Rock, jazz musician comes to town

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 12:04 p.m.

The holiday hangover is wearing off and Gainesville is slowly repopulating for the spring, which means that the music scene is close to being back to full strength.


Bobby Lee Rodgers, singer, songwriter and leader of The CodeTalkers, performs Friday at Common Grounds. Bobby Lee Rodgers, singer, songwriter and leader of The CodeTalkers, performs Friday at Common Grounds.

The major players in Gainesville's music world are undoubtedly the students, who comprise a majority of bands and artists as well as the show-going public. But, until they can settle in and re-energize the bars, clubs and venues, many of which have had little to no activity for the last three weeks, Gainesville will have to rely on some national acts and local fixtures to hold down the fort just a little while longer.

Common Grounds and Market Street Pub, two venues that remained quiet over the holidays, are ready to start sound checking and cycling acts for the new year, and luckily for music fans, they have hand-picked some vibrant, eclectic acts to rattle the dust from the speakers. Bobby Lee Rodgers, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and band leader of The CodeTalkers, will travel from Savannah to play Common Grounds on Friday night.

Everything about Rodgers screams archaic, from his amber, Civil War-style muttonchop goatee combo to his three-piece suits to the 1940's Gibson 125 he plays on stage to his classical upbringing with jazz guitar and bluegrass banjo.

His self-professed show tune and classical music influences point in a similar direction, yet you would be hard pressed to find Rodgers' songs on Broadway, in the Cotton Club or even in a medicine show. No, his sound is an appropriately contemporary mix of modern and alternative rock with simplistic jazz sensibilities.

Despite his apparent love for and practice of pre-war music, he translates to this century because he's a musician's musician. As a former teacher at Berklee College of Music, he is not reduced to being simply a functional multi-instrumentalist, like most musicians are, but instead a proficient one (guitar, bass, drums, banjo, mandolin).

That ability is immeasurable in an artist's creative process, but even listening to a small sample of Rodgers' songs will tell you that he can write his own ticket, much like the Band did in the late '60s. Listen for "Ferry Boat," a jazz-blues number with a slick pop structure, and "Time For The Future," an ambient, introspective song that displays Rodgers' strengths as a modern composer.

Also at Common Grounds on Saturday night will be Colorado alt-country rockers Drag The River. Since 1966 there has been a carousel of members, but the band performs mostly as a duo with Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass.

The topics (booze, pills, women, loneliness) and sounds (acoustic, pedal steel guitar) of the music are all familiar country staples, and that makes the band richly authentic for people looking to hear a sad cowboy song or two. It's a blend of midwestern and southern sounds coming from a band far removed from either region, but they could've fooled me and are definitely worth seeing.

Drag The River will be playing with The Takers, who I've already mentioned as one of Gainesville's most straightforward alt-country bands.

Market Street will host the CD release show for Diocious, one of Gainesville's best jam bands, on Saturday night. The new EP "The Thumb & The Brain" features the single "Pierre," which is a funky ballad filled with "Shaft"-like wah pedal effects and a driving dance drum beat.

The band definitely specializes in more funk and jazz than anything else, but don't be surprised if they rock out from time to time. The show as a whole will be a jam band show featuring Inca Maya from Jacksonville and Juniper Spring also from Gainesville.

Other notable shows for the week are The Duppies at The Atlantic and Starmaker at The Kickstand on Saturday night, and Timbre and Eden at 1982 Bar on Tuesday night.

Contact Dante Lima at

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