Even jaded, achingly cool hipsters have to concede that the Erica Brown Band rocks. Lacking a Scandinavian dance-punk pedigree can be a pitfall these days to the affectedly disheveled, iPodded masses, but EBB kicks out music to inspire nearly anyone: gloriously hooky and stirring blues-rock that, as Brown says, "surprises the hell out of people."
The Denver-based quintet has been cranking out well-crafted blues since 1998. Behind the laser-guided, honeyed dynamite of Erica Brown's voice, Rich Sallee (bass), Jim Ayers (keyboard and Hammond organ), Scotty Rivera (drums) and newcomer Tony Luke (guitar) share vocal duties while throwing down explosive and genuinely inventive arrangements. A favorite in Denver for years, the group is enjoying a growth of popularity in the Springs as well. Its opening slot for B.B. King at the Pikes Peak Center in 2004 has become the stuff of local legend, and a headlining appearance at last September's Hillside Gardens Blues Festival helped bolster its local reputation.
EBB's latest album, Rough Cut Stone, is a sparkling, muscular vehicle of the group's creativity. Forgoing simple 1-4-5 riffs and ego-stroking harmonica filler to avoid reworking the same old blues song, the band instead channels tight, provocative blues-rock and R&B with enough lan to make you think you've been missing out on something. Kicked off by the searing "I Spent a Month There One Night," the album showcases the band's obvious strengths, from former guitarist Bob Yeazel's effortless and startling guitar work to the somber "Bring Back the Quarters," a lesson in soulful, heartbreaking vibrato control from which American Idol wanna-bes clearly could learn.
"It's got to keep your interest," Brown says. "If you've got to play the songs every night, they better be good ones."
But EBB is known as much for its incendiary and engaging live show as for its well-earned chops.
"If someone's going to pay good money to come see you, give 'em a hell of a show," Brown says. "If you do it and do it with sincerity, people will respond. What it is our job to do is to take anybody out of their existence for a minute -- forget about the grocery list and that the dog peed on the carpet, or that you're getting a divorce -- and take you to a completely different place, a better place, and send you home with a little bit of that.
"'Puff [the Magic Dragon]' is the first song that made me cry," she says. "It's a great example of the power of a song to move you. It doesn't have to be complicated. It's just got to get you where you live. 'Amazing Grace' is the same way. The person singing is ecstatic about their salvation. That's how we try to write."
On Friday, June 3, EBB will be waxing ecstatic with the Springs' own That Band as part of the Pikes Peak Blues Community's summer schedule.
"They've constantly got it going out there, doing creative things," Brown says of the PPBC. "The community in Colorado Springs at large has really gotten us. It's a beautiful thing."
-- Aaron Retka
Erica Brown Band with guests
Classics, 5943 Delmonico Dr.
Friday, June 3, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10, call 260-7057 or visit ericabrownband.com for more.