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Seventh Hour’s time is coming

Aspen Times Staff Report

For a small-time start-up local quartet, Seventh Hour sure has a lot going for it.

Seventh Hour has a sound guy, a lighting guy and a poster guy, and they’re not all the same guy, either. They even have another guy who doubles as assistant sound guy and stage tech guy. They also have wives and girlfriends who step up and help out with what is needed. All this from a band that has been around in its present form for a year and a half, whose members are in no danger of giving up their day jobs, and which is almost unknown outside the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s definitely not just four people,” said singer-guitarist John Carlin. “There’s eight of us. And our girlfriends and wives. They all support and kick in.”

“It’s encouraging seeing people wanting to invest their time and energy in the band cause,” added fellow singer-guitarist Tom Van Amburgh. “It’s awesome. It’s a boost. There’s a family base that keeps growing, and we’re all on the same wavelength.”

For a group with such a deep organization, Seventh Hour’s members have a remarkable lack of band experience. Only Carlin, who had played in the Vermont band The Joneses in the mid-’80s, has any musical background to speak of.

Bassist Tommy Sherlock had done a bit of playing in college, but had never been in an ongoing band. Drummer John Haws has a small bit of band experience in his past. Van Amburgh’s resume consisted of strumming acoustic guitar, all by his lonesome, for a bunch of years. Until joining Seventh Hour – or rather, being pulled into Seventh Hour – Van Amburgh estimates he had picked up an electric guitar once or twice.

“We basically lassoed his ass and brought him onstage,” said Carlin of Van Amburgh. “The first gig with him was at the Acme, and we gave him an acoustic guitar and shoved him on the back of the stage. He had that shaking stage fright experience.”

Van Amburgh did have stage fright. But he didn’t exactly need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the band.

“It was something I’d always dreamed about, but I thought of it as a pipe dream,” he said of joining a band. “The stage fright is just the first and foremost fear, but that was the only reluctance. I’d seen a lot of local bands and I was psyched to become a part of it.”

It was probably the perfect situation for Van Amburgh to step into. Soon after moving to the valley in 1997, Carlin had formed a trio, the Seth Bauer Band, with Sherlock and singer-keyboardist Rob Dasaro. (Dasaro, well known locally for his playing with Monkey Train and Jes’ Grew, was an old friend of Carlin’s, and the two had played together in The Joneses.) The band added a drummer, who was replaced by Haws in short order.

When Dasaro dropped out to focus on Jes’ Grew, there was a hole that needed filling. But there was little pressure: Seth Bauer – named for a fictitious creation of Dasaro’s – had a low profile and a few low-key gigs. In Carlin, Sherlock and Haws, it would be difficult to find a more laid-back, inviting group of players. No one in the group depended on the band for his living; all had started playing music for fun, not profit. Except for Carlin, none has started taking music seriously until they hit their 20s. Carlin himself, after his run in The Joneses, quit music for a bunch of years to help build a small empire of bagel shops on the East Coast.

“You’ve got that little bit of maturity,” said Carlin of forming a band a little later in life. “You have that advantage of saying, `Let’s just get a few gigs; let’s play and have some fun.’

“Now it’s gotten more serious. We’ve brought in our past business experiences and musical experiences. We’d like to enjoy success. We’d like to be successful musically. We want to get the name out and get a fan base. There’s a lot of aspirations; we’re constantly setting up points to shoot for.”

Seventh Hour has taken several steps up the local band ladder. Over the past year, they have gigged as regularly as any local outfit. This summer, they will have regular gigs at Hannibal Brown’s when it opens in the old Howling Wolf space later this summer. They will have the sweet gig at the Mountain Dragon in Snowmass Village each Thursday night after the free concerts on Fanny Hill. They have played at the Mesa Theatre in Grand Junction, opening for the Mother Hips. Recently they played to a big crowd at a pro-hemp rally in Carbondale’s Sopris Park.

A good part of the rise in stature is chalked up to Tom Logan, Seventh Hour’s sound man. The audiophile had spent a good amount of his youth on tour with the Grateful Dead, taping their shows from the audience, and has worked in a recording studio in Cleveland. A friend told him to check out Seventh Hour, and Logan quickly took over sound responsibilities, first running the house system at the Howling Wolf and then assembling the band’s own system.

“That’s a huge advantage for a local band – to have someone who knows your sound, knows your system,” said Carlin. “You know there will be a consistency to the sound.”

When Seventh Hour realized it would be neat to have a light experience to go with the music, the band bought some light equipment. And just as they did, Rob Blanchard, a friend of Carlin’s from the East, showed up and became the lighting guy. Judd Kleinman stepped in to help on sound and other stage matters. Reed Lewis creates posters for Seventh Hour gigs.

All the support, however, means little if the music’s no good. The members of Seventh Hour are confident that they’re holding up their end of the organization. Asked to name some of their best gigs so far, Carlin and Van Amburgh agreed that the band’s most recent shows had been an artistic high.

“It’s always getting tighter,” said Van Amburgh. “The jams are getting more focused. We’re communicating better musically.”

“We’ve gotten past that awkward getting-to-know-each-other stage,” added Carlin. “We know the songs, so we can give the music more flavor and more taste.”

For fear of being pigeonholed, the members of Seventh Hour are reticent to even name what bands have influenced their flavor and taste. But there is little argument they fit comfortably in the jam-band mold, and like most jam bands – Phish, Little Feat, the Grateful Dead – Seventh Hour has a bunch of distinct influences in the mix. There’s blues and bluegrass, rock and funk.

“There’s a wide background of music that we all come from and all understand,” said Carlin, who writes most of the band’s original songs, which comprise roughly two-thirds of the material. “And there’s the music we all listen to today – the jazz, the jam bands, the blues, bluegrass, more progressive alternative stuff. We have the ability to enjoy and encompass a lot of different styles we can all relate to.

“That’s the band; that’s what contributes to the originality of the band. People always ask what kind of music we play. And I can’t describe it. I can’t nail it down in a couple of words.”

Seventh Hour plays the Grottos tomorrow, Saturday, July 1, and the following three Friday nights. The band plays the Lone Wolfe in Carbondale on July 8, and the Bayou Deck Party at Sunlight Mountain Resort on July 9. They also play Thursday nights at the Mountain Dragon in Snowmass Village, following the free concerts on Fanny Hill.


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