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Travelin' tunes

Road trip picks from those who know


Chances are you're facing some serious driving time this holiday season. That means you're going to need a soundtrack for the trek over the pass and through woods to visit, or maybe escape, your family. We've collected some suggestions on how to stock your iPod with worthy travelin' tunes from the folks who know best-locally-based touring musicians.

The International Playboys

"At the start of every tour-this sounds cheesy, but it's true-we always listen to 'On the Road Again,'" confesses frontman Colin Hickey. "It's something we've done since our very first tour."

Missoula's pre-eminent rock stars last hit the road in March and filled one iPod with over 5,000 songs, highlighted by "a whole lotta Led Zepplin, ZZ Top and Judas Priest." Hickey also contributed a fair amount of old-school gangsta rap, from N.W.A. to Eazy E. "We don't usually put on entire albums," Hickey explains. "It's more of the best songs from a little bit of everybody."

The variety helps the band play two games to pass the time-a version of "Name That Tune" with iPod's switched to "random" and "The Band Name Game." With the latter, the Playboys go around the van ticking off band names, with each successive name having to start with the last letter of the previous. Says Hickey: "Whoever follows 'Styx' is usually screwed."

Signal Path

When the local jam band isn't jamming separately on individual iPods, it splits the van's playlist into daytime and nighttime sessions. During the day Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and The Last Concert Tour share time with Outkast's Aquemini and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Another favorite is an anthology of Johnny Cash tunes-percussionist Damon Metzner says, "because of the stories, it's like a book on tape."

At night Signal Path gets more eccentric: London DJ and drummer LTJ Bukem, psychedelic trance band Juno Reactor and Bjork's Post and Vespertine.

Broken Valley Roadshow

This hard-working bluegrass sextet travels often on the Northwest festival circuit, and has recently toured the state doing educational outreach programs in elementary, middle and high schools. With all that driving, there's the need for plenty of music on the stereo.

"There's only so much bluegrass you can do," says mandolin player Nathan Biehl. "We try to vary it as much as we can."

Unanimous band favorites are Jack Straw's Live at the White Eagle ("It's fast, upbeat, testosterone-driven bluegrass," says Nathan) and anything by Open Road. A different taste comes from Beachwood Sparks, a northwest band with a '70s mellow-rock flavor.

With six members, BVR is often forced to take two cars on road trips, and usually the three guys and three gals end up splitting along gender lines.

"When it's just the guys we tend to break out Wilco, Fruit Bats and The Books' Lemon of Pink," says Nathan.

The girls, according to Nathan's sister Angie, rely on live recordings of Gillian Welch, John Hartford and whatever eclectic mix guitarist Caroline Keys (an Indy contributor) has put together. Angie is the one who tests the patience of her fellow passengers: for example, she recently introduced a CD from Broadway's percussion-based marching band show called Blast!


This Missoula bar band, which has been together in some form or other for the better part of a dozen years, usually travels in two vehicles fueled by vastly different soundtracks. "I wouldn't say it's butt rock," says bassist Mike Johns of one van's music, "but more like the '70s and '80s rock-the old stuff." Pressed for examples, he cites Whitesnake's Slide It In, Metallica's One and "anything by Journey."

In Johns' rig, on the other hand, passengers are "stuck listening to jazz and funk," mostly whatever Johns, a local public school music teacher, has decided to "cop the vibe of." His favorites include Bela Fleck's Live Art as well as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bootsy Collins sneak in, says Johns, "to provide the rider a break."

This is a Process of a Still Life

During its most recent national tour in August and September, the band swung through drummer Baine Craft's hometown in Mississippi. Since the van had only a tape player (it took some time before the guys realized they could buy an adapter to play CDs), the discovery of Craft's childhood tape collection was a mid-tour savior.

"The highlight for everybody was, without a doubt, Guns n' Roses' Appetite for Destruction," says bassist Jason Ward.

In addition, Craft's stash included Metallica's debut album, Kill 'em All, and old Cypress Hill, The Police and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Once the band rigged a CD player to the cassette deck, they had to resort to letting the driver choose what got played when. Ward, for instance, preferred adrenaline-filled Superdrag while Craft pulled for the moodier musings of Elliott Smith. "But when in doubt we always went back to G-n-R," says Ward.


The venerable locals' playlist includes, according to keyboardist Chris Bacon, Ween's The Mollusk, David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World, and Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip. But guitarist Shane Hickey tells a different story about the Volumen's road trip soundtrack: "It's mostly the sound of wind," Shane says, because their transport vehicle, an ambulance, has no air conditioning and the windows are almost always open. Plus, the only working speakers are on the left side and those are blown out anyway.

When music does get through, Shane says it's mostly "Cheap Trick cranked to ear-splitting volume." More often, he says, the Volumen just talk, which is a good thing since "we're all going deaf anyway."


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