herbie w/Sprinter Cat
Dance the night away with Central PA’s groovtastic herbie.
May 23, 2014 · 8:00pm
Get ready to dance!
“Imagine if King Crimson, Traffic and Frank Zappa had dinner and drinks with Phish and moe., and that still wouldn’t quite cover what herbie is.” – Shinbone Magazine (2008)
Whatever herbie is, you can hear what the band is all about with its brand new album, simply titled herbie. Released on December 14, 2013, the eponymous album is the group’s third full-length release (the first since 2008’s live album, Left of Center) and includes 13 original songs written, arranged, performed, and recorded by the band.
So, what can you expect?
herbie (the album) boasts a seemingly never-ending fusion of styles and moods. Everything from groove pop and old school funk to prog rock, reggae, and epic instrumental passages is represented. There’s even the gospel-tinged “Call Your Own” featuring inspired organ work by newest member Aaron Trasatt (who officially joined the band in 2014).
Over the course of thirteen tracks and almost eighty minutes of music, the band effortlessly melds all of these styles intoits own characteristic high-energy jam-rock. The album was brilliantly engineered, mixed, mastered and produced by Mike Washkevich of MDW Productions in Harrisburg, PA, who was instrumental in pushing the band to its limits in the studio. The new album is truly representative of herbie’s diverse style, which is difficult to pin down since the band’s musical influences are many. Fly Magazine writes: “The song ‘White River Junction’ is part reggae, a dash of heavy metal with screaming double guitar harmonies and a section in 7/4 time signature… Imagine the polyphonic acrobatics of bands like The Police, Emerson Lake & Palmer or Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, and you can get an idea of the band’s musicality. They play tight with a penchant for complex arrangements and stylistic hybrids.”
What about the live show?
herbie’s live show is fun, energetic and diverse. Fly Magazine writes: “Within the constraints of an hour and a half set, herbie manages to evoke just about every music style one could possibly imagine. Anywhere from Edgar Winter to ELP, Phish to Rush, Sublime, Steely Dan and beyond, the band takes an encyclopedic trip down the past 30 years of good music.” It is typical for the band to mix original songs and cover tunes with stretched out improvisational passages and impromptu musical interludes. With that said, the band is truly in its element on stage and thrives off the fluctuation of energy between the band members and its audience.
Some background info on herbie…
The band assembled in 2000 on the campus of Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA, where guitarist Jay Baab andbassist Ben Eberts founded the band. By mid-2002, seasoned drummer Ffej Herb entered the picture and herbie beganto pick up steam on the Central PA scene, garnering tons of press and plenty of high profile shows at notable clubs such as The Chameleon and Dragonfly. The band even had a long stint at The Hardware Bar for Harrisburg Online’s popular“Twisted Tuesday” events. The band eventually found its home at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg, and continues to play the Abbey Bar regularly, including a decade-long string of successful holiday shows dubbed “A Very Herbie Xmas.”
Not sure what to make of the band, the public generally grouped herbie into the “jam band” scene. However, the band always felt it was more than that, and always strived to defy categorization. Shinbone Magazine wrote in 2008, “Sure, they’ve got the meandering flow of jam bands. But there’s also the soulful, bluesy feel of Motown, a touch of the staggered, muscular rhythm of hip-hop and the complex structure of prog rock. And that’s really the trick of the band.
They move effortlessly from one genre to another without it feeling in the least bit contrived or academic… They’re musical scholars, yes, but first and foremost, they’re musicians.” However, the jam band tag ultimately gave herbie some recognition when the band won back-to-back “Best Jam Band” at the Central PA Music Award ceremonies in 2006 and again in 2007 (the only two years the Awards were given).
In late 2006, herbie enlisted guitarist Andy Mowatt (also an LVC alumni) into the fold. With the addition of Andy came more intricate and complex melodies, as well as more of a “jam-centric” approach to not only the band’s songwriting, but also its live show. With the induction of Andy, herbie was able to blossom into an incredibly tight musical unit able to melt faces with its high-energy guitar rock and focused bass and drum grooves while simultaneously exploring the inner reaches of its own musical soul and sharing it with audiences everywhere.
Though the band is not quite as active as it once was, herbie still rehearses, writes, and performs regularly and plans to play “more than once a year,” says drummer Ffej Herb. “We’re really proud of our new album, so we want to share it with as many people as possible!” With the recent acquisition of Aaron Trasatt on keyboards and vocals to further enhance the band’s sound and take it into new directions, herbie will continue to create challenging, inspired music in 2014 and beyond.
Sprinter Cat is the result of cross country voyages and late night jam sessions. The band formed during a twenty hour psychedelic journey spent searching for Bison in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Al Smith provides the funky Hammond organ riffs and manipulates electronics while Ian James and Michael Sallemi (Teenage Mysticism) lay down heavy beats. When they’re not unleashing percussion breakdowns on unsuspecting audiences, this east coast trio can be found touring the US in numerous other bands, hiking in the Poconos, or hanging out in West Philly dives. Sprinter Cat has featured musicians like legendary percussionist G Calvin Weston (Ornette Coleman, John Medeski, Lounge Lizards), and trumpeter Mike Burton (Uptown). The band is tribal in nature, yet isn’t afraid of exploring the sounds of outer space or the dark side of King Tubby- influenced dub.