RSR.

Both have also continued their musical careers on a part-time basis – Kilcourse released three albums with country crossovers Slim Chance and the Fabulous Questionnaires in the 1990s and just released an album with psychedelic blues rockers The Guilty Saints. Rowen is currently recording a solo album and is also involved in a friend’s snare drum distribution business.

In addition to similarities in the creative process, Kilcourse and Rowen see some other similarities between the jam band and IT consultant lifestyles. Rowen notes that both Dear Liza and RSR provide the experience of operating a small business.

“There’s nothing I come across that I can’t tie back to a lesson learned on the road, like how to develop a market presence without over-saturating,” he states.

“I love the moment everyone is plugged into the same power source,” adds Kilcourse.
“Working in IT, you can achieve the same high find the same place and hit the same level of communication, it’s an awesome feeling.”

Of course, working in the “straight” world does offer some advantages over the unpredictable life a touring musician. “We were lean, mean, rock n roll machines, but we were starving,” says Kilcourse. “As a touring musician I’ve never worked so hard for so little; we worked for free or damned near close. Anyone who believes the life of a touring musician is like the movie Almost Famous is engaging in fantasy.”

As examples of this hand-to-mouth existence, Kilcourse recalls “raiding” supermarket produce sections and “boiling the crud” off his bass strings because he couldn’t afford new ones.

Rowen closes the conversation by offering perhaps the definitive statement on how life as a consultant differs from life as a rocker. “I still go on road a lot, but go to bed and wake up earlier, and also get a hotel room to myself,” Rowen comments. “I miss the van and the incredible experiences I had driving 100,000 miles a year, but I don’t miss the smell.”

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