Aug. 18, 2005
by BOB DORAN
"CALILICIOUS IS THE TOUR we're doing," said Steve Molitz, keyboards player for the Los Angeles-based space jam band, Particle [photo at left]. "It starts up there with you in Northern California, then it's going coast to coast."
What makes it Calilicious? "Basically, we like doing something different and challenging ourselves, so every night we play we're going to cover different songs by bands from California," said Molitz, speaking on his cell as he walked home from a band practice. "It's been fun because we're getting to play songs and styles we don't normally play as a band -- we get to be this other character for a few songs because we're paying tribute to Cali bands."
Molitz was tight-lipped about which bands and tunes they have chosen, but there are some likely suspects. Particle has previously joined forces with Robbie Krieger from The Doors, and the Grateful Dead are an obvious choice. Molitz recently went on tour as one of the "Friends" in Phil Lesh and Friends, and the whole Particle band has been teaming up with Mickey Hart in a band called Hydra.
All four bandmembers live in Los Angeles; most of them were born there. However, the beginnings of Particle lie in the jamband hotbed Boulder, Colorado, where Molitz went to college and met bass player Eric Gould.
Molitz recalls the band he formed there: "It was hard to describe what kind of music we played. It was kind of a mix of rock and this indie sound, groove and electronic and funk and jazz -- after a while it gets hard to categorize it or know what to say."
While Particle draws on the same mish-mash of influences, he describes the band's sound more simply as "high-energy dance music."
"We're known for keeping people dancing, for creating an atmosphere of celebration, and also for creating a space where people can take a trip. We try to take people on an adventure, to tell stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. It's a psychedelic journey as much as it's a collection of songs. We don't play three-minute rock songs where one ends and then we fire up the next one; we're more interested in transitions and telling one sprawling epic tale night to night and ultimately over the course of the tour."
What he describes sounds a lot like the Dead model for music. Molitz says he was never a Deadhead -- he regrets that he never saw Jerry Garcia play live -- but he concedes that the Grateful Dead are a major influence. "And as far as storytellers go, Phil is among the best of them. When he writes setlists for a string of shows, it's an epic tale that unfolds with characters and subplots, lessons, themes; it's pretty incredible. I'd say that's a big part of what we'd like to do."
Preparing to embark on the Calilicious journey, Particle has invited what might seem an unusual choice as an opener, a quirky sitar-playing singer, Gabby La La, who is rising fast in today's crazy music world. "I think I first heard about her at Bonnaroo," said Molitz, explaining that he ran into her in the press tent at the mega-sized jamband festival. "She came in carrying a sitar and had like pink pigtails and she was dressed all crazy. I was like, `Wow. This looks fun.'" After seeing Gabby play with Les Claypool, Particle decided to invite her to join their tour.
Gabby, who grew up in Petaluma, says she got interested in the sitar after hearing George Harrison's album, All Things Must Pass.
"I started playing at the Ali Akbar College of Music when I was 13 and studied there all through high school," she recalled in a call from a friend's house in Forestville. "After that I went to Cal Arts in Valencia and majored in sitar performance. All of my studies were in North Indian classical music, but also I made my own style. In high school I would play with this DJ, J-Boogie. I'd go play gigs and they'd sneak me into the club and everything. We still do that as Dubtronic Science. Then when I moved to L.A. I started playing in bands with the sitar and singing background vocals, and I played in this band Weapon of Choice. That was a lot of fun."
In part because Weapon of Choice runs in SoCal's wild-ass funk/punk circles, she ended up meeting Les Claypool and playing in one of his bands. "But it was always a dream of mine to have my own group or record as a solo artist," she continued. "I always wrote my own little songs but I never had the opportunity to perform them. When I met Les, he gave me that opportunity. That inspired me to write more songs and develop my own style."
One of the recurring themes in Gabby's songs is wish fulfillment. She called her album for Claypool's Prawn Song Records Be Careful What You Wish For The opening track completes the phrase: "or it might come true."
"Sometimes that's how I feel, but I feel really lucky because I've been wishing really hard for this all my life. It's pretty cool that it's actually happening."
The Particle/Gabby La La Calilicious Tour comes to Mazzotti's in Arcata Thursday, August 25. For more on Particle go to www.particlepeople.com. To learn more about Gabby La La try www.gabbylala.com.
Comments? Write a letter!
© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.