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The New Orleans Suspects return to perform at OTP

Julia Ben-Asher/For Steamboat Today
The New Orleans Suspects will bring their "dance party" sound to Old Town Pub and Restaurant Saturday night.
New_Orleans_Suspects_2016_by_Jay_Skolnick

If you go:

What: New Orleans Suspects

When: Doors open at 9:30 p.m., concert begins at 10:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28

Where: Old Town Pub and Restaurant, 600 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 day of show

— Shine up your dancin’ shoes, brush up on your dancin’ moves and mix up some hurricanes. The New Orleans Suspects are back in town.

The Suspects’ Sunday night show at Old Town Pub offers a fun and funky — and not likely restful — end to the weekend.

“We basically throw a dance party,” said pianist C.R. Gruver.

Gruver is classically trained and has played with Outformation and Angie Aparo. He spent several years in Denver, touring surrounding areas including Steamboat Springs, and he currently lives in New Orleans.

The band’s drummer is “Mean” Willie Green, who played with the Neville Brothers for more than three decades and recorded with The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Bassist Reggie Scanlan has played with The Radiators, James Booker, Professor Longhair and Earl King. Saxophonist Jeff Watkins led the James Brown Band and has worked in producing, engineering and band leading. Guitarist Jake Eckert led the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in shows across the globe, performed at the 2009 Grammy Awards and has played with Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band and Modest Mouse.

The group formed informally in 2009, when the individually prominent New Orleans musicians fell into playing jam sessions together at The Big Easy’s Maple Leaf Bar. They found exceptional chemistry as a group.

“On nights that the bar forgot to book a band or a band wouldn’t show up, one of us would get a call from the owners, saying, ‘Hey, I have an opening; gather the usual suspects,’” Gruver recalled.

Thus, The Usual Suspects was born, but with the confusion of the 1995 crime movie of the same name, adapted to The Unusual Suspects. Finally, as the group became a full-time band and amped up their gigs outside of New Orleans, the name solidified to be The New Orleans Suspects.

With each Suspect having his own background and affiliations with other artists, the group’s early shows consisted largely of covers, Gruver said.

“But for us, it was really important that people knew we weren’t just a band leaning on material from the past,” Gruver explained. “We’re an original band with our own identity, creating new material.”

Sunday’s set list includes both the band’s older songs and recent originals recorded during the past few months for their newest album, “Kaleidoscoped,” which will be released in September. The album is the group’s fourth but will be its second all-original studio album and its first to be printed on vinyl.

“It’s exciting that this album was made for vinyl; everyone’s getting crazy for vinyl,” Eckert said.

The band describes “Kaleidoscoped” as full of fun tunes that people have been responding to and unique from its past albums.

“We kind of branched out, stylistically, in different genres,” Gruver said. “It didn’t seem cohesive at first, but as everything came together, we realized the songs do have a common thread and tell a story about the band’s diversity. That’s part of the reason we called the album ‘Kaleidescoped.’”

The production of “Kaleidoscoped” was funded by a PledgeMusic drive. Five percent of money raised after the original goal went to New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, a nonprofit that offers affordable, comprehensive health care to New Orleans musicians.

The Suspects have spent much of the summer on pre-release work for “Kaleidoscoped.” They performed at Canada’s Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival and Edmonton Blues Festival before the Colorado leg of the tour. In past years, the band has played in Steamboat’s Free Summer Concerts series and at Old Town Pub; they usually visit several times per year.

“New Orleans is where a lot of the music comes from, but Colorado is where a lot of the music fans come from,” Eckert said. “We kind of look at Colorado as our second home. We’re looking forward to getting out of this hot weather and getting some of that cool mountain air; we’re looking forward to seeing you guys.”


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