Space jam

Chris Comer Space Dub Sextet plays Boonshoft Planetarium

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Green Jellÿ has developed a cult following for its outrageous live performances; photo: Melina Dellamarggio

Chris Comer may be the namesake of a classic jazz trio, but he’s broadening his musical horizons. And that may be the understatement of the year.

His newest project, the Chris Comer Space Dub Sextet, is the furthest thing from playing corporate events. In fact, the newly formed band will play a show at the planetarium in Dayton’s Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Friday, June 19, at 7 p.m.

So what exactly is space dub? Comer says “dub” refers to a style of music similar to Jamaican reggae, but remixed with B-sides of the music, the bass looped and drums pulled up. He calls it repetitive and bass-driven. He compares his sound to jam bands like the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Phish.

And the space part, well, the planetarium venue speaks for itself.

“When I was a little kid, my mom used to take me to the planetarium, and it was so cool,” Comer says. “I knew when I was a kid that when I grew up I wanted to be involved in something like this.” He later became a composition major at Bowling Green State University and became part of a band called Umclunk. He says Umclunk played a show at the same planetarium, back when it was known as The Dayton Museum of Natural History, and he’s looking forward to having a second chance to do so.

“My college band did a gig [at the planetarium] playing psychedelic trippy progressive art rock,” Comer says. “We almost caught the planetarium on fire when a speaker blew up.”

Though he has years of experience in improvised psychedelic music, Comer’s Space Dub Sextet is so new that it doesn’t even have a website, T-shirts or CDs yet. It’s played three gigs so far at MOTR in Cincinnati, but Comer says every member has been warming up for this show.

The new band consists of Comer on a vintage fender rhodes electric piano, Brent Olds of the international hip-hop aggregate ISWHAT?! on bass, Brendan Blumer of Baoku Moses And The Image Afrobeat Band on drums and multi-instrumentalist Dan Barger, who specializes on saxophone and flute.

“Musicians have their own sort of fraternity,” Comer says of finding suitable musicians to join his new space dub project. “I’ve been playing since the ’90s so I just know everybody, and I always have to find another musician. Late last year, I put some gigs together and called these four guys specifically, and these guys had what it takes to play an improvised gig and still play it funky and interesting and still play music. Some guys just start to make noise. These guys don’t make noise. These guys are awesome.”

Comer shows a great deal of respect for his fellow bandmates, which is important in improvised music like space dub.

“Instead of having a song to play, we make it up as we go along,” Comer explains. “We have various styles that go back and forth, and we have interaction to know how to play with each other. It’s an artistic process going on that you don’t have when you’re playing a song you’ve played a hundred times.”

Along with the improvised music, they’ll play interactively with a projection screen on the ceiling of the planetarium, creating a unique, trippy and unpredictable experience.

“There are lots of goals when you do a project like this,” Comer says. “Doing a planetarium show is something I’ve always dreamed of. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. But I know how to play in the dark, and how to play when the lights come up.”

He attributes may of his skils to his college experience, but admits he’s grown a lot since then. “We started out as a bunch of doped up college kids with a speaker that blew up and set the planetarium on fire… now, I’ve grown up. [The music] remains improvised, psychedelic jam band art rock. There are a million ways to describe it.”

If he had to describe it, though?

“It’s something that appeals to all your senses, not just ears,” Comer says. “If we’re doing our job, you should be able to see it and smell it too. The bottom line is it’s a trippy band; bring all your stoner friends.”

The Chris Comer Space Dub Sextet will perform Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at the Caryl D. Philips Space Theater, located inside the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, 2600 Deweese Pkwy. Tickets are available for $10 at the door the night of the event. For more information, please visit boonshoftmuseum.org or chriscomertrio.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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