Chris Robinson Brotherhood to play State Theatre

Courtesy photo The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, which will play The State Theatre on Aug. 23, includes, from left, Adam MacDougall on the keyboards, Tony Leone on the drums, Jeff Hill as bassist, Chris Robinson with vocals, and Neal Casal on the guitar.

The band carries the name of the former front man for the Black Crowes, but the Chris Robinson Brotherhood is a lot more than that popular 1990s rock band.

“There is a nice blend of Chris’ previous style of music mixed with a psychedelic side that feels influenced by Pink Floyd,” said Greg Ray, executive director of The State Theatre, State College, where the CRB will play Wednesday.

“We have a lot of funk, soul, R&B and country,” said Neal Casal, CRB guitarist. “At the end of the day, we’re a good-time rock ‘n’ roll band, but we’re bringing a lifetime of experiences to what we do: psychedelic music, folk music, R&B. We’re not really jazz people, but we’re deeply influenced by jazz musicians. We use all the colors.”

The band was formed in 2011, even though the Black Crowes didn’t officially disaband until 2015. And while Robinson’s writing and vocal credentials may be more famous, the other band members, most in their 40s, have a wealth of experience on their own, from successful solo careers to multiple collaborations with other artists.

Adam MacDougall is on the keyboards, Tony Leone is on drums, Jeff Hill is bassist and Casal is on the guitar.

CRB’s concert at The State Theatre isn’t its first at that venue. It played there in 2014 and officials “were highly impressed with the band’s musicianship and songwriting abilities,” Ray said.

The audience response then was great, and Ray believes the band has only gotten better.

“The band has been steadily growing in notoriety and experience … We have seen them in prominent places in festival lineups and playing larger, more well-known venues,” Ray said. “One of our goals … is to bring a sampling of some of the existing acts that are thrilling audiences around the country to central Pennsylvania. The Chris Robin-son Brotherhood fits that bill for us, and we are confident they will not disappoint.”

CRB has more than 50 concerts left on its tour just this year, and Casal said that with his solo career, he’s had a “really heavy schedule” for five years.

“But I love it,” he said in a phone interview from his home in San Francisco. “Playing music for a living is a very fortunate thing, a very beautiful thing to do.”

But Casal said band members are past caring about commercial success the way that most musical groups have to these days.

“There’s no real need for us to do it at this point of our lives,” he said. “It would be kind of a fruitless endeavor at this point, and it wouldn’t be authentic.”

Of the members, Robinson certainly enjoyed that fame and fortune early in his career, but “he got it out of his system,” Casal said. “We’re older. We’re just past that type of thinking. We want to be a success on our own terms.”

CRB has built its own fan base, young and old alike, and Casal said he enjoys meeting fans, particularly when they perform acoustically in stores where fans line up to greet them.

“We’re well past the point where it’s just Black Crowes fans who keep following Chris,” Casal said.

CRB has its own reputation “built on our own songs,” he said.

Besides averaging at least 100 live dates a year, the band released its fifth full-length album in July, titled “Barefoot in the Head.”

CRB doesn’t play any Black Crowes music, except for “Hard to Handle,” which, Casal noted, was recorded earlier by Otis Redding, as well as the Grateful Dead. Casal has two connections to that iconic band: He has been an on-and-off member of Phil Lesh and Friends, formed by that former bassist of the Grateful Dead, and his music was played as the pre-show at several Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” concerts.

At the State Theatre concert, fans can expect to dance during the two-set, three-hour concert, Casal said.

“We’re always song-based, melody-based, but rhythm is important to us, too,” he said. “They can expect to dance a lot.”

Or simply enjoy listening to the music.

“Even though we’re known as part of a jam band circuit, we have a lot of harmonies,” he said. “Chris is a great singer. This is what we are. We’re not trying to be musicians. We are musicians.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


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