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Aural Report

New Mexico's Starseed
Winning on the road
by Kurt Dahlke

jump into the van, half asleep from 10-plus innings of Red Sox and Yankees going toe-to-toe for entry into the World Series.

I just can't take it, but turn on the radio anyway, to see if The Curse will be lifted. One pitch and I know that everything they've said about the world being unfair is true, all true. Aaron Boone skies the Yankees toward yet another championship.

Uphill battle: Starseed chases the brass donut.

If you want to succeed, maybe you must move to New York or Los Angeles. Bands chasing the brass donut often up and relocate, too. But just imagine committing to another city solely to pin your hopes on capricious fate with a bunch of people you already spend entirely too much time with.

Sun-stroked Albuquerque band Starseed faces such a decision as band members set up in Conan's Pub on 39th and Hawthorne, amidst 50 folks who seem oblivious to the sad fact that the BoSox and Cubbies have lived up to self-defeating tradition once again.

Fate has recently turned impeccable Starseed guitarist Jon Fox into a Portlander, and it's up to the rest of the four-piece to decide if they should all move up to Portland to keep the band alive.

There are superficial warning signs that this might not be a good idea.

Starseed passes the jam.

Cynics will suppose that a band with a new CD titled Way Skies (that some unnamed soul described as "Blind Melon meets Starship") is in for an uphill battle. Further upping the counter-intuitive ante, this group has been described as a jam band that doesn't jam.

And, in a small town where you can see probably 90 bands a night, do we really need another group treading well-worn territory that may just fall through the cracks?

Sadly, since the tour is winding down, you'll have to check out the CD (www.starseedmusic.com) or take my word for it: this band is an REI-clad super-hiker on a well-worn path.

I tend to like a bit of artifice with my rock, but Starseed is all new-generation, keepin' it real, working-class style in baseball Ts and jeans. Nevertheless, the group backs up every move with relaxed skill that blows away the opening act.

It's true that there's a bit of East Coast Corridor Hootie to Starseed's vibe, but the jam band that doesn't jam makes that vibe their own. Adam Schraft sings passionately (about what I can't tell, because I can rarely hear the vocals at these shows), working the stage, bouncing around like a seasoned pro and busting out some credible white-boy rhymes to boot.

When not rapping, he and drummer Charis Hurst often harmonize, sounding as good as if they were sitting down singing on a quiet couch somewhere. The songs, emphasizing earthy, catchy harmonies, also do the syncopated clock thing, swinging smoothly to bassist Jonathan Trause's tasteful, tight pop and slap. He even picks out clever root-notes to hit on the downbeat.

The songs don't jam, but they do know their when, what and how – each one setting heads bobbing, ending before they out-stay their welcome, leaving you wanting more.

Stay or go: Starseed visits Portland.

Even the conga/bongos guest percussionist (usually a red flag for cheese) is utterly tight and tasteful, while Fox appears to have no ego (one in a million, as lead guitar goes), playing only for the song.

Sure, there are thousands of other bands doing the same thing, but how many of them do it this comfortably? Starseed is a well-oiled machine working a little October magic. Whatever its fate, I'm glad I caught the show.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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