Where’s the old group, and why there’s new hope for an engaged music scene
By Teri Barr
What happens when you’re part of a band who’s traveled the country, won many accolades at the local and state levels, and recorded more than one album a year since 2008?
You start a new project.
And while it may be the easiest answer, to all that’s happened, talk to Lucas Cates, and it’s his honest explanation, too. “The Lucas Cates Band with Kenny Leiser on guitar and fiddle, Mark Noxon on bass, and Jesse Warmka on drums was amazing; as a group of musicians, and friends. But Kenny and Mark are now recording and touring with the Madison-based band Mighty Wheelhouse, and having great success. Jesse recently got married, and just moved to Florida,” Cates says. “The four of us played Kenny’s annual mustache/birthday bash in mid-May as a kind of quiet good-bye party, too. It was a so much fun, and there may be reunion shows here and there as the original TLCB, but otherwise it’s time to move on.”
Moving on for Cates means new players: Darren Marabelli on lead guitar and back-up vocals, well-known and well-honed bassist Cody Davis, and Travis Drumm on drums. Drumm and Davis (Willow Lane Band) met Cates (TLCB) as each competed with their most recent former bands in the Project-M / Triple-M Radio Competition in 2012. Drumm may best be known for winning the Guitar Center, Madison drum-off competition in 2011, but there’s also a pretty cool video of him playing pots, pans, and buckets while on a Canadian fishing trip. Marabelli has the ability to play just about any instrument, and is currently part of Katie Scullin’s band, led by another talented Madison-based musician.
Talking with Cates about the new band, you can hear the excitement in his voice. “I.. we.. can’t wait to get out there to play everything we’ve been working on, including a lot of new music we want to get feedback on before we head into the recording studio by the end of the summer,” Cates says. “Our first official shows in July will be a good trial run for us, though we are pretty sure we have more than enough fresh, new tracks for both our album, and for our friends to enjoy.” (And in full disclosure, I am one of those friends. Lucas and I got to know each other when TLCB originally formed and went on the road; at the time I worked at WISC-TV 3, and did a story as the four members of the band quit their jobs. Remember, this was the “recession” of 2008, and they made a great go of it during an especially hard time. I admire all of them as musicians, but feel especially lucky to call them friends.)
So it was on a note of friendship, I asked Cates questions regarding the music scene as a whole in Madison – there’s some exciting developments in the works; including a new 2000-seat venue via Frank Productions on the near-east side, the Willy-Wash Musical Yahara neighborhood initiative, and continuing talk of larger-scale events to put this area on the map. And again, as honestly as he answered questions about his band, I asked him for his true thoughts on the music community:
Teri: Does being based in Madison, help or hurt your efforts as an artist?
Lucas: There is tremendous talent, amazing players, and bands in this area. Luckily, it’s known for that based on its history, which does help current bands when you play shows in other areas of the Midwest, or in different sections of the country.
Teri: But, does it help you here, with what should be your home crowd?
Lucas: On the broader scale, it’s tough. Go to State Street and it’s either the all-ages or a 21+ crowd. And it seems they aren’t very interested in live, original music. Most of the University students want a D.J. or cover band and that’s it for diversification in the bars there.
Teri: And it’s a bar area which could offer vital support for musicians?
Lucas: Sure, because the students in that part of Madison are typically the greatest population of people going out on a regular basis. The tough thing for the old TLCB which was still successful, or the new TLCB, or any other band is how do you get the greater community to care and invest their support in live, original, local music? We gave away shirts, CD’s. Many of our shows were free. We played benefit shows to help organizations in the community because we believed it was our obligation to give back. We had our regular, faithful friends and fans who always supported us. Though we’d hang out and talk with people at our shows, it could be rare to see many new faces.
Teri: You’re putting together another band, so there’s got to be something great about it?
Lucas: Of course! It’s the love of writing and playing music. I know Madison would like to be a community compared directly to cities like Austin, or Nashville. But it really has become ingrained in the culture of those places. People just expect to find artists and musicians playing everywhere, and sharing all types of music, all the time. But, I have to say thank you to the Madison Area Music Association and its annual awards show for its continued commitment to current and future musicians. It helped us when we really needed a boost, and it just keeps getting bigger and better. And now there’s Make Music Madison, which is a fun, free day of music all around the city. These are just small examples of the good things that keep a band going here. Just imagine what it would be like without these types of events? We need more of ’em, and somehow we need to build a greater community of support. But I’m really looking forward to being back out there, and working on trying to be a part of the solution. It feels like there’s a bright future ahead.
Here’s your chance to support The NEW Lucas Cates Band with music already being compared to the roots and jam style of The John Butler Trio, and alternative blues, hip-hop of G Love and Special Sauce.
The band’s first official Madison show is Friday, July 4th at Deerwood Studios, starting at 2 p.m.
Saturday, July 5th TLCB is on the Main Stage at the Riverfront Rendezvous Festival in Stevens Point at 6 p.m.
Then later July 5th, TLCB returns to Wisconsin Dells and Christmas Mountain at 10 p.m.
Find more tour dates at: www.lucascates.com
Like the band on facebook or follow them on twitter.