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Every time I see a Perpetual Groove show, I think to myself, “They are amazing…why they are not playing bigger venues and selling out huge tours?” But, at the same time, I feel as though I am lucky to get to see them in such small venues like The Asheville Music Hall for 2 nights in a row the week before last, right before they were to set out on Jam Cruise 10.
The place was packed both nights and PGroove didn’t disappoint. From their amazing light shows to their stellar covers of songs like Pepper by the Butthole Surfers and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon to the long soulful jams, the band had our full attention.
They are starting the New Year off with the return of keyboardist Matt McDonald after he left the band in 2008 to spend more time with his family and explore other projects. The fans and the band were more than happy to welcome him back to his PGroove family and he looked like he was having a great time up there.
They all were having a great time up there, especially front man Brock Butler. I’ve always thought of him, based on other shows and other times I’ve met him, to be a kind of as a quiet, serious, somber, yet soulful artist, yet during these days in Asheville, I noticed he seemed to have turned some kind of personal tide in to joyous and happy.
He was smiling all night and just having so much fun up there, you could tell it’s going to be a great New Year for him and the band and I couldn’t be more excited. So, in between shows, Brock and I sat down at The Bier Garden in down town Asheville for an interview.
I shouldn’t even call it an interview, that’s too formal…we sat down as 2 friends shooting the shit about music and life and many times throughout our 30 minutes together he stopped to just tell me how great he feels lately…that he’s gone through some pretty dark times in his recent past and is now feeling like a new person who’s happy again and who has made a lot of personal positive lifestyle changes and I could tell just by looking at him and the tone of his voice that he was telling the truth and I couldn’t help but be just so happy for him.
The beginning of our talk came straight out of the fact that Patience by Guns N Roses was playing in the background of the restaurant. Brock started singing along, and being a very long time G nR fan myself, I asked him…
AVJ: Do you every cover them?
Brock: Oh yes, I do…in my solo acoustic shows, I cover Mr. Brownstone, Patience…
AVJ: Yeah? That’s awesome…I saw them a lot back in the 80’s and early 90’s growing up in Southern California.
Brock: You’re talking to someone who had their Appetite for Destruction tape taken away from their teacher twice.
AVJ: Oh, I gotta hear this…
Brock: Well, we had these little cassette players in the 3rd grade where we would have to practice reading with 4 sets of headphones plugged in and I thought we would all be better off listening to some music instead of the reading material, but of course, as soon as Axl dropped the F Bomb, one of the little girls told the teacher and she took away my Appetite for Destruction, but I found it again.
AVJ: So is this about the time you started playing music?
Brock: Oh yeah, I started taking guitar lessons when I was about 8, and I took to it immediately, so I knew that was what I wanted to do….I have two older sisters and my oldest sister would get these Guns n Roses cassette singles, but would be able to hold on to them very long, before I got a hold of them. She would also come home and tell me things like, “Guess what Brock, I learned a new curse word today.” And I’d be like, “Oh really, tell me what it is, and she’d of course tell me.”
AVJ: That’s so funny…
Brock: Yeah and you know, of course with older sisters, there comes boyfriends of older sisters who would come over every once in a while and there was actually a couple of times where my sisters would get pissed off because I would be downstairs playing music (and for the age I was, I actually played pretty well), and all of a sudden, some teenage kid would come over, who’s like 14 or 15, and they could hear me downstairs playing Guns n Roses and Metallica, and then all of a sudden, they’re wanting to hang out with me instead of my sister and then I’d have to hear it from her later, “Every time Brock, every time, I get a guy here, you steal them away with your guitar playing.”
AVJ: Ha! You were taking away her make out time…
Brock: Well, she didn’t put it that way, but yeah, I guess that could be a testament to my guitar playing, because a 14-year-old horny boy should have been looking for make out time and instead, I guess my guitar was the sound of a siren…
AVJ: You didn’t even know it, but you were kind of protecting your older sister…
Brock: Exactly, I didn’t need to get physical with these guys, I’d just say, “Hey, do you like my older sister? Do you like Guns N Roses? Well listen to this!”
AVJ: LOL, That’s a hilarious story, thank you for making me laugh…Anyway, so let’s get back to the future and talk about the tour and the fact that Matt McDonald is back in the band. Is it true that these Asheville shows are the first ones with Matt taking his spot back from John Hruby?
Brock: John had been feeling for a while that he wasn’t enjoying the lifestyle anymore and we could kind of tell something was up. It had nothing to do with inner band turmoil or anything like that, he just wasn’t feeling it anymore, so his last time on stage and Matt’s first time back was New Years Eve, so they were both up there together and no matter what, John will always be apart of the Pgroove family, just like Matt still was, even though he wasn’t touring with us for the last 3 years. So yeah, we added these Asheville shows as a way to ease Matt back in and get comfortable playing with us again before we head out on Jam Cruise and the rest of the tour.
AVJ: well you guys sounded great last night and it was so fun to see you in such a small venue, because I have a feeling that won’t be possible for much longer. It just seems like it’s your time to really take off based on what I can see, what I’ve heard and your obvious new attitude about life. I’m really excited to see what happens in 2012. Any new albums or any thing you can tell us about?
Brock: No new studio album right now, but we do have a lot of new material that we’re playing on tour and there is of course a lot of great live recordings available for download like the Georgia Theatre show is fantastic and that was the first time we played back there since the fire. We are also, of course, having another Amberland festival over the Memorial Day weekend, which is getting bigger and better every year and we just basically plan n playing a lot of shows and some festivals as well.
AVJ: Thank you so much for your time Brock, can’t wait to see you guys again tonight.
For all things Perpetual Groove like tour dates and info on Amberland please visit www.pgroove.com.
Like I said above, our “interview” turned out to be a friendly conversation with lots of “off the record” info he was sharing with me as a friend and I just have to say that it made me feel so very honored to know him this way. He is as soulful in person as he is on the stage and I highly recommend you guys check out some Pgroove shows this year while they are still playing small venues…cause I have a huge hunch the big amphitheaters are just around the corner.