Some bands are great for the things they are. They fulfill a cookie-cutter vision we’ve created, and they fulfill it well. Some musicians meet our mainstream, group-consciousness expectations and exceed them in ways we’ve not yet expected. They crash the charts with a fury, fill glossy posters with their polished looks, and drill their catchy, simplistic tunes into our minds just like we believe they should. We worship them for what they are.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood makes no attempts at these things and no apologies for their decision not to. There are, undoubtedly, those superficial music fans who will see these as shortcomings. Those “fans” are missing the beauty of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood by looking in the wrong direction. Their genius lies not in what they are, but rather in what they are not.
“Chris Robinson isn’t another aging celebrity musician entertaining himself with an obscure pet project.”
The band is not a mainstream, pop radio act. They’re not drawing in throngs of mindless, soulless, clamouring teenagers. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I saw them, they filled a small theater, and the young people present were not mainstream, nor ironically counter-culture hipsters. They were individuals and artists, eccentrics and introspective introverts. I sat two rows up from the long-haired, awkward young man I saw playing his guitar at the farmers’ market hours before.
The music is not lazy. There’s no sloppiness, no half-hearted effort. The instrumentation is complex and sophisticated. Each song is substantial, with most featuring multiple tempo changes, dizzying rifts, and masterful solos. There is no cheap reliance on hooks or predictable repetitions. Each note appears to be played with a level of intention that can only be wrought by genuine care and devotion to quality. Yet, it doesn’t come across as overly technical or unnecessarily complicated. It speaks of a group of masters taking true…