From the roar of the crowd at the Smith Center Wednesday night, it was
clear the mostly GW audience hadn't seen a show as big as Blues Traveler
since the last time the band played here in 1995.
After a solid performance by opening act The Tragically Hip, a Canadian
version of REM, John Popper and company pumped up the crowd of about 2,000
with their own unique sound and stage antics.
Opening its set with the hit song Alone, Blues Traveler front man and
harmonica maven Popper ripped into the trademark licks that define the
band's unique style of blues-rock, backed up by bassist Bobby Sheehan,
drummer Brendan Hill and guitarist Chandler Kinchala.
By the time the band started into its second song, Popper had donned his
trademark harmonica vest, the temperature in the Smith Center was hotter
than hell and the rock-starved crowd of students was on its feet.
At one point, a fan known only as Scott joined the band on the small stage
for an impromptu version of "But Anyway", playing backup harmonica to
"Every time I think I have something original, some young punk comes
along," Popper crowed after the duet.
What began as an after-school project known as The Blues Band practicing
in Hill's garage in Princeton, N.J., quickly became today's rock
From its humble roots, Blues Traveler gained its long-awaited recognition
on the American pop charts in 1994 when its breakthrough fourth album
four went multiplatinum with the help of chart-topping singles
"Run-Around" and "Hook".
The bands latest album, Straight on Till Morning, received mixed
reviews from critics, but nearly all agree the bands true forte is live
Touring an average of 250 days a year, the band's affinity for long
improvisations and impromptu jams made it a hit on the road, especially at
smaller college venues such as GW.
Cementing Blues Travelers place among mainstream audiences, Popper founded
the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) festival in 1992
along with the heads of several other alternative rock bands.
With Blues Traveler headlining all but one tour (in 1997), the festival,
which brought together hundreds of acts from across the nation, became a
favorite summer staple for concertgoers.
GW was the fourth stop on the bands 11-show tour, which includes several
other campus venues.
Move-in for the show, coordinated by the GW Program Board, began at 7:30
a.m. Wednesday, as 15-wheeler semi-trucks hauling the band's cumbersome
light and sound equipment were unloaded by PB members.
Eric Hall, PB concert co-chair, and a staff of 35 students assisted Blues
Traveler roadies in assembling the equipment and transforming the gym
floor into a working stage, complete with spotlights and an extensive
"Basically we just did a lot of moving things around boxes, barricades,
spotlights, a lot of grunt work," said PB crew member Lee Lubarsky. "I
thought it would be more glamorous, but it was still fun."
Overall, Hall said the marathon of manual labor went smoothly.
"We've never done something so big," he said. "It was cool to see it all
The PB crew attended the show for free, but the students were responsible
for manning the backstage area and performing various behind-the-scenes
Hall's team met weekly for the past month and a half to ensure perfect
execution of both the move-in and the post-show set deconstruction that
lasted into the early hours of the morning.
"It was a lot of work for a great show," said PB Concert Chair P.J.
Freshman Ryan Cordell has seen Blues Traveler three times before, but that
didnt diminish his enthusiasm for Wednesday nights show.
"There should be more shows on campus like this," Cordell said.
When asked to confirm rumors that the Dave Matthews Band will be visiting
the Smith Center for Homecoming, Student Association President Carrie
Potter only smiled.
"Its going to be a really big act, but I cant say exactly who," Potter