Dirigo and Comanchero Bring American Roots to Tammany Hall

Dirigo and Comanchero at Tammany Hall, Worcester, Friday, April 27, 2012

by Matt Robert

This article originally appeared in Worcester Magazine’s Thursday, April 26, 2012, issue. All photos courtesy of Dirigo and Comanchero.

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto? Let’s call the whole thing off.

Both Dirigo and Comanchero, who come together for a show on April 27 at Tammany Hall on Pleasant Street in Worcester, label themselves, though both also get a little squirmy about labels. Dirigo, who describe their music as “jamericana,” and Comanchero, who call theirs “nuevo Americana,” want listeners to be more open-minded.

“I hate the labels!” exclaims Luke “Patchen” Montgomery, guitarist for Dirigo, about the oft-maligned term “jam band.” “If you look at any old Led Zeppelin footage, they stretched stuff out and (their songs were) different from day to day. To me, that’s what a jam band is.”

“(Guitarist) Steve (Jones) is pretty heavily into the roots-Americana vibe,” adds Patchen. “We kind of combined those two sounds into jamericana. So, it’s like trying to do some country-flavored music, but also letting it stretch out. We didn’t want to do anything too Grateful Dead or Phish. We didn’t want to really just let it go completely out there into the ether. We kind of wanted it to have a basis in roots music – country music – but also let it kind of breathe a little bit.”

“The song is the essence of the whole thing,” Patchen adds. “I come from a background of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and Neil Young, for example, where the essence of the song is really the heart of the whole thing, and then stretching it out, letting it breathe and improvising on it is the secondary part,” he explains, citing The Stones’ “Let it Bleed” and “Sticky Fingers” as particular inspirations.

Dirigo and Comanchero share a love of roots music, in general, and American country music, in particular. So, while both bands enjoy instrumental, improvisational music, their approach is more Austin than San Francisco, more “Live at Folsom Prison” than “Live Dead.”

Dirigo, comprised of Patchen, bassist Erik Glockler, guitarist Steve Jones, and drummer Russ Lawton, know of what they speak. Dirigo features members of the seminal Burlington, Vt., jam band Strangefolk; Phish guitar guru, Trey Anastasio’s, touring band; and wellknown Maine folk/Americana band, The Boneheads. The band grew organically from post-Strangefolk-show acoustic jams, taking a life of its own as an acoustic duet (much like Strangefolk’s own early-’90s UVM origins), and by 2004, included drums and bass, adding the current band name in 2010.“It’s a good old rock ’n’ roll show,” says Patchen. “(We’re) just having a good time and having fun. We’ll definitely stretch things out and have a good time, for sure, and jam out,” he says about the Tammany show. “We really just want to have everybody dancing and having a good time – just enjoying the music.”

Sam Margolis, of Waltham’s, Comanchero, says that their mission is similar: “When I played lacrosse in college, we had a saying before every game: ‘Play loose, have fun, and leave it all on the field.’ I think we strive to create a vibe that is contagious for our audience. At the end of the day, we want to give our fans a new experience that’s entertaining, provocative and engaging.”

Comanchero’s live show, like Dirigo’s, is high-energy, tight and varied. “Songs like ‘One Foot in The Grave,’ ‘Jimmy Carter’ and ‘Fall in Line,’” says Margolis, citing three up-tempo, catholically country tunes from their 2011 release, “The Undeserved,” “get our crowds dancing. I think our Americana and roots influences shine through with these new tunes, but we still like to have fun sprinkling in other genres we dig, like reggae, Latin, and jam.”

Comanchero, made up of brothers Greg Moon (vocals, drums) and Bob Moon (vocals, guitar), Andrew Kramer (bass), Sam Margolis (vocals, guitar), and Jim Levin (percussion), came together in 2003, and have since released three CDs. The most recent, 2011’s “The Undeserved,” has received great reviews (see accompanying CD review) in a number of high-profile American and U.K. publications and paved the way for a recent gig with Ronnie Earl at the Regent Theatre, and spots this summer at the 2012 Harpoonfest, in Boston, and opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash in New Hampshire.

Of the April 27 show, Margolis says, “I can’t wait to play Worcester with Dirigo. This will be our fourth show playing with them and they tear down the house at every show. They’re amazingly talented musicians and can captivate their audience until the last note is played.” So, call it what you want. This Tammany show will unquestionably feature two road-tested, dynamic live acts with a taste for good old songs.

And there might just be a little jamming, too.

Dirigo and Comanchero, Friday, April 27, 2012. Tammany Hall, 43 Pleasant St., Worcester. dirigomusic.com, comancheromusic.com, tammanyhalllive.com.

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