Wednesday, September 23, 2015

OWL - Taste of Minnesota

If nothing I am a person that will travel for a good live music act without concern of distance or time frame.  When I started this blog in fact it began because of a live show that I attended only miles from my home and that show directly relates to the trip to the Taste of Minnesota.  Really you ask, how?  Well...

Many years ago now I went to the Mississippi Moon Bar to see Stephen Pearcy perform and following the show I met a couple members of the band including Pearcy's drummer and bass player.  After that show I went home and I wrote about the show and we became quick friends with that drummer.  One night that drummer invited us to see Pearcy perform again this time in Royalton, Minnesota at Halfway Jam and we jumped on the opportunity.  That very drummer, our friend has always given me little nuggets of bands to listen to since that time and his opinion of bands is very important to me.

This Spring he began talking about this band called "OWL" and its bass player Chris Wyse so when the opportunity to see this band live we would have to take advantage of the situation.  Just like Halfway Jam, Taste of Minnesota would be quite the drive but it would be a chance to go to a new venue / festival as well as the chance to see a new band.  Okay I admit it, I am a music junkie and the thrill of seeing a new band is my fix so what's a little drive.

Taste of Minnesota - 2015

Taste of Minnesota in Waconia, Minnesota was held between July 2nd - 5th, 2015 and was awash with musical talent, food (oddly enough) and a carnival atmosphere with rides and entertainment for all ages.  Yes it did have a carnival or county fair type feel to it, but it was in a small town in Minnesota and to be honest it was fun.  People joked with me that Taste of Minnesota would be full of lutefisk and other Scandinavian cuisine but I didn't find those selections.  I found pizza, ice cream, pretzel-coated cheese curds, brats and corn on the cob but not a single tasty Scandinavian morsel.

What I did find was two stages of music that included the "Gear Daddies," "Foghat," "Georgia Satellites," "Fuel," and "P.O.D.," on the Main stage with bands like "Free Fallin'," "ONE," and "Kip Winger" on the Taste stage.  Those are some pretty impressive bands (many of which I have previously written about) but the main draw for me at least for the Main Stage was "OWL."

I've struggled with trying to figure out how to describe OWL for you because I really want to get this right and not for the reasons you may think.  OWL is one of the most interesting bands performing today, their sound is best described as really unlike modern hard rock / metal / alternative does today.  That's a great thing by the way, all too often we are exposed to a homogenized, common, gravel-like vocals with a tinny, bass heavy mixture of music that sounds like every band on the radio today.  What OWL has in their sound is a feel in their music along the lines of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots with lyrics that remind me of something from the scribings of Jim Morrison or even Pink Floyd.  To me OWL is the epitome of what Alice in Chains was during their explosive beginning but with even smarter and edgier lyrics.  That works for me I think.

Who is OWL?  OWL is a three-piece band made up of Jason Achilles Mezilis (guitar), Dan Dinsmore (drums) and Chris Wyse (bass).  Mezilis is one of those examples of an artist guitar player that exudes that artistic style while making it look effortless.  Seriously, when I saw Mezilis perform I was blown away.  Musically it looks so easy but the complexity his performance is mindblowing, and it goes without saying he is really in a class of his own.

Dan Dinsmore, a drummer that seems like every beat of the drums is to make the drum pay back the money it owes him.  Drummers are an animated group to begin with but watching Dinsmore is like watching their prototype.  He is really fun to watch play and more importantly he seems like he is a master at his craft, he makes it worth every minute of it.

Within every great band is a cast of characters, performers that stand above and beyond their contemporaries so it is without surprise that OWL has three of those in its ranks.  Dinsmore and Mezilis are at the top of their game but there is one more person within the band that makes number three.  Bass players are an interesting breed and the number of bass players that stick in your mind for all time is only as prevalent as the music press want there to be.  I have my favorite bass players, high profile guys like Nikki Sixx, Geddy Lee, Flea, and Geezer Butler, legends like Phil Lynott, Steve Harris, and David Ellefson, and my favorites that you need to know like Donald "Duck" Dunn, Ron Wood, Rex Brown, Troy Johnson and Bobby Sheehan and a guy named Chris Wyse.

Chris Wyse, the bass player and lead vocals for OWL is on that list for one simple reason: He's freaking amazing!  Wyse is one of the most interesting technical bass players I have ever seen.  From the standard electric bass to an electric stand-up bass Wyse put on a performance that kept me stunned the entire time.  The man is simply brilliant, making the bass something so technical that you would swear that it cannot be done by one guy.  I would equate the the complexity of what Wyse does to an infant playing with a toy piano to that of Beethoven playing a sonata.

The vocal styling that Wyse puts forward is very similar in style to that of Layne Staley the late lead singer of "Alice in Chains" mixed up with the subtle insanity that fills the vocals of former "Stone Temple Pilots" singer Scott Weiland and as Wyse resembles Kurt Cobain the entire "grunge" era seems prevalent in the while package that is Wyse.  That really isn't a fair label though, there are so many layers to Wyse and OWL that comparing them to the genre of "grunge" is misplaced.  There is that haunting tone to the voice of Wyse similar to that of Staley but I think that he has a deeper, darker tone to his voice.  At a time when every voice sounds like the same processed, over-synthesized, garden-variety industrial metal singer popular today, Wyse is a shining spot.

All of the descriptions I just gave about the three band members stand out in the recorded music of OWL but when you see the band live they aren't even close.  This is a band that live is even more extraordinary.  I love the visual aspects of live music and OWL makes a very simple stage show a massive stage presence that exemplifies the brilliance of the three musicians.  As I watched OWL perform at Taste of Minnesota I was struck by the response by the crowd because this was a band that wasn't as famous as "P.O.D." or "Foghat" but every man, woman and child there acted as if they were.  OWL is an incredible band, and worth every second of your time that you devote to them.  I love this band, you will too!  Great job guys!

For more information about the band OWL, visit their website HERE.

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