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New Groove

Published: 2002/09/24
by Bob Makin

Seth Yacovone Band

The Seth Yacovone Band returned from its rousing summer European tour to learn it has landed the opening slot on the Pork Tornado fall U.S. tour. The blazing, young Burlington, Vt. power trio — led by a 22-year-old guitar phenom — will be hitting the road for two weeks this fall with their fellow Vermonters, led by Phish drummer Jon Fishman.

"We are very excited to be opening for Pork Tornado and play in a bunch of new venues, cities and states," says Yacovone. "We’ll get to play to a lot of people who have never seen the band, which is always a fun challenge. I used to go see Pork Tornado back before they had ever practiced, and we’ve known all the guys in the band for years, so it should be a great time being on an interesting little traveling adventure with them."

This is not the first time members of Phish have rallied on the SYB’s behalf. Foremost among the unit’s legion of admirers is Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, who likes to make impromptu appearances on stage with the band and describes Seth as an "incredibly soulful and a natural talent, not to mention a great guy. I loved this guy from the first moment I heard him play."

European audiences heard the Seth Yacovone Band — also bassist Tom Coggio and drummer Steve Hadeka — play for four weeks during its overseas summer tour of festivals and clubs. It was the band’s second tour of Italy in less than a year.

"Italy was an amazing adventure that felt completely alien and completely common place every step of the way," says Yacovone. "I felt like I was truly alive and awake the entire month even though I was asleep most of the time. We met some great people and made some great friends. Our promoter over there, Carlo Carlini, quotes Bob Dylan all the time to let us know how things are going. So to use some Carlo/Bob speak, even though everything was broken (two van breakdowns) we persevered and made it through like a rolling stone."

The Seth Yacovone Band has been touring the East Coast all year behind its fourth CD, "Standing on the Sound," including a pair of sold-out shows at Tobacco Road in New York and an opening spot for former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts and his band, Great Southern. Many music lovers compare Yacovone to the late Duane Allman, whose work on the classic "Live at Fillmore East" was a "life-changing" experience for the young guitarist.

Yacovone took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his influences, plans and burgeoning success. For more info, visit

What’s your favorite thing about Standing on the Sound and how does it compare to your three previous albums?

I don’t know if I’m sure what my favorite thing about ‘Standing on the Sound’ is, but I it sounds more like ourselves than any of our previous CDs and it has a wider range of moods and styles as well. As a band, we were much more comfortable in the studio this time and we were able to actually ‘play’ music instead of ‘work’ music this time.

Which song from Standing on the Sound do you like to perform live most and why?

I’d say right now my favorite song to play live is ‘Sweat Sauce.’ I like playing the bouncy, happy shuffle part in the beginning, and I always enjoy singing the words. Then we go into the outro jam section and try to hang on. Steve and Tommy really know how to follow where I’m going and they really know how to push somewhere else when I’m stagnant. It’s fun to see how it comes up different every time. Also it is kind of a Latin groove at the end and I am not really able to play that stuff well so it adds an extra challenge.

What’s your fondest memory so far of the strange trip you’ve called your music career so far?

I don’t know if it is one memory. It’s more a blur of memories of the amazing times that the three of us have had, on stage and off. I just feel really grateful to be playing music that allows me to be a happier person than I would be if I didn’t.

How was Europe?

Europe was great and weird. To paraphrase Steve Martin, those people have a different word for everything. Its was really interesting to get to play music in Italy and Switzerland. It’s fun to see what people get out of the music when they don’t really know what you’re saying or what jamming is. I didn’t see much, if any, group improvisation or even much solo improvisation by other bands over there, and I didn’t feel like the crowd really knew that everything we were playing wasn’t a practiced written out thing. So they probably didn’t quite know what to make of it. They also sit and watch like it’s the ballet. That can make you uncomfortable, but they usually react strongly at the end of songs.

You’re very popular in Italy with two tours in less than a year. Why do you think that is?

I think that because the music scene in general is smaller over there. The real music junkies get so deep into it that they can’t wait to find new music that speaks to them. They are on the hunt and willing to buy independent releases by bands they’ve only heard of. Whereas over here, it feels like people only tend to buy albums by groups they know. If you’re lucky. I guess something we are doing works with the people who have bought the CDs over there. I’m not sure what it is though.

Are you originally from Winooski, Vt.? If not, where are you originally from and how did you end up in Vermont?

I am originally from Wolcott, Vt. Its a very small town about an hour northeast of Burlington. It has one general store, a post office and the state’s largest strange multi-brown building furniture store. My parents both moved with their families to Vermont in the ’60s and ’70s from Massachusetts. I am proud that our band is made up of 100 percent born and raised Vermonters.

Comment on how you’ve enjoyed jamming with Trey from Phish.

I’ve had a blast jamming with Trey the few times I’ve had the chance. Last February, he came down to Tribeca Blues in New York City and played for about two completely unrehearsed, unplanned hours with us. That was fun and interesting and had all the great moments and strange moments that should occur when caution is thrown to the wind and everyone just goes for it.

The entire Phish organization is very giving to the Vermont music community. They keep eyes and ears on what is happening around here, and they really have
consistently played with and worked with a lot of local musicians in a way that wouldn’t probably happen if they were a national, arena-filling rock band in another area. I don’t know for sure but I doubt if, say, Steven Tyler started a solo project, he would use all Boston-area musicians, but Trey’s solo group started out with nothing but Vermont-based musicians who were not widely know outside of Vermont. That is an amazing thing to do to give back to a community.

Like moe. jamming with Phish, your jamming with Trey helped increase your exposure and solidified your status within the jam band scene. Do you like being called a jam band? Why or why not?

I don’t know if we are a jam band. We jam a lot. We improvise a lot, but that’s what bands should do in my opinion. It shouldn’t be and isn’t genre specific. Is Ween a jam band? They play 18-minute versions of "Can’t Put My Finger On It." Is Miles Davis jam-band music? I love and am most moved by music created up until about 1973. Bands seemed to be able to concentrate on strong memorable songs and take them new places in concerts. Were these jam bands?

We are a rock band. Call it what you want. It’s all a mixed up mongrel anyway you look at it.

Jazz is a strong root of improvisational rock, but blues often is too. Comment on that, how there’s a lot of jamming in the blues and how that compares to jamming in jazz.

Well, blues has a lot of improvisation, but it tends to be one person improvising over a repeating simple chord progression at a time, while the rest of the band plays back up. With jazz everyone is playing everything differently every time. Of course, these are both generalizations and could be completely overturned. John Lee Hooker and Duke Ellington come to mind as complete reversals of what I just said.

Jazz for me tends to create more colorful and shifting moods, while blues tends to speak simpler and more direct. It’s all just expression. There isn’t much difference between anything if you look at it closely enough.

What’s your favorite thing about the blues and who’s your favorite blues musician and why?

My favorite thing about the blues is it allows intense personal expression to be released in a direct way. The line between great blues and good blues is so
thin that it helped me stop trying to play traditional blues and to try to play our own mixture of stuff.

I don’t have an absolute favorite blues musician, but I really really love Howlin’ Wolf. Stevie Ray Vaughan was the one who got me into it though.

It’s interesting to me that Duane Allman inspired both you and Derek Trucks at a very early age, enough so that you’d both have a great deal of success while still in your teens. You’ve played with Derek, as well as Gov’t Mule. Comment on that Allmans influence you share.

The Allman Brothers Band is one of my favorite bands of all time. Bar none. ‘Fillmore East’ was life-changing for me, as was seeing the Allman Brothers Band with Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes when I was 13 from the third row. That completely blew my mind. The way they mixed blues, jazz, country and rock ‘n’ roll is brilliant. Duane can sing as well as anyone on any instrument in my opinion. As for the Allmans influence Derek and I share, it’s a little different. Derek for one thing is in the band! He is a descendent of the family. I’m much, much, much further removed. Derek is a monster player, and I have a lot of respect for him and his band as musicians and as people. They are some of the nicest I’ve met in the music industry.

Given that you’re a power trio, are you also influenced by Cream and Hendrix?

Jimi Hendrix is my favorite musician. Cream, the Experience and Band of Gypsys are three of our favorite power trios. I think even if we were an eight-piece band with an accordion player and a DJ, we’d still be influenced by those bands.

What are you’re recording and touring plans for the next six months to a year?

We are going to be playing as much as we can and in the fall we are opening 11 shows for Pork Tornado. We might also go back to Italy in March. Hopefully we can start recording a new album in the fall. I have ton of new songs written; some we know and play live currently and some we haven’t yet transformed from bedroom songs into songs we can work and perform as a band. I’m certainly itching to get recording again.

What’s up with the acoustic duo and how does that compare to the trio sound and material wise?

I play with a friend of mine from Vermont named Brent Weaver. Its two acoustic guitars. He’s a great guitarist, and we really love playing off of each other. We play randomly throughout each year usually around 5 to 10 times a year. We mostly play covers by various people and a few songs I’ve written. It’s pretty different from the band and very casual. It is a nice change of pace from the loud power trio when it happens.

Bob Makin is a longtime contributor to He also writes for Gannett New Jersey, The Aquarian Weekly and Backstreets, among other publications. Bands can send him information at and material to P.O. Box 6600, Bridgewater, NJ 08807.

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