By: Logan Podbielski
There's a band out there that not only us here at The Untz, but the nation as a whole, is taking note of more and more with each subsequent set. Greener Grounds is the name of the group and let me just say, they jam.
The Denver-based five-piece is comprised of Joe Shur (lead guitar), Mathew Buelt (rhythm guitar), Roland Hansen (keys/synth), Jay Rieder (bass), and AJ Gillman (drums). They have taken on a number of influences which include, but are not limited to, Lotus, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, and Phish, amongst others. Their similarities do not just revolve around those sounds, though. The way these guys perform and produce their music also correlates with what is to be expected of a jam band these days, as they not only have studio albums but also live show recordings that are aurally mastered and provided to the public.
Their draw, just like many of their fellow jam bands, is not necessarily with how many songs they produce, but rather how many original variations they have of each song available through the aforementioned live recordings. Alongside that appeal comes a mastery of each instrument by each member that allows them to play not only their own songs, but others as well that really adds an improvisational touch to their shows.
This is most dominantly portrayed in their Resonance Music and Arts Festival recording from September that they released this past fall. Their most recent release, though, is yet another live recording from their show opening up for SCI member Kyle Hollingsworth at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, CO on January 23rd, and one listen will validate all that I have claimed above.
The first five songs are from their most recent studio EP, Photosynthesis. "Resonate" kicks off the show and immediately (and continually from that point) the listener is absorbed by the guitar as Shur slays almost the entire track. The other most notable aspect of not only this song but all of their music is the synthesizer work by Roland Hansen. As he twists and turns the nobs on the Nord the audience gets immersed in the psychedelic sound that has become the staple of jam band concerts over the years, bridging the gap between heavy instrumentals of age old rock n roll and the captivating aesthetic of the modern electronic music scene. After listening to the second track "Neptune," I would be wrong to say that there is a dominant instrument. Although guided by a hypnotic piano and guitar riff, every member offers something to this song resulting in an explosion of sound sure to engulf any crowd in pure energy.
The next two offerings, "Pulsar" and "Anaglyph" really showcase Hansen’s skill as a pianist. "Pulsar" is almost entirely an entrancing synthesizer solo that’ll send the listener straight out of their shoes and into space as the beat hops, skips, and jumps all over the scales. This song specifically is where I hear the most similarities between Greener Grounds and synth kings STS9. "Anaglyph" focuses more on the wonderful marriage Greener Grounds has between keyboard and guitar. The guitar takes the lead but is soon accompanied by all members and instruments. I would best describe this song as a layer of solos, each time one is introduced it fades into a hypnotic beat and a new instrument enters your ears. This is best heard around the one-minute mark where a high-note organ solo gets overpowered by a guitar solo yet you can still hear Hansen’s beat in the background. Somehow all the aspects of this song come but do not go. They simply trade who is in charge of the groove.
"Clairvoyance" is the last song off of their Photosynthesis EP they play at this particular show. This is a song that I believe encompasses Greener Ground’s vision of creating an uplifting and adventurous sound that will not only have the listener on a journey, but will also have them never wanting it to end. The track features insane keyboard and guitar work as usual but damn do they really go in on this one. Each solo respectively had me head banging and dancing all around the room.
The last three selections, "Sun Tan Snow Day," "Brainwash," and "Golden Years" have not been mastered in the studio and released as official songs, but they have been playing these three jams live for just under a year now based on their released live recordings. "Sun Tan Snow Day" is an 11-minute journey fueled by several instruments that really helps one see how far these guys can take their sound if they continue these trends. This is a truly epic song that will have you playing air guitar, shadow drums, and dancing around all at the same time. "Brainwash" is an interesting song that starts off with low octave notes from all instruments before spending the back half of the song on the lower end of Shur’s guitar neck.
The final song, "Golden Years" is a David Bowie tribute featuring Matty Buelt on lead vocals. They definitely do the recently departed legend justice with an impressive keyboard solo and a not too shabby vocal rendition of Bowie’s tune by “Matty Bee.” Given the timing of this show and Bowie’s death I am sure this was an epic, if not bittersweet, way to end the show.
After listening to this album I could not be more eager to catch these guys live, as I have been for awhile, and I can almost guarantee the same will happen to you. If this is the case, they have scheduled shows all over the US until mid May before closing out their scheduled performances in Mariposa, CA in early June at our very own The Untz Festival and we could not be prouder or more excited to say that. In fact, last night the crew was in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory, and tonight hits Pacific Standard in New Haven, Connecticut before heading to Bridgeport for the show tomorrow night at The Acoustic. Then it's onto The Spot Underground in Providence, RI and Electric Haze in Worcester, MA on Saturday and Sunday. So again if you need some crazy good live instruments in your life check out these festival gods as soon as you can.
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