A new band in town

Posted: Thursday, December 09, 2010

W hispers and rumors: things we all grow accustomed to hearing and passing on, living in such a small town. Having heard a couple of particularly good ones this summer about a new band in Juneau, I've been waiting for something tenable to check out.

Now, certainly it's not uncommon for rock groups to behave with the utmost security when preparing a new release or a debut performance, but seriously, I've been hearing hype about this new band for the last six months, and as is to be expected, I've been chomping at the bit to review them. Finally, they played a show that I was able to catch, and Voila! Here's the article. So without further ado, I am pleased to present to you Juneau's newest original hard rock band, Clevermore.

"You all stoked to see Agent Orange? Well, too bad!'Cause you've got to listen to us first!" shouted lead singer Lee Grierson. And with that, Clevermore declared themselves to the world as a true rock and roll band of the original order.

Long story short, these guys rock! They graced the stage at Marlinitini's as the openers for Agent Orange last month, but based on the performance that I saw, they've got the potential to be headlining larger stages in Anchorage, Seattle and beyond within the next year or so if they play their cards right.

To be certain, the star of the show is definitely frontman Lee Grierson. His stage presence and energy combines the emotional delivery of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and the late Layne Staley, of Alice and Chains fame, with the overt sexuality of '70s rock. A heady mix, to say the least. He's a frontman's frontman: all during the concert, he was on fire, completely animated and reaching out to the audience to encourage their antics, at one point even joining the pit that formed during the latter half of their set.

But let the band not be eclipsed by the singer- the pounding, throbbing rhythm section composed of Regan O'Toole on the bass and John Zeman on the drums is a force to be reckoned with as well. Zeman in particular has a good feel for what I like to term the "grammar" of drumming. All through their set, he gave the songs their forward momentum, transitioning from groove to groove with tasty fills in between. O'Toole, meanwhile, helped keep the whole group glued together, which, in my humble opinion, is exactly what bass players are for. However, he also stepped up and led a song about halfway through the set, showcasing the hardcore side of the band, which definitely added to the set - substitution and instrument-switching is something that most bands don't do enough of, and it makes it all the more interesting when they do.

And of course, let me not neglect Jake Soboleff, the sole guitar player of the ensemble. He wasn't the flashiest guitarist that I'd ever seen, eschewing the wanky, neck-strangling antics of younger, brasher players for a muscular, riff-driven sound that provided just the right amount of punch in just the right places. Particularly on the song "Chemical Sun," he balanced well between textural inflection and pure riff rock energy, supporting the band while still staking out his own sonic territory.

So you want to check these cats out now? Well, let me hit you with another rumor: I've heard that there may be Battle of the Bands hosted in January or February of the coming year, and if there is to be, I think it can be reasonably expected that Clevermore will make an appearance. If that seems like too long to wait, however, there are two videos that I shot of their performance at Marlintini's now available online at www.youtube.com/clevermoremusic.

As for any other rumors that may be circulating through the musical community downtown, you'll just have to wait until the next column to find out. Be well, friends! See you soon.

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