The Cabooze is a regular hangout for the jamband/hippie-rock set, so the groove-rock of the John Popper Project Featuring DJ Logic should've been an easy sell. Instead, the room was only fifty or sixty strong for the opener, local blues-funk singer and beatboxer Heatbox, and only maybe 200 for the headliner. My guess is the show was booked late (announced on July 16) and wasn't publicized enough.
Every time I go to the Boozer (which, granted, isn't that often), the parking lot is packed and I have to spend five or ten minutes searching for a spot on the street that won't get me towed. Not so last night. I pulled up fifteen minutes before the scheduled showtime and the lot was less than half full—a welcome occurrence as a driver, a bad omen as a concertgoer.
The small but appreciative crowd was a mix of thirty- and forty-somethings with a palpable affinity for Blues Traveler, along with the bar's regular twenty-something pierced and dreadlocked crew.
Last night's gig was part of a tour to support the JPP's 2006 debut self-titled CD, which was released on Relix Records, an offshoot of longstanding jamband rag Relix.
Though Blues Traveler and DJ Logic are currently on nationwide tours, BT's frontman (Popper) and six-string bass player (Tad Kinchla) and Logic have all worked in some tour dates for this side project. Mosaic's Marcus Bleecker joins on drums.
Both the strength and weakness of this group is that Popper's vocals and harmonica-playing style are so distinctive. Even though each player's instrumentation was tight independently, they didn't always hit their mark as a group. Too often the bass, drums, and turntables would be totally in sync and creating a groove, when all of a sudden Popper's vocals or harmonica would blast through the crescendo his band had been building.
After that, it was a Blues Traveler concert.
These guys are experts at funky, bluesy, groove-rock. However, side projects need to be more than just the stuff you're not doing in your primary band. Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke's vocals are entirely different when he does his solo work. A big part of the success with his The Eraser CD was the fact that it didn't sound like a Radiohead remix. Unfortunately, Popper's vocal range and energy in the JPP is identical to his work in BT. Likewise, his harmonica licks were too close to BT's, making the whole enterprise sound like a musical retread.
That said, Popper found a more complementary rhythm mid-set. The group drew its loudest cheers when it did a fun cover of a song I'd never heard live: A3's theme song to The Sopranos, "Woke Up This Morning," which segued into Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
Though JPP isn't as harmonica- or vocals-driven as BT, focusing more on the jams than the melodies, the most distinguishing difference between the two bands is DJ Logic's contribution. His beats seemed to lead the band's rhythm more than the drums or bass lines, though his scratches were often overpowered by Popper. The band's name, the John Popper Project Featuring DJ Logic, is crafted to be true to its sound, and clearly to its hierarchy.