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East meets West for a prog-rock jam band jamboree

Who: The Jimmy Swift Band & Grand Theft Bus Where: Boot Pub When: Monday, May 12 Two bands from the far East Coast of Canada are making their inaugural pilgrimage to the "other" side and want you to join their funky force.

Who: The Jimmy Swift Band & Grand Theft Bus

Where: Boot Pub

When: Monday, May 12

Two bands from the far East Coast of Canada are making their inaugural pilgrimage to the "other" side and want you to join their funky force. If you’re a bit of a jam band fan, akin to experimental and progressive rock, jazz and blues fusions and basically like to boogie, you’re in for a real treat as the Jimmy Swift Band and Grand Theft Bus blow in for one night only.

These bands are perfect for small, intimate and friendly venues like the Boot. They constantly pack out similar vibe bars right across the east, from New Brunswick to Ontario, and are the file-sharing freaks’ favourite swap cards. Their music is intoxicating for just about anyone who wants to hear something new, something borrowed and something bound to get you moving.

Their crowds are eclectic to say the least, much like their set lists that can go from rock ’n’ roll to funk and even electronica with soundscape sampling throughout. From long haired hippies to rave kids and even hardcore rockers, these guys say they get them all.

In terms of the Jimmy Swift Band, some say their style is reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Maybe, as it is moody and atmospheric. Others say they’re more Phish sounding. Maybe again. Their long and layered instrumental moments do provide an interactive improv atmosphere.

But according to guitarist and vocalist, Craig Mercer, there is no spot-on description to saddle them with.

"To be honest, we’re not really trying to tailor our sound to any demographic or genre. The music we write just comes out like that. All four of us have different influences and I’d say we are an eclectic bunch so maybe that’s why our sound and our crowds are that way inclined as well," said Mercer.

Based in Halifax, but "pretty much based in the van" with more than 180 shows under their belt in the last year, the Jimmy Swift Band is touring the west on the strength of their recently released second album, Onward Through The Fog. The album is a soundtrack for moving forward with organic traditional instruments, memorable melodies and special effects arrangements that make you feel, well, just good. Plain and simple – even though the music is certainly not.

So who is Jimmy Swift? He’s a little bit of all of us. He’s a character that likes to go out and party that Mercer and bassist Mike MacDougall sang about in a previous band.

"We didn’t want to lose the crowd we’d developed when we formed a new band so we thought if we kept the link to the old band, people would still want to come see us. Turns out we were completely wrong and nobody knew or cared who Jimmy Swift was anyway, but the name stuck."

Not that a name matters, these guys are better known for their talent anyway. Mercer has been playing in bands since he was 15, came second in a national songwriting contest a couple of years ago and manages his own successful indie label , Below Me Music .

Macdougall plays a seven string bass with absolute ease.

"He’s one of the best in the country," said Mercer. "He has complete control over his instrument which is something every musician struggles to achieve."

On keyboards and effects is Aaron Collier, a rumoured child prodigy with a funky fashion sense.

"He is certainly all that and more. He brings a lot of flavour to the band and is a great song writer too," said Mercer.

Paul, the JSB’s drummer is the new recruit, who joined almost a year ago and is an addition Mercer said solidified the band as something serious.

"We’d been going through a bunch of hired gun drummers for so long but now for the first time we have a common goal, a lot of confidence in our sound and the desire to bring it to as many people as we can. It’s important to have that aesthetic so you can tell we’re together and on the same page with the music we’re making," said Mercer.

Also on the bill is Grand Theft Bus, another popular East Coast outfit filling venues wherever they go. Founded by brothers Tim and Graeme Walker and friend Bob Deveau (along with the recently added Dennis Goodwin), Grand Theft Bus has one goal in mind: to pursue the outer limits of improvised music while taking as many people as possible along for the ride. With savoury, melodic hooks and tweaked-out takes on all types of music, the Bus is reaching cult status at every stop.

Although compared to such varied artists as pseudo-jazz greats Steely Dan, prog-rock pioneers King Crimson and melancholy piano man Ben Folds, the quartet is comprised of two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Despite their incessant touring as well, the band remains attached to its home on the East Coast of Canada, where they have become one of the region’s top touring acts.

Catch both bands at the Boot Pub Monday night from 9 p.m. Tickets are only $5 – what a spring time special!




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