Eric Jerardi Band Brings Soulful Blues/Rock to Oregon Express
By Kyle Melton
For more than a century, the blues has served as fertile soil from which countless musical forms have sprouted. Nearly every American region has given birth to idiosyncratic interpretations of the form, and upon its electrification in the middle of the last century it provided ample fire to the then-nascent rock ‘n’ roll. Local guitar favorite Eric Jerardi carries on blues traditions while carrying them forward with a unique songwriting voice and willingness to experiment. Jerardi and his band bring their explosive live set to Oregon Express on Friday.
Along with his current lineup of Jon Arnold on bass and Adam Wheeler on drums, Jerardi creates a potent blend of blues-infused rock that transcends easy categorization, but leaves audiences enraptured nonetheless. While often pigeonholed as a blues artist in Dayton, Jerardi is quick to point out that his stylistic range, as well as his upbringing, are a little more complex.
“I don’t consider myself a bluesman actually,” admitted Jerardi. “I play blues well, however, I prefer playing my own original blues/rock music than traditional blues music. Let’s face it — I’m a white, middle-class dude who grew up on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I picked up a guitar in the corner of my brother’s closet when I was 15 years old and never put it down.”
For over 20 years, Jerardi and his revolving cast of gifted sidemen have built an intensely devoted following the old-fashioned way: touring. Their marathon shows and feverish post-set celebrations keep fans coming back and keep the band busy, although opportunities are dwindling, as is evident throughout the industry.
“In the past decade or so I’ve played around 100 shows a year,” Jerardi said. “I have slowed down a bit, but intend on ramping up soon. Touring is paramount to have success in this industry, but the live music biz of late sucks, to put it bluntly. People are reluctant to go out and spend and as a result, bars and clubs are struggling. I find it and have found it difficult to maintain the same schedule when many of the clubs and budgets for festivals are drying up.”
As evidenced on the band’s last release, 2009’s Live at Waukesha Blues Festival, Jerardi & co. can deliver a blistering set on any given day. Although it’s been some time since their last studio release [2007’s Restless], Jerardi is working on new material, which is fueled by a newfound confidence in his craft.
“Writing, for me is a laborious process that goes on and on,” explained Jerardi. “The most difficult thing for me is to maintain a rigorous schedule, from cooking, educating and speaking to wayward youth, to running a biz, touring, writing and recording. However, I am on a creative upswing right now and I enjoy it very much when it comes. For me, it is something I sit and wait for — probably not the best method, but if you force it, people smell the bullshit.”
In addition to all his work touring and writing for his band, Jerardi is also a small-business owner and community activist. Although these endeavors may spread him thin at times, they are all elements of his enthusiastic lifestyle.
“I own and have operated Jerardi’s Little Store for almost 16 years, I am highly involved in the fine food and wine business and I enjoy it very much as I do playing and writing music,” he said. “It’s hard to do both, but it is of my own doing and a labor of love. I am also the wine director at Sidebar downtown, which is another endeavor that has turned out to be enjoyable, challenging and fruitful.”
As the band renews its commitment to the road this summer, Jerardi looks forward to a return to the stage in Dayton and its peculiar challenges.
“I do find it to be a challenge when I play at home,” Jerardi concludes. “I feel as though I need to reinvent myself every time. I never have set lists and I improvise everything. It can be magical and it can bite you in the ass. I just don’t want to be boring or redundant, as I want everyone who pays to get in to have a good time. I will guarantee that I am always evolving, always changing. This band is sick and they inspire me to rise above and press on.”
The Eric Jerardi Band will perform on Friday, June 17 at Oregon Express, 340 E. Fifth St. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. For more information, visit ericjerardi.com.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com
and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.