The Aggie Theatre - January 16 Cervantes Other Side - January 17
By Timothy Dwenger
Some things in life really do come full circle and Scott Rednor, owner and musical director of Vail’s Shakedown Bar, is currently experiencing that old adage first hand. In the ’90s Rednor was a driving force behind the band Dear Liza who made a mark on the burgeoning jam band scene alongside groups like The Spin Doctors, Rusted Root, and Blues Traveler. Dear Liza toured with Blues Traveler and even played several H.O.R.D.E. festival dates in the late ’90s and along the way Rednor became friends with Blues Traveler frontman John Popper. It’s a friendship that continues to this day and blossomed creatively when Rednor invited the harmonica virtuoso to sit in with a new band he was starting in Vail. The band became Brothers Keeper and Popper is now a regular fixture with the project.
When The Marquee recently caught up with the pair, the brotherly bond they share was immediately clear as they playfully sparred with each other and finished each other’s sentences frequently during the conversation. They didn’t know one another at the time, but they attended high school just miles apart in New Jersey — though, as Rednor was quick to point out, “Popper is much older than I am” — and both relocated to New York City to pursue music careers. Both men have since left the East Coast in search of greener pastures with Rednor landing in Colorado and Popper in Washington State.
“I left the East Coast in 2009 and moved out here” said Rednor as he described how he formed the nucleus of Brothers Keeper. “I played a couple of years out here at places like The Red Lion and got tired of the acoustic thing and then found Michael Jude (bass) and John Michel (drums). They’ve played with John Oates for 17 years and I was looking for a rhythm section. When I found those guys, it was love at first sight.”
Around the same time Rednor was opening Shakedown Bar, so the trio had the opportunity to become the house band and they rapidly gained a devoted following in the Vail Valley with their weekly gigs. When the idea came for a “Brothers Keeper Featuring:” series of shows, Rednor reached out to Popper, and another relocated New Yorker, Jono Manson, and a new chapter for the young band began.
“I think we are all misfits from New York,” joked Popper before turning serious. “Michael Jude and Jon Michel were both in New York when we were much younger and they were doing the professional session-guy thing. When you’ve got my age group and Scott’s age group you’ve got a lot of appreciations of the same energy that we were all after. It’s almost like three little generations of bands that came out of New York.”
This shared history provides a solid foundation for the band to build on both on stage and in the studio as the critical acclaim for their shows and their debut record, Todd Meadows, proves. “I think that’s what creates a lot of the consistency in the music and in all of us as players,” said Rednor. “It also allowed us to go write a whole album together in a nice collaborative effort. If we didn’t have the direct lineage it wouldn’t have worked as smoothly.”
Though Popper and fellow “featured” member of Brothers Keeper, Manson, weren’t around in the beginning as the band cut their teeth as the house band at Shakedown, he admits he was blown away when he was first exposed to the trio’s material. “When Jono and I came in that first time and saw how strong their material was it really felt familiar,” Popper said. “It had the same craftsmanship and sensibilities of songwriting that came from that scene that we all came from. We felt kindred.”
After bonding over those initial shows, the quintet decided to take this kindred spirit to the hills of Santa Fe, New Mexico where they were able to hunker down and write what would become a truly collaborative album. “We rented a beautiful house up on the hill in Santa Fe and we went there for two weeks, just the five of us. We all opened up our little drawers full of parts of songs or whole songs or whatever and packed them up and went down there and presented them to one another and round-tabled the lyrics,” remembered Rednor. “There was one song in particular, ‘If Only For A While,’ that I’d had since the late ’90s and John just sat there and poked at me and poked at me and poked at me until he pulled the chorus out of me.”
Now that the album is out and the band is touring in support of it, it is Rednor’s turn to pull something out of Popper. “Being a sideman isn’t an arena that John has explored that much and he’s playing a lot of rhythm harmonica which is killing,” said Rednor. “I’ve been listening to Blues Traveler for years but never really got to hear this side of him because, with us, he’s playing a role in the composition rather than pulling the weight.”
Popper, for his part, is having a blast playing with this project but after the January run of shows with Brothers Keeper he’ll turn his attention back toward Blues Traveler as they have a new album coming out in late March. Though Traveler will be touring hard in support of the record, Popper was adamant that he would remain as much a part of Brothers Keeper as his schedule allows. “The great thing about touring is that you always meet each other upstream somewhere,” Popper said.
Brothers Keeper The Aggie Theatre - January 16 Cervantes Other Side - January 17
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