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New Groove

Published: 2002/10/23
by Mark Pantsari

Perpetual Groove

Ever get the feeling you’ve come across something special? Those who have seen the Savannah, Georgia quartet, Perpetual Groove, can surely attest to that feeling.
Perpetual Grooves roots trace back to the late Nineties where Brock Butler (23, guitar) and Adam Perry (24, bass) met while attending the Savannah College of Art and Design. But it wasnt until Matt McDonald (27, keyboards) and Albert Suttle (28, drums) joined the band in August of 2001 that Perpetual Groove fully began to take shape. And in just over a years time, Perpetual Groove, or PGroove as theyve been dubbed by fans, has been experiencing unparalleled success in their quick rise to the top of the burgeoning jam band movement in Georgia.
Perpetual Groove appeared in May at Atlantas Music Midtown Festivalthe largest street festival in the U.S.where they played on the same stage as the Disco Biscuits, Karl Densons Tiny Universe, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. A performance later that night at Jakes Roadhouse (Decatur, GA) saw Marc Brownstein and John Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits sat in with the band.
Music Midtown proved to be just one of the main catalysts behind PGrooves rise within the Georgia music scene. Theyve played some of the states top venues including the Variety Playhouse and the Cotton Club in Atlanta as well as Athens, Georgias pride and joy, the Georgia Theatre. Theyve gotten some great recognition and air play from Atlanta jam band patron, Jeff Dunham, who hosts a weekly jam band show on Atlantas Z 93 station. That relationship proved to be an integral part in getting Perpetual Groove on the line-up at this years Harvest Fest (Fairburn, GA), where the band played a late night set until 5AM that proved to the talk of the festival.
Along with the help of Jeff Dunham, Perpetual Groove has quickly amassed a legion of devoted fans throughout the Southeast as well as a close kinship with their Georgia musical brethren Moonshine Still (Macon, GA) and Skydog Gypsy (Columbus, GA).
Sitting back and thinking about where we are now compared to a couple of years ago, said bassist Adam Perry, it makes you really appreciate the people that help you out. We have a good selection of people around us who are trying to push us in the right direction.
Along with outside help, Perpetual Groove has attracted a tight knit organization of manager Ben Ferguson, sound engineer Tim Fallin, lighting director Jason Huffer, and website designer Mike Langone. Part of PGrooves quick rise has been due in part to their promotion strategy. The band passes out free CDs of recorded live shows at their gigs, which has the effect of feeding fresh-squeezed chum to a pool of ravenous sharks. Imprinted on each disc are upcoming tour dates and the encouragement for listeners to share the music.
Ben Ferguson has the focus and vision of where he wants to see it go, said Brock Butler. Whereas sometimes that was where Id be a little flighty and just be sitting there and strumming. Thats where the Internet and all this promotion came from. I totally dug his approach to promotions and we owe a lot to Ben. He had the whole idea of doing it you know? Like are we a bar band or are we really gonna sit down and do this thing?
Aside from the enthusiastic help from fans, management, crew, and friends/musicians, its Perpetual Grooves music that is at the center of it all. PGroove is a band capable of producing energy-packed, intricate compositions that echo classical, jazz, and rock structures tinged with elements of funk and electronic music. Just as some of their songs show off the bands penchant for writing complex changes and progressions, PGroove is just as capable of writing great lyrical songs with endearing melodies that find a way to stick inside your head and play on a continuous loop in the best possible way.
Its as natural as it should be, Butler said of the bands cohesion. Everyones got different ideas to bring to the table and sometimes our creative differences might be a little awkward but sometimes it leaves us with the best stuff. Its more natural than it is not but we all come from different musical collections in our own CD cases. And in the way weve all been taught were all pretty different actually but its all gelled together pretty naturally.
Brock Butlers crystalline tone is reminiscent of Jerry Garcia and Steve Kimock and is use of loops and effects pedals allows him to build all sorts of interesting textures. Butler also does not hide the fact that Paul Simon has also been of one of his greatest musical influences.
Paul Simon is at the top of the list. As far as his vibe and lyrics, its just so positive. And anytime I hear a song off Graceland it can potentially change my dayalmost always for the better. Those two influences have been life changing in recent years.
Paul Simon tunes like Graceland, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes, and I Know What I Know have become indelible fixtures on Perpetual Grooves setlists. The band even shows off it sense of humor by sometimes throwing in electro-funk covers of Michael Jacksons Thriller or the theme to TVs Knight Rider, or an occasional tease of theme of the video game Super Mario Bros. But nothing has quite the effect when Butler busts into his alter ego, B to the R-O, C to the Kizay. Complete with over-sized clock necklace, Butler leads PGroove on a Thug Jam that often includes teases on raps from Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, Ludacris, and just about any other rapper known for getting their bling on. And Butlers rhyming skills and overall thug prowess are enough to make you want to call Eminem Skittle.
Matt McDonalds work on the keyboards provides a great melodic compliment to Butlers guitar lines. His major influences run the gamut from Herbie Hancock to DJs to the Nine Inch Nails and the textures, notes, and sound emanating from his keyboard are evidence of that.
Being a keyboard player, I get the whole spectrum, McDonald said. I get to lay back and just count chords for a while, add textures with loops and what not, and also get play leads as well. I just try and keep the energy collectively and keep us cohesive as a unit and build the ups higher and the downs lower. I try to keep a keen sense of what everyone around me is doing and how I can best compliment that sound as a whole. Its the same way when a composer sits down to write a piece for a symphony, he has all those different textures to choose from. And having the keyboard and the loop working together allows me the chance to create different textures on top of each other and create a fuller sound as well.
Citing Jaco Pastorius, Chris Squire, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke as major bass influences, Adam Perrys approach to the bass is a fresh approach to an instrument that rarely gets much spotlight. Perry frequently adds supportive melodies to Butler and McDonald without ever failing to fall back into the groove with drummer Albert Suttle.
I try and be musical as a bass player, Perry said. Not just lay down the root notes but add an element underneath that can change the whole presentation of the song or the jam. Simple harmonies and melodies can create an uplifting emotion out of real simplistic combination. You try to get a to a point of technical prowess, and then you step back and look at things more simplistic. Its been a huge help and another influence compositionally for me.
Albert Suttles musical background gives an interesting spin to the PGroove story. He began playing the drums at age 12 and would later perfect his craft in the U.S. Army where 25 hours practice a week was mandatory. He wound up stationed at Fort Stewart just outside of Savannah along with McDonald (another former member of the Army) where the two would soon meet Perpetual Groove. Suttle sights Neil Peart, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich, Tito Puente as major influences and is the rhythmic force behind the dynamic sound of Perpetual Groove.
The whole jam band scene is opening up to my eyes right now, Suttle said. Im still kind of learning everything. Ive always wanted to be a musician without any boundaries. I recognized with Perpetual Groove that I could potentially do something musically. Its been tough at times because when youre just starting out you dont really have anything. You have to bust your ass and fortunately weve met a lot of great people. Its been blossoming, and its been a nice rolling ball that keeps getting bigger as it keeps rolling. You have all sorts of strange things happen and you just have to keep your focus on what it is you really want to do. A lot of what being in a band about is just survival as a group and thats such a hard thing sometimes. But if youre willing to do it, the rewards like weve been seeing can make it all worthwhile. Every now and then youre on the downswing and every now and then youre on the upswingand the upswing has just been excellent.
Early in 2002, Perpetual Groove signed with DBI Booking and have recently embarked on their first tour of the Midwest and will be venturing into new markets through the remainder of 2002 and 2003. The bands debut studio album, titled Sweet Oblivious Antidote, will be released sometime in late November and will feature 10 original tracks that showcase the instrumental prowess and lyrical genius of the band. The album will be released on Harmonized Records, a subsidiary of the Home Grown Music Network that is also home to Col. Bruce Hampton and the Codetalkers, the Motet, and Ten Ton Chicken.
The future looks bright for Perpetual Groove and the band is hoping that the audiences they play to in new markets walk away with the feeling that theyve just come across something special.
What were doing, McDonald explained, the biggest goal behind everythingevery show we play and everywhere we go, is to bring the good times and let the people forget about their troubles for a little bit. Some people call it the gospel, some people call it good times, some people call it good music. Whatever it is, we try to collectively bring the energy and vibe to a room and the audience.
Visit Perpetual Groove on-line at www.PGroove.com for sound clips, tour dates, message boards and much, much more information. See Perpetual Groove when they come to your neighborhood and Get a little soul rest for your head.
Mark Pantsari is a freelance writer living in Charleston, SC.

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