FridaysUpdate- Open Book: Redefined Chickenhead Band sizzles for Fridays

chickenheads1The eclectic Chickenheads have shifted from blues to a jazz fusion sound.

Local music aficionados should take an old mantra, "Don't judge a book by its cover," and apply it directly to one long-running quintet, according to guitarist Aric van Brocklin. Rather than take Chickenhead Blues Band strictly according to its name, he advises fans to listen closely and hear the new direction the band has taken.

"We don't really focus on the blues," he says. "Blues night was Thursday nights [at Durty Nelly's]," he says. "We're really funky, fusion Chickenheads."

Their story is well-known to fans: local blues musician Tom Robbins was asked to create a line-up for a Thursday night gig at Durty Nelly's in 1999. After asking van Brocklin and bassist Vic Brown to join in on the fun, the ensemble began informal sessions at Durty Nelly's, which quickly grew to a permanent gig. The faces varied throughout the early years, only to stabilize with the current Chickenheads, which also include drummer Granville Mullings, keyboardist Skip Haga, and saxophonist Andy Rowland. Admittedly a group with eclectic musical interests, their direction as a blues band was charted solely by that original Thursday night show.

"We're just a mixture of New Orleans, Louisiana, BB King, Muddy Waters [Blues Band]– it's just a melting pot of all different types," Brown explains.

A strong following among both the college-aged Durty Nelly's set and the mid-thirties crowd at Downtown and Belmont venues over the past ten years only added to the Chickenheads' recent shift in direction. After retiring their Thursday night gig, the band attempted to stay content by playing private events, catering to older fans– only to quickly return to a weekly gig with wider audiences, this time at three different venues (first Friday at Fellini's, second Friday at Bel Rio, third Friday at Nelly's).

"Even though we play every week, we still get good crowds at each place," says Brown. "Every now and then everybody shows up at the same place– hopefully everybody will show up at Fridays."

Despite the "blues" in their moniker, a recent collective interest and experience in jazz has taken over the Chickenhead's repertoire– from personalized cover tunes to originals, all have found inspiration from jazz fusion. Keeping the music fresh and continuing to challenge their skills is one of the main reasons the band is still kicking.

But is it too late for the group, comprised of members of all ages and influences, to remake their blues image? According to van Brocklin, himself 60 years old, there is nothing stopping the band from decades– well, maybe half a decade, he corrects– of more Chickenheads, no matter how they're packaged.

The Chickenhead Blues Band plays Fridays After Five on 6/26. Full Plate opens. The show starts at 5:30 pm and admission is free.

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