By Alison Murphy
This summer has been full of changes for Perpetual Groove. Perpetual Groove is a four piece band that cannot be defined by one genre of music. They are a high-energy jam band that can get trancy, thoughtful and funky. This Athens, Georgia based band has been doing a lot of remodeling in the last few months and now they are finally back on tour. In May of this year, Matt McDonald, their keyboardist, decided to leave the band. McDonald has been touring with the band rigorously and he felt like now was the time to take a break and spend some time with his family at home. His last performance with the band was at their annual Memorial Day get-together, Amberland.
After the split, no one knew what was in store for the band for the rest of the summer. They had already been scheduled to play multiple festivals such as Rothbury and All Good. Then, on June 16, they announced their new keyboardist: John Hurby. This was, for certain, an exciting and interesting choice for the band. By no means was this a hastily made decision. The band first met Hurby in 2003 when they toured with his Ohio-based jam band, Guest. Hurby has had a wide range of experience in the music business and most recently he has been playing in Zone Studios working with rap artists like the Ying Yang Twins, Ciara and Ludacris.
Hurby first performed with Perpetual Groove in June, right here in Asheville, for the first annual Vortex Music Festival. He made his official debut with the band in Michigan at the Rothbury Music Festival. Besides the couple other shows they did over the summer, the band has been rehearsing non-stop in preparation for their fall “Thunder Construction” tour.
On September 4, Perpetual Groove kicked off their fall tour with a two night run in the hometown and then made their way up to Asheville for another unforgettable night at the Orange Peel. A week into their tour and fans are already bursting with opinions about the new material and the new addition to the band. The September 6 show definitely showed us a new and improved version of Perpetual Groove. We did not hear the usual expected songs like “Mayday,” “TTFPJ,” “Speed Queen,” “Two Shores,” etc. Instead we heard some not-so-familiar material like “Space Paranoids,” “Mr. Transistor,” “Only Always,” and even some new stuff like “At the Screen” and “Temperance.” Many complained that they did not get to hear their favorites, the songs they just “have to play.” We all knew this was coming, though. This is a new season, a new tour, and more importantly a new chapter in Perpetual Groove’s history. Jam band lovers must embrace change. It’s what the music thrives on. Of course everyone knows and loves all of their old songs, but no one wants them to get over-played. The band is just trying to keep things fresh and exciting. Wouldn’t it be more of a let-down to see the same old songs with little energy?
As for the chemistry on stage, it was unbelievable. The energy of the whole night was fantastic. Hurby brings a lot of great things to the band. Just watching him play gets the audience excited, he’s got great charisma and it really comes through in his playing. Hurby also has this one synth setting he has been using lately that is so funktastic, it makes everyone want to dance! The communication on stage was also unprecedented: it truly seemed like they all had been playing together for much longer than a summer.
Perpetual Groove’s overall presence on stage was enormous. They filled the Orange Peel well. The only complaint I had of the night was that they stopped playing way too early. A Saturday night in Asheville means party late, not stop playing at 12:30.