The Congress

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The Congress finds touring success early in career and hits festival circuit

:: The Congress ::
:: Old South Pearl Street Festival :: July 9 ::
:: Whistler’s Café :: July 22 ::

By Jeffrey V. Smith

When Scott Lane moved from Virginia to Colorado he intended to start over with a “blank slate.” What he started is one of Colorado’s most dynamic rock acts — The Congress.

When the Richmond musician moved to Denver with his girlfriend in 2008, he didn’t know anyone in town and had never played music for a living. “At the time, I figured that I was going to try and be on the business side of things,” Lane told The Marquee in a recent interview.

Before moving to Colorado, Lane ran an open jam at the Richmond bar Emilio’s with guitarist Jonathon Meadows, who he knew from the band The Grove, a “deep improvisational” act from Virginia. “We started writing some songs together and eventually we took them to the studio,” Lane said.

After moving, he flew in from Denver during holidays, got together with a group of friends and put down tracks. “During those sessions, we would call in a handful of different people to play on the recordings,” he said. It was from those recording sessions that the name The Congress was born.

Back in Denver, Lane started picking up gigs around town on guitar, and eventually touring the northwest. “I got the bug to write and perform,” he said. “I met all sorts of great people in Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and gained an understanding for booking tours and living as a musician. I found out very quickly that there was ample opportunity to play a lot of music.”

Then, for more than a year, Lane attempted to get Meadows to move to Colorado to join him in a band. “He wouldn’t have it for a long time,” Lane said. “Richmond is an amazing city that is incredibly hard to leave. It has an unfairly high amount of musical talent, but there isn’t a highly interested audience like there is in Colorado. Jonathan didn’t have a touring band or music career going on, so he figured he’d give it a shot after a while.”

In true rock and roll fashion, Meadows bought a one-way ticket to Denver, hopped on the plane with his guitar and a backpack of clothes and started a new life out West. “We played bar gigs for a few weeks, and then he hitched a ride to California with our good friends from Virginia and Mississippi,” Lane explained. “He considered staying out there, but after about a week he came back and lived on my couch for seven months, and we started getting serious about the project.”

The two guitarists soon added bassist Dwight Thompson to the band, although they recently lost his talents on tour due to a recent new addition to Thompson’s family. The bassist plays Colorado shows between tours, but on the road, the band has yet another Richmond musician join them: Todd Herrington, bassist for Virginia’s Modern Groove Syndicate and the DJ Williams Projekt.

In February, drummer Mark Levy, who attended the New England Conservatory for percussion and used to drum with Frogs Gone Fishin’, was added to the mix following in the footsteps of original member Damon Scott.

“Playing with Todd and Mark is great,” Lane said. “Mark is completely open minded when it comes to taking the music in different directions from night to night, and is an amazingly intense player when it comes to rocking out. Todd is bringing a really familiar bass pocket from Richmond that is breathing a lot of fresh air into the music. We have been wiping the slate clean on a lot of older tunes, and have been able to focus on songwriting and structure at the same time that we can be experimental and spontaneous in a live environment.”

According to Lane, The Congress is quite simply a rock and roll band with influences that include “virtually any rock band from the ‘60s and ‘70s.” The band’s bio, however, calls it a blend of “feel-good American music and authentic Southern R&B.”

Lane and Meadows are the act’s principal songwriters and have written songs alone, with each other, with other people, and “pretty much any way it can come.” The most important thing to Lane, however, is that the process is natural and comes without forcing it. “Sometimes that means it takes me six months to write a song, and sometimes it means I crank out a couple in a day,” he said.

One element of The Congress’ music immediately evident to anyone who sees its live set is the heavy use of improvisation within the compositions. “It encompasses the entirety of our creative process sometimes,” Lane said. “Parts of songs are written by tossing a tune into the mix and seeing what happens. Some of those things end up becoming permanent parts; some of them are just ‘what happened.’ There’s something amazing about building an unwritten crescendo, taking things into outer space, or just creating a musical mood from what we are projecting as people. I think structure and songwriting is incredibly important, but playing things the same way every night doesn’t appeal to me as much.”

The band has met with reasonable success after only about a year of touring. In fact, even with its limited experience on the road, the band was invited to play Wakarusa, High Sierra, Tall Tree Lake, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Groovefest, Ocean Beach Street Fair and other music festivals this summer.

Lane says he is “really happy” with where the band is going, but that there’s always something to do next. “I think we’re really young and have a long road ahead of us. As long as we keep writing, playing and recording new music, I’ll be happy with where we are… We just write the best songs we can,” Lane said, “and try to play the best balls-to-the-wall rock and roll show we can.”

:: The Congress ::

:: Old South Pearl Street Festival :: July 9 ::

:: Whistler’s Café :: July 22 ::

 

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