Tangled up in blue
A few members of Buster Blue and I sit in the patent white leather seats next to the collaged walls at their favorite watering hole, St. James Infirmary. Bryan Jones, the lead singer with a very rock ‘n’ roll name, sits next to me, fingering his Guinness and occasionally pushing his chunky black rims to the top of his nose. His blue eyes attentively watch my pen scribbling notes.
“We met at the Back to the Future 3 premiere,” says Jason Ricketts, the accordion and keyboard player. He is the joker of the band, constantly cracking jokes over the mellower Jones and bassist Brendon Lund, who sit quietly and answer my questions.
Buster Blue’s first album, This Beard Grows for Freedom, was released in February by Dam Road Records and is available online at Cdbaby.com and at Sundance Bookstore.
Buster Blue has been playing music together for over two years. All graduates from Douglas High School, they are Nevada natives who grew up together. They’re babies from Gardnerville that sound like 40-year-chain-smoking-whiskey-drinking-blues musicians out of Nashville. Bryan Jones and Andy Martin write the majority of the songs, and the band gets together at practice to arrange them.
“We try to play music that feels like Reno,” Jones says. “We don’t think everything in Reno sucks, we’re proud of the place we come from.”
“It’s more like Reno spiritual music for heavy drinkers,” Ricketts chimes in.
If you have ever had a Buster Blue live experience, you’ll understand what he means:
Seven band members crowd the stage but not without purpose. They all scream into their microphones and hold a variety instruments, a snare drum around a rotund drummer in suit and tie, a saxophone for the tall, dark and curly-haired girl, an accordion for the bucktooth boy in suspenders. Is this a swing band? A big band? A jazz band?
“WOMAN! WOMAN! WOMAN!” They chant into their microphones, stomping their feet, demanding the crowd’s attention. The lead singer travels through the crowd screaming into his megaphone. One member bangs a link of chains on the ground for a different type of sound effect. The band members frequently switch instruments throughout the set. The music thrashes the crowd, makes us want to swing, yet can be folksy and mellow at times. But a few of their songs could incite a riot. Maybe this is a thrash band.
The crowd bounces up and down, kicks their legs, pumps their fists, and chants with the band. Only a handful of people in this room actually know a Buster Blue song, but the music is catchy enough to improvise. It is jazzy, swingy, country and folksy all at the same time.
Sometimes Buster Blue takes the crowd down with a sweet croon like “Isabelle” and then brings it back up with “Damascus.” There are even some theatrical elements with an umbrella and spotlight. (Jones is a theater major at UNR.) The music feels bipolar at times, constant crescendos and decrescendos. But the energy never ceases, the stomping and clapping and snapping proceed without hesitation and the crowd can’t help but sway along like an ocean tide.
All the members of Buster Blue are in their 20s. They would like to play music full time professionally, but realize they have some time to put in.
“We’ve got a good following,” says Jones. “We’re working really hard, and we want to give Reno’s music scene a good name again. There’s been a competitive mentality here, and I think it’s starting to come around where local bands are realizing that we are all in this together.”