More than two decades after producing hits like “Run-Around” and “Hook” in the 1990s, Blues Traveler is still known for playing marathon live sets and having a distinctive sound featuring the band’s harmonica-wielding frontman John Popper.
Much like other jam bands of the early 1990s such as Phish and Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler’s vibe on stage reflects some of the same traditional sounds of legendary bands such as the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead.
When George Claussen IV, founder of Friends With Benefits — the production company that has brought shows such as The Major Rager to downtown Augusta during Masters Week, and the Riverwalk Revival Series to the Jessye Norman Amphitheater — heard Blues Traveler was touring, he immediately jumped at the chance to bring the band to the Columbia County Amphitheater in Evans this Friday.
“Over the past several years, we’ve seen all of these ‘80s bands coming back and everybody wants to go see them, but now, all of a sudden, we’re seeing this transition into the ‘90s,” Claussen said. “Now, you see these shows like the I Love the ‘90s Tour that are just becoming kind of like the Legends were for the 1980s.”
Suddenly, people are anxious to see bands from the 1990s once again hit the road and play live on stage, Claussen said.
“People are listening to who I was listening to in high school like the Gin Blossoms and Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer,” Claussen said. “You are seeing those kinds of tours popping up everywhere. So I feel like the next movement in the music scene is now the 1990s and not so much the 1980s anymore.”
As soon as he learned that a show with Blues Traveler along with opening bands The Marcus King Band and Cranford Hollow was possible for the Columbia County Amphitheater, Claussen said he didn’t have to think twice.
“When we heard this was an option, we said, ‘God, I didn’t know Blues Traveler was even touring,’” Claussen said, chuckling. “So we decided, ‘Let’s do it at a venue we have not worked with yet.’ The Columbia County Amphitheater is the last venue in Augusta that we have not done a show in, so I’m very, very excited to check this off my bucket list. It is such an intimate, unique space at the Columbia County Amphitheater that I immediately knew this was something we wanted to do.”
For Blues Traveler and John Popper to take the stage at the Columbia County Amphitheater, it is guaranteed to be terrific show because the band delivers such a powerful performance, Claussen said.
“Blues Traveler and John Popper had some of the biggest hits of the 1990s and he is still putting out current stuff. The new album that just came out last year was just insane,” Claussen said, referring to the album, “Blow Up the Moon,” in which Blues Traveler collaborated with various artists including Thompson Square, Plain White T’s, Dirty Heads and Rome Ramirez (Sublime), Hanson and Jewel. “And John Popper is still playing festivals and he is very involved in the jam world.”
Blues Traveler represents the type of band that Friends With Benefits wants to support and bring to the Augusta area, Claussen said.
“There aren’t too many bands that still hit on what we want to do, which is sticking somewhat in the jam genre and staying current at the same time,” Claussen said. “But being able to bring someone from the 1990s like Blues Traveler, who definitely really dominated that decade with hits, is really cool. And it is such a family-friendly show at a great venue.”
Claussen said it was also a great opportunity for his company to bring another show to Columbia County.
The last show that Friends with Benefits brought to Evans was Kid Rock for MASH Augusta at the Evans Towne Center Park last October.
“This was a good way to get right back in the thick of Columbia County,” he said. “Kid Rock was the last show that we had out there and it has almost been a year to date, so it was time to return to Columbia County.”
Claussen is also thrilled that Blues Traveler’s show will feature both The Marcus King Band and Cranford Hollow.
At only 20 years of age, Marcus King has astonished the music industry with a fiery brand of American roots music that King himself calls “soul-influenced psychedelic southern rock.”
King, who was raised in Greenville, S.C., and his band are quickly becoming one of the country’s most sought after live acts.
“The Marcus King Band is just blowing up everywhere. He is incredible,” Claussen said. “It is almost like he was born 30 or 40 years ago, but he is only a 20-year-old kid. But he has this very Allman Brothers’ sound. It’s like old school, original jam rock. This kid is everywhere in the jam world, so to have him playing with John Popper and Blues Traveler is just going to be insane. It will probably be one of my favorite shows of the year.”
Blues Traveler with The Marcus King Band and Cranford Hollow
Columbia County Amphitheater, Evans
Friday, October 14