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Little Feat maintains big following

Kimberly Nicoletti

KEYSTONE – Paul Barrere, guitarist and vocalist of Little Feat, would rather be known as a good, old musician than an aging rock star.

“At this point, we couldn’t put the makeup and the spandex on and make it work, so we might as well enjoy the music,” Barrere said.

Enjoying the jam has been the secret to Little Feat’s success in developing a cult-like following throughout the past 30 years.

“There’s always been a mantra in Little Feat, and that is, “The joy is in the doing, or in the performance, or in the creation of the music,'” he said. “There are people in this world that really see that and appreciate that.”

The band members have resisted being pigeonholed into a distinct sound or style, historically cutting one album with a rock ‘n’ roll sound, followed by another with predominately Latin rhythms and another with a New Orleans-influenced gumbo of flavors, which became a marketing nightmare for Warner Bros., he said.

“To us, it’s more about the music than how you market it,” he said. “We would be as original as possible. There would be no rules. We’d always enable ourselves to play whatever music we wanted to. We’d take all these forms of music and stir them up in a pot, and it comes out Little Feat.”

The band’s vibe is a fusion of late 1960s California rock and Dixie-inflected funk-boogie, interspersed with folk, blues, rockabilly, country and jazz.

“We play basically American music – every kind of American music – rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, blues,” he said. “We’ve covered all those bases, sometimes in one song. We’re all about getting people up and out of themselves and having a good time.”

Lowell George, formerly of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, started Little Feat in 1969 with keyboard master Bill Payne, drummer Richie Hayward and Roy Estrada, after Zappa declined to perform George’s unconventional songs referencing drugs.

Warner Bros. signed on Little Feat, releasing 12 of its 16 albums. The band split up after George died in 1979, mistakenly believing his passing also was the end of Little Feat.

Then a chance jam in 1986 reunited the members, and by 1988 they were recreating the magic with Craig Fuller as lead vocalist and Fred Tackett adding layers of guitar, mandolin, trumpet and vocals.

“We found there was a real strength to the music,” Barrere said.

To quote from their own lyrics from “Hangin’ On to the Good Times Here,” “Although we went our own ways, we couldn’t escape from where we came, so we find ourselves back at the table again, telling stories of survivors and friends.”

Original band members Payne and Hayward have played with the band for 33 years, and Barrere, percussionist Sam Clayton and bassist Kenny Gradney have been on board for 30 years.

“There’s a familiarity within the framework of jamming and improv,” Barrere said. “It’s having the comfort of knowing where your cohorts are going to go or knowing they can follow you when you take a left turn or a U-turn. When you get lost in those moments, that’s what it’s all about.”

The band members, individually and collectively, have collaborated with countless musicians, including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Beck, Brian Wilson, Robert Plant and Johnny Lang.

“I’ll guarantee you, if any of the guys from Leftover Salmon or String Cheese Incident are around, they’ll sit in with us (Wednesday),” Barrere said.

Tickets are $18 in advance, $22 day of the show and may be purchased by calling (970) 496-4386 or visiting http://www.Ticketswest.com.

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

Little Feat

– When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7

– Where: Park Lane

Pavilion, Keystone


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