A new spin | SummitDaily.com

A new spin

Kimberly Nicoletti

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Sometimes success can come too fast.

In 1991, the Spin Doctors released its debut album, “Pocketful of Kryptonite.” Within a year, radio stations and MTV buzzed with the sounds of its biggest hits, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes.” The funky rhythms and infectious vocals rocketed the New York City players from the club scene to amphitheaters across the country.

The Spin Doctors helped set the trend for neo-hippie alternative music, being the first jam band to break into commercial success. The album sold 8 million copies, and life was good – damn good. Until the band imploded.

“When young guys get a band together and get in a situation where they go from little clubs to huge venues, it’s a lot of pressure because everyone wants a little piece of you,” said drummer Aaron Comess.

The chemistry that made the band work – four different personalities from four different backgrounds – led to its demise. As the musicians spent more time traveling around and less making music, tensions mounted.

“We began to drive each other nuts,” Comess said. “One thing led to another, and we just unraveled.”

It didn’t help that the 1994 follow-up to the debut album, “Turn it Upside Down,” and the 1996 album, “You’ve Got to Believe in Something,” were largely ignored by the public, which two years prior, couldn’t get enough of the rootsy sound.

Guitarist Eric Schenkman was the first to leave, in 1994. Two years later, bassist Mark White left. But the real killer occurred in 1999 when lead vocalist Chris Barron lost his voice for half a year.

The band had filled its voids with a new lineup and released a new album, “Here Comes the Bride,” by 1999. But just as it was about to go on tour, Barron woke up without a voice. He didn’t think much of it at first, but as the days passed, he began to take it seriously.

Doctors diagnosed him with paralyzed vocal cords and said he had a 50 percent chance of talking – much less singing – again, Comess said. They couldn’t offer any treatment. It was just a waiting game.

But Barron didn’t sit tight. He went from doctor to doctor and eventually tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

“I remember he was drinking these weird teas that he got in Chinatown,” Comess said.

Six months later, he could speak louder than a whisper, and a year later, he was singing full force.

The original members of the Spin Doctors reunited for what they thought would be a one-time show in September 2001 when the owner of the renowned New York City club, The Wetlands, asked them to play at the club’s historic final show. The musicians agreed, but Barron wasn’t feeling it – at first.

“I did the Wetlands gig ’cause I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t do it,” Barron said in a press release. “I think we all went into it with a certain amount of curiosity, a certain amount of excitement and a certain amount of trepidation.”

When they came together for rehearsal, things changed.

“It was as though the music was waiting for us,” Barron said.

“We all got together and had a really great time,” Comess said. “Everybody left with a really good vibe from it.”

The gig led to a two-week tour in April 2002 and summer tours.

“What we’ve realized is to concentrate on the good things we have together and not worry about the little things,” Comess said. “It’s more about what are the great aspects of hanging out with these guys, and it all comes down to the music. The band sounds really fresh, and we’re having a good time on stage.”

Even on days like Sunday, when they fly out of Boston at 6 a.m. and rush up to Copper Mountain for a 2:45 p.m. gig. (It was originally scheduled for 2 p.m., but because of the tight schedule, Copper added Newcomers Home as an opening act at 1:30 p.m.)

“We might be a little groggy, but we’ll be OK,” Comess said. “It doesn’t matter how tired you are. As soon as you get on stage, it doesn’t matter what you felt like five minutes before – you’re up.”

The Spin Doctors bring the raw energy of their youth to Copper for a free show at 2:45 p.m. (they say 3 p.m. at the latest) Sunday.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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