In late 80’s Gin Blossoms started to grow a huge following as the #1 local music draw in Phoenix and certainly were the hometown hero’s of their favorite hang, Tempe, Arizona. Gin Blossoms indelible jangle-pop sound was evolving during radio’s diverse mix of hair bands and grunge music superstars like Nirvana. After the Phoenix New Times chose them the cities best rock band, they qualified to play at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in 1989. That same year, College Music Journal dubbed them the “Best Unsigned Band in America” and added an invitation to perform on MTV’s New Music Awards in New York City.
Taking their name from a caption on a W.C. Fields photo, Gin Blossoms signed a record deal with A&M and recorded their first EP “Up And Crumbling” in 1991. But, it was not until their breakout record “New Miserable Experience” in 1992 that their rise to fame began. “New Miserable Experience” kept the band on the charts for almost 3 years with singles “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs Rita,” and “Found Out About You.” The album took the airwaves by siege and held MTV hostage with multi cross-over hits in 4 different radio formats. It was this record that rocketed the band into the mainstream going on to sell over 4 million copies making the band a 90’s radio mainstay. In 1995, Robin Wilson, Jesse Valenzuela and veteran composer Marshall Crenshaw wrote the bands 4th of 9 sound track inclusions; “Til I Hear It From You.” The smash hit was released as a Gin Blossoms single and it appeared on the platinum sound track for the film Empire Records.
1996 saw the final record of the decade for Gin Blossoms “Congratulations I’m Sorry.” The album brought two more hits; "Follow You Down" which spent ten weeks in the Top Ten and "As Long As It Matters" which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Duo or Group. “It was pretty cool to lose a Grammy to the Beatles. Who else would you want to lose out to” say’s Jesse. The album rocketed into Billboard's Top Ten and a year of touring helped push the record past 1,500,000 in sales. In 5 years, the band released 2 EP’s, two LP’s and over 12 singles that fueled record sales to over 7 million. Their blend of Pop & Rock, now known as Jangle-Pop, became a musical force that helped define the sound of 90’s radio.
In 1997, while at peak success and after numerous appearances on late night TV such as Letterman, Leno, Arsenio Hall, Saturday Night Live, The Grammy’s, and endless touring, the group disbanded and began a four year hiatus. It was not until a 2001 New Years Eve performance in Tempe that the members reformed and began touring and recording again. “Since 2001, we have been performing over 120 shows a year. This is what we most enjoy doing” say’s Wilson. “It’s our job and I know all of us are really grateful that we can earn a living making records and entertaining people on the road. We’re doing something we really love! I don’t know many people that can say that when they go to work everyday.”
In 2005, former A&M president Al Cafaro resigned the band and partnered to record their 3rd full length album in over 10 years. “Major Lodge Victory” landed on Billboards 200 and was the # 10 Indie album of the year. Released on August 8th, 2006, it included hits “Learning The Hard Way” and the appropriately titled “Long Time Gone.” Billboard magazine called this gem “an effortless triumph of melodic perfection.” “This was a really fun record to make” say’s Scotty. “We assembled some of the old team together and recorded at Ardent Studios with John Hampton again. Ardent is a legendary studio, and were comfortable there – it was a lot of fun.” Back in chart bloom, Entertainment Weekly reviewed “Major Lodge Victory” by saying; “Hardly a half-hearted cash-in, this comeback LP marks a solid addendum to Gin Blossoms multi-platinum peak output.”
Their most recent album, 2010’s “No Chocolate Cake”, lands Gin’s back on the singles chart again with “Miss Disarray” and the album shot straight to # 1 on Amazon, hitting Billboard’s top 200 at # 73 and the Indie chart at #14. Because the band members no longer live in the same city—Wilson divides his time between Tempe and New York, Valenzuela is in Los Angeles. Putting the sonic pieces of No Chocolate Cake together presented an exciting new challenge for the band. While Wilson contributed a handful of songs, the bulk of the material chosen for the 11 track set was written by Valenzuela either solo or with different collaborators, including Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts (the Blossoms guitarist first worked with Wilde on The Rembrandts’ song “Long Walk Home”).
“In the old days, we used to joke that there was something for everybody in this band,” says Wilson. “There’s just something about the way we play and sound together, but in the end, it’s really about the quality of the songs. If you’re a band and want to sustain a career, no matter what you look like or how you play, you’ve got to have great songs. So it’s those songs and the sound we make…my voice, the guitars, tempos, that add up to something indefinable.”
Over the years, Gin Blossoms have toured over 25 different Countries including a five city tour of Iraq in 2010. “It was so much fun to entertain our troops. It’s really insightful to see first hand how our troops live in a combat zone. It really helped to broaden my understanding on the sacrifices they make to protect us at home and abroad. I hope all Americans understand how important it is for us to extend our thanks” says Robin.
Gin Blossoms are currently writing a brand new record and hope to finish in time for a 2013 release. “We never rush the writing of a new record” says Jesse. “There’s something to be said for having a level of experience where you instinctively know what works. The best ones are those that feel like they’ve already been there, as if they are just waiting to naturally emerge. I think it’s the quality of the songs we have and Robin’s voice. It’s also a matter of trust. I know when I bring in a song that Robin will know how to sing it, Scotty will know how to play it and Bill will know the groove. I wouldn’t work with guys I had to tell what to do. The key is to not try so hard.”
2013 will bring the band to over 100 cities, a 5 Artist rock cruise, international shows and perhaps a brand new album – stay tuned!
Trouble Funk, a musical group born on the streets of Washington, D.C. , is synonymous with the emergence of the non-stop, percussion driven, best seen live, experience the party, au- dience participatory call and response, grassroots, homegrown music called Go-Go. As the world wide ambassadors of this musical genre, Go-Go, a distant, but older cousin of Hip-Hop, Trouble Funk has taken their sound from the gritty streets of D.C. to the clubs of the nation and the festivals around the world for the past 30 plus years.
The band and their sound, developed by mixing an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo 70’s funk with a 60’s style horn section, heavily laden with infectious percussion, topped off with booming vocals and the genre’s trademark call and response, burst onto the music scene in 1978. Trouble Funk, in its infancy, consisted of the writing team of band leader, bassist and vocalist Tony “Big Tony” Fisher, keyboardists Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed and James Avery and trumpet player Taylor Reed. The group was rounded out with the musical prowess of drummer Emmett Nixon, percussionists Mack Carey and Timothy “Teebone” David, guitarist Chester Davis, trombonist Gerald Reed and saxophonist David Rudd while they peppered the musical landscape of the 1980’s with anthems “Drop the Bomb”, “Pump Me Up”, “Let’s Get Small”, “So Early in the Morning”, “Saturday Night Live From Washington, D.C., Parts 1 & 2”, “Say What?” and two R&B/ Hip-Hop Billboard charting tracks, “Still Smokin’” and “Good to Go”.
“Drop the Bomb” was the first Go-Go record to be released outside of Washington, D.C. and was released on the pioneering label, Sugar Hill Records.
Trouble Funk, with their raw, party driven style, was able to capture the attention of musical enthusiasts of a variety of genres catapulting themselves onto the national and international music scene. They would frequently tour with notable punk rock acts Minor Threat and the Big Boys, while still gracing the stage on major music festivals with legendary artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Parliament Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, UB40, Def Leppard and Fishbone, to name a few. Trouble Funk also recorded with Kurtis Blow and appeared in his video, “I’m Chillin’”.
From 1986 to 1988, Trouble Funk toured extensively throughout the United States playing legendary venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theatre and on worldwide stages with multiple stops in Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Spain, Nice, Denmark, Germany and Japan. A stop in Switzerland included a performance at the highly regarded Montreux Jazz Festival. 1994 brought Trouble Funk back to Japan for an extended tour.
In the mid 80’s, while Trouble Funk was signed to Island Records, their live performances were captured on the big screen in the film “Good to Go” starring Art Garfunkel. The film, produced by Island Pictures, showcased Go-Go music and most prominently, the music of Trouble Funk with the group featured on 5 of the 13 tracks on the soundtrack.
During Trouble Funk’s obligation with Island Records, they worked with the legendary Bootsy Collins who produced the album “Trouble Over Here, Trouble Over There”.
Today, Trouble Funk still tours frequently, playing a variety of festivals while their music has been kept relevant through sampling. “Pump Me Up” is one of the most sampled tracks of all time being sampled in over 70 different songs by various artists including Will Smith, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, M/A/R/R/S, Guy, Public Enemy, 2 Live Crew, George Clinton, Vanilla Ice, EPMD, Run-DMC, George Michael and Black
“Pump Me Up” is also featured in Style Wars and the fictional R&B radio station WildStyle in the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Trouble Funk songs “Drop the Bomb” and “Say What?” recently were noted in a lawsuit over sampling issues filed by the owners of the Trouble Funk catalog, Tuff City, against the Beastie Boys for usage in the Beastie Boys songs “Shadrock”, “Car Thief”, “The New Style” and “Hold It Now, Hit It".
“Let’s Get Small” has also been sampled most notably by Ice Cube featuring Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal on “We Be Ballin’ (Street Mix)”.
Recently, U.K. artist Kindness covered Trouble Funk’s “Still Smokin’” on his hit “It’s Alright”. Kindness wanted to capture the live performance of the Go-Go energy and sound and flew across the great pond to film the video live with Trouble Funk at Washington, D.C.’s U Street Music Hall.
Most recently, Big Tony and Trouble Funk was featured in the HBO series "Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways" where Dave Grohl reveals that Trouble Funk was a big influence on his musical career. In fact, so much so that Dave asked Trouble to appear on stage with Foo Fighters and other notables for the 4th of July Celebration Concert in Washington, DC's RFK Stadium.
The Junkyard band began in 1980 as a group of kids playing in a lot with plastic buckets, soda cans and other found object, emulating the sounds of some of their favorite go-go bands who performed in their Southeast, DC neighborhood Barry Farms also known as - "the projects". The band began to play talent shows and street performances throughout DC, taking audiences by storm with tight musical performances and polished presentations - playing from the grounds of the Smithsonian and Washington Monument, to the streets of Georgetown.
The band became a novelty act across the District, Maryland and Virginia areas (DMV). The popularity led to a TV commercial with one of the area's most popular retailers - Cavaliers Men’s Clothing Store. Shortly thereafter in 1983, the band landed an appearance in the movie "D.C. Cab" because it had quickly become a Washington, DC institution and tourist attraction.
As all of these band members were kids ranging in age from 9 -14 years of age, they now began to present a challenge to the adult groups they mimicked. In 1984, the band regularly began competing for performance slots in the DMV's popular go-go music genre. The band won-out bumping many of its competitors aside.
In 1985, Junkyard caught the attention of Def Jam Records and was signed to a multi-year recording deal. The band worked closely with Rick Rubin, recording and releasing the national hit "Sardines" and an underground favorite "The WORD". After release of the songs, Junkyard began a tour in 3 cities in Texas coming back up the east coast all the way to Boston. The tour included dates with a variety of groups such as Slayer, Fishbone and the Beastie Boys. Following that, in 1986 Junkyard appeared in the Def Jam produced movie "Tougher Than Leather" alongside Run-DMC.
Because of the unique beginnings of the band, it has performed on all types of stages, in all types of situations from street corners, to weddings, to the Apollo Theater, to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The band has opened for and performed with (backed-up) numerous artists such as Tupac, Ice Cube, Salt-N-Pepa, Doug E. Fresh, Lauryn Hill, Chuck Brown and too many others to continue naming.
EU (Experience Unlimited)
EU (Experience Unlimited) is one of the original Washington DC Go-Go bands. Fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, the original members all attended Ballou High School in Washington, DC. The band chose the name Experience due to their respect for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Unlimited because they did not want to limit the range of their music. Their early regional hits included EU Freeze, Lock Your Butt, and Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray. Although they are best known for their Grammy nominated, massive worldwide hit Da-Butt from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” soundtrack, EU scored hits with Salt & Papa (Shake Your Thang), with rap innovator Kurtis Blow (Party Time), and on their own with Buck Wild and Taste of Your Love. Da Butt won Soul Train’s best R&B/Soul Single, Group in 1989.
EU has performed with Teena Marie, Morris Day and The Time, Mint Condition, Cameo, and countless others. They performed on a show with Bob Dylan in 1989, one of Sugar Bear’s career highlights. EU released the hit Umm Bop Bop in 2000. They dropped the single Bounce in 1999, garnering extensive airplay. EU appeared in the tribute DVD to Chuck Brown, Put Your Hands Up in 2002 (called quite possibly the best live concert DVD ever made by Murder Dog Magazine) with a brilliant set of live music, featuring a percussion showdown between Ju Ju House and Mighty Mo Hagans, along with blistering renditions of EU Freeze. Dog Star, Da Butt and much more. In 2003, EU performed to a national audience on the televised NAACP Awards’ Tribute to Spike Lee. EU has been featured in 2009 in VH1 one hit wonders of the 1980’s. Sugar Bear received the Legend Award at the second annual WKYS Go-Go Awards in 2007. He appears in a local TV commercial for an insurance company, and teaches special education at TC Williams.
Experience Unlimited has toured Europe, Japan, and across the US, but call Washington, DC home. EU is currently in the studio working on a new cd, and they continue to rock the stage night after night.