Bobby Lee Rodgers and The CodeTalkers don't just look good on stage, they look downright dapper.
The trio dresses in three-piece suits, with neckties expertly knotted. Two-thirds of The CodeTalkers have short hair an impressive percentage for a jam band. The frontman, Rodgers, talks with eloquence about both the roots of jazz and the trials of being a professional musician.
"Once, we got some fake blood and started acting like vampires on stage," Rodgers says. "We blew the sound guy's monitor with fake blood. He was mad as shit."
The CodeTalkers love what they do. They're never bored, since they use their downtime to write new music and conjure ideas to try and get away with on stage. They punctuate their shows with skits and whatever else they can think up en route to the venue.
Don't think that the shenanigans take away from their actual musicianship, though. Before leading The CodeTalkers, Rodgers spent five years as a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"I love education," he says. "I love to teach. But one day, I decided that I needed to get out there and do this now."
In 1999, Rodgers met up with legendary music surrealist Colonel Bruce Hampton, who provided guidance, another guitar and a bit of clout to get the band name out there.
"He helped us get through the doors and believe in the songs," Rodgers says.
Recently, Hampton stopped touring, to redirect the spotlight from him to the band.
The CodeTalkers' songs themselves don't rely on politics, girls or angst. When writing lyrics, Rodgers likes to keep it light and quirky. He's there to have fun, and wants to keep the songs in the same vein.
The hyper-enthusiastic professor in Rodgers comes out when he talks about making songs evolve through jamming.
"Jamming is an extension of the melody," he says. "We're talking about a topic. You need a reason to solo. Music is a language, and a lot of cats don't know that stuff."
Thus, The CodeTalkers don't make a set list, he says. Instead, they let the path of each concert shape itself on stage. The often-funky songs cross genres. They touch on electric blues, rock, a little pop and bluegrass, and have a bit of distortion from the Leslie speaker embedded in Rodgers' guitar. And, like any songs considered quality, they're rooted in jazz.
"I wanted to write music around the principles of jazz," Rodgers says. "We strive for that not that we're on that level. We just strive to be on that level."
The great thing about music, Rodgers says, is that you can always get better.
"When you're done," he says, "it's because you don't want to do it anymore."
That's something it's hard to imagine will ever happen to The CodeTalkers.
"One time," Rodgers says, laughing, "Tyler [Greenwell] chopped up his drum set with a sword!"
Bobby Lee Rodgers and The CodeTalkers
The Black Sheep,2106 E. Platte Ave.
Friday, April 20, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621 for more info.