FreeVerse
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FreeVerse

Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
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Welcome home, FreeVerse
Little Rock jam band revisits an old haunt.

By Shea Stewart (Contact)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The boys are back in town — FreeVerse plays Juanita’s on Saturday with Little Rock’s South 61 opening. The 18-and-up show kicks off at 10 p.m. Cover is $7. It’s the drummer who’s the weird one.

In a jam band that lists influences such as the Grateful Dead, Phish, Galactic and Talking Heads, FreeVerse drummer Chris Sturtz flings Iron Maiden, Slayer and Morphine into his basket of influences. It might make more sense for Sturtz to list the legendary The Allman Brothers Band drumming duo of Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson, or Bill Kreutzmann from the Dead.

But when you are the man building the foundation for the band’s Southern fried fusion of psychedelic rock, funk, blues and jazz, it helps to have a rock-solid background. It’s the steady beat of Sturtz that allows the rest of the band — Adam Nelson on lead guitar and vocals, Brent Stroud on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Brian Wolverton on bass and vocals, and Dave Williams II on saxophone — room to surf over and through the band’s concoction of musical influences.

“The Grateful Dead are the reason I play music,” Nelson said. “But FreeVerse has grown into so much more. It’s better with the addition of all these influences.”

The band’s two newest members — Wolverton who joined in 2006 and Williams who joined in 2007 — slightly altered the band’s sound. But both come with strong musical pedigrees, with Wolverton playing with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Williams playing jazz saxophone on Friday nights at his family’s restaurant, Dave’s Place, and add their own musical stamp on the band.

“We have definitely gone the funk rock route with Brian and Dave in the group,” said Stroud at a recent band rehearsal at which Williams proudly sported a Galactic T-shirt.

“The way I feel about our music is we take jazz ideas and principles, and apply them to funk and rock,” Nelson said. “We’ve got new areas to explore. It’s a new life.”

On stage, the members of FreeVerse are locked in as a unit, destroying the walls of five- or six-minute song structures and freely exploring their musical paths and creating grooves. But it’s not all noodling solely for the band’s enjoyment as certain tunes lend themselves better to 20-minute expeditionary jams while other numbers are more concise. The perfect jam depends on many factors, including crowd participation. But the key to changing gears from a bluesy shuffle to dirty funk is a personal connection the band members have with each other, Sturtz said.

“It’s just spending a lot of time with each other and being familiar with everyone,” he said.

“People make eye contact,” Williams said. “There is a lot of onstage communication that is nonverbal.”

Stroud adds, “It’s never spoken. It’s always talked out musically.”

Formed in the spring of 2002, the band has recorded two albums, 2004’s The Trinity Sessions Demo recorded by Jay Wedeman of Brown Carpet Studios in Jacksonville, and the band’s self-titled June 2006 album, produced, engineered and mixed by Drew Pickens mainly at The Hive Studio in Little Rock. Tentative plans are for a third album soon with a handful of originals the band already plays live ready for recording.

But in the meantime, the band is returning to where it all begin with a Saturday night show at Juanita’s.

Nelson and Stroud started playing together in the mid-1990s. Sturtz joined the group along with original bassist T.J. Hudson (who departed in 2006), and FreeVerse was formed. The band’s first show was at White Water Tavern, and the band played continuously in and around the Little Rock area, slowly building its name by playing everywhere it could, including backyard parties. Although the band was not succeeding financially, people were taking notice.

But it took a Feb. 1, 2003, show at Juanita’s to truly open up the future. The band was selected to open for Oteil Burbridge, bassist for The Allman Brothers Band and leader of his own group Oteil and the Peacemakers. The Saturday night show opening for Oteil proved to the band that it had arrived.

“That was our first big show,” Nelson said. “It kind of made us legit.”

This weekend’s show with Little Rock band South 61 opening for FreeVerse will mark the first time the band has played Juanita’s in two years. And while the song remains the same, it’s a slightly updated sound for familiar faces.

“That was our first big gig, and we’ve played a lot of gigs there,” Stroud said. “That’s why it’s so cool to come back.”
- Sync Weekly


Discography

The Trinity Sessions Demo
Recorded in 2004
Recorded and Mixed by Jay Wedeman of Brown Carpet Studios in Jacksonville, AR

FreeVerse
Self-titled 2006
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Drew Pickens
Mastered by Matt Sandowski of Air Show Mastering
Manufactured and Printed by Disc Makers

Photos

Bio

"There's no denying that the spirit of the jam band is alive and well whenever Little Rock's FreeVerse hits the stage. In fact, this band has a constant connection with their audience, unlike most live acts you'll see." --Chris King, owner of Sticky Fingerz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack and The Revolution Music Room.

FreeVerse is a fusion of progressive psychedelic rock, funk, blues, and jazz that yields one seasoned jam band. They are always pushing forward, rocking with heavy beats and flowing energy.  FreeVerse can explore southern fried harmonica-drenched blues to spaced-out dirty funk. Depending on the moment, you never can be sure what they will sound like. This creative energy allows the band to explore new directions every night. Rocking the moment, or the now, is the overall goal of their music.

In 2003, FreeVerse was voted "Best New Band" by the readers of the Little Rock Free Press.  They were Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Semifinalists in 2004 and 2005.  They were also chosen to participate in the Wakarusa Winter Classic in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In the summer of 2006, they released their first full-length self-titled album.  They are currently in the studio working on a follow up to their debut album. With the addition of new musicians to FreeVerse in the past two years, the band has tightened their sound and achieved a funkier edge while surpassing their creative expression of years past .

The band has shared the stage with New Monsoon, Particle, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Oteil Burbridge & The Peacemakers, Garaj Mahal, The Big Wu, Col Bruce Hampton, Yonder Mountain String Band, Ekoostik Hookah, David Nelson, Willie Waldman and Rob Wasserman, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Sonny Landreth, Grease Factor, Bonerama, New Monsoon, and many other talented musicians.  FreeVerse has been featured on "Spotlight On", an hour-long television program featuring prominent regional musicians and songwriters.  They have also performed live at numerous festivals, including the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, Arkansas Riverfest, Toad Suck Daze, Arkansas Earth Day Festival, The Great Unknown, and Togetherfest.

FreeVerse has an incredibly diverse fan base that is inspiring, pushing the band to new heights. The members of FreeVerse are all about a deep respect for one another, their fans, and the positive influence music has on all of our lives!  Their values are best stated in their song Gravity- "plant a seed and grow it from the ground, a family tree is the strongest tree around."

Instrumentation:
Adam Nelsen – lead guitar, vocals
Brent Stroud – rhythm guitar, lead vocals, harmonica
Scott Southern – drums, percussion
Brian Wolverton - bass, vocals
Dave Williams - saxophone, vocals

Contact Information:
email: free_verse@comcast.net