herbie
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"Millennium Music Conference review"

Undeniably the big winner at this year’s Millenium Music Conference, herbie’s set at Appalachian Brewing Company truly rocked the house. The band twisted, turned and otherwise writhed through a set of smartly crafted compositions and happy-go-lucky jams. Formed at Lebanon Valley College around two years ago, herbie has built a solid fan base in Lancaster and Reading. A group of these die-hards drove all the way to Harrisburg just to support herbie’s 30-minute conference showcase.

"The band is a cross between Muppets Take Manhattan and Kathleen Turner Overdrive," frontman George Griffo said. And why not? This region has needed a band like herbie for quite some time, and Griffo is proud to say that they’ve arrived. "We play to have fun," he said, "and we try to make each show a celebration of music and fluctuation of energy between the band and the crowd. Without that, a band is just noodling aimlessly." herbie’s next local gigs are: The Chameleon (Lancaster) on March 22, Gullifty’s (Camp Hill) April 4 and Appalachian Brewing Company (Harrisburg) on April 5.

- MODE Weekly


"PA Musician"

"I saw herbie for the first time last month, as part of a doubleheader with Alchemy at State College's Brewery... [herbie] mixed rock, funk, jazz and reggae textures into tight, concise grooves. As herbie performed various original songs, including several from their debut CD 'High Impact' such as Brand New, Cool Ethan and Fudge, their grooves were sharp, focused and efficient, with not a note going to waste; this group knew where they wanted to go, how to get there, and what to do once they arrived... For fans of instrumental fireworks [herbie] had plenty to offer this night..."

- Jim Price for "PA Musician" magazine
- PA Musician


"On Stage"

There’s a reason why herbie has won the Central PA Music Award for “best jam band” two years in a row, and it’s not because these four guys can play their asses off. Although that doesn’t hurt.
And it’s not because they can stretch out a song for three hours, or because they can smoke the most weed, or because they can go the longest without showering, or any of that hippie shit. It’s because they can do something most jam bands never even bother to attempt: write a real song.
“I think that, first and foremost, people want to hear a song, something that they can relate to,” explains drummer Jeff Herb (or “Ffej,” if you’re nasty). “If you don’t have that, then what’s the point? Anybody can get up there and just jam for an hour and go nowhere with it. But if you have a song with good lyrics, a strong melody, tight musicianship and something to say, then you’re on your way.”
That being said, once that good song is in place, the members of herbie see no reason why it shouldn’t be improvised upon, stretched and expanded until every last corner has been explored. Until now, this process has been reserved for live shows; herbie’s three studio CDs have been more of an exercise in restraint. But with the March release of Left of Center, the band’s first live CD, the frenetic, kinetic energy of that musical interplay will finally be documented.
On the album’s nine tracks, all of which are either new or unreleased, herbie wanders through its trademark hodge-podge of rock, blues, country bluegrass and folk. This anything-goes approach to songwriting has a lot to do with the band’s crossover fan base. It’s also to blame for the “jam band” tag herbie’s been toting since its inception; the truth is, nobody’s been able to come up with anything better.
“We don’t really want to be pigeonholed as a specific type of band – we just want to be known as a band,” Herb says. “Each of us listens to very different styles of music. But I think that’s one of the best things about herbie. It keeps our direction fresh and ever-expanding. I mean, if you’re in a band and all four members listen to Metallica all the time, then you will probably end up sounding like Metallica.”
Left of Center will also be the first herbie recording to feature the band’s newest member, guitarist Andy Mowatt, who stepped in last year to fill the void left by departed guitarist George Griffo.
“He is a great writer and a phenomenal player, and he’s only 21 years old,” Herb enthuses. “He is really helping to take the band to a whole new level as far our approach to songwriting and jamming. I’ve never met anyone who just loves playing music as much as Andy. He definitely inspires the rest of us.”

A DVD companion to Left of Center is slated for release in late spring/early summer. It’s going to be a big year for this little love bug. - Fly Magazine


"CD Review - "High Impact" (3)"

Contemplating my day over a bowl of Rice Krispies, I was sifting through a pile of CDs for review and brushing over which to dissect first. Besides, a good album can make even a mundane breakfast a little more exciting, right? Reaching for the middle of my stack-o-discs, the intent was to try to keep the element of surprise going for as long as possible. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong album to keep me in suspense. Immediately, the cover art demanded some attention – it pictures an elderly man in a mesh, mile-high baseball cap that brandishes a “High Impact” emblem. I laughed so hard that cereal almost flew out of my nose. I figured this one should prove to be an interesting listen.

Still catching my breath, I placed herbie’s High Impact in the tray of my CD player. My first scattered impressions included descriptions like progressive, guitar-driven and, above all, happy. In lieu of comparing herbie to other established bands, it may be more apt to consider herbie in a metaphorical sense: think of the loveable white Volkswagen beetle that shares the band’s name – sunny, playful and smiley. Upbeat ditties, particularly the album’s opener, “Fudge,” hold the band at its catchiest.

Considering the larger picture, we hear shredding guitar solos, funky bass and copious jamming – though not the seemingly endless noodling that plagues the jam band genre.

A track called “Zeke” features harmonizing lead guitars, Les Claypool-esque bass and a 311 versus Sublime versus Dave Navarro square-off… or something like that. And did someone say Mark Knopfler? No, the guitar virtuoso’s not actually in the band, but herbie shows a hint of Dire Straits. Put simply, listeners get a hodgepodge of influences packed uniformly into a sound that somehow works for the band.

If you are interested in happy, bouncy, guitar-drive improvisational rock, this may be the one for you. For further information, I suggest going to www.herbierock.com. There, you can go to their online store, find tour dates or, if you are more of a gaming type, you can drive around in a virtual town in the herbie van. If you want to know how to shoot breakfast cereal out of your nose, you are going to have to buy the CD.
- Fly Magazine


"herbie - Featured Band Article"

If you are anything like me, you probably think that the term “jam band” is bandied about in places where it doesn’t rightly belong. If a band does not fit the pre-established conventions of a given genre, they are forced to wear the proverbial scarlet “J” and relegated to the pot-scented periphery of mainstream music.

The real problem is that usually the “jam band” label does not indicate a lack of individuality on the part of the artist, but rather on the part of the critic who fails at inventing new words when old ones don’t suffice. And herbie is perhaps the best example in the mid-state area of a band that demands from audiences and critics alike a new vocabulary to describe an utterly idiosyncratic genre that would include, well … just them.

A simple two-word phrase like “jam band” doesn’t even come close to describing herbie’s artful (almost acrobatic) blend of styles ranging from reggae and prog-rock to rap and even smooth jazz. Whatever that name would be, I’m sure it would have more hyphens then the most politically correct of politically correct euphemisms. Maybe something like jam-rock-funk-jazz-acid-hip-hop-hardcore-progressive-swing?

The band opines heatedly about this issue. “Just because our songs aren’t [structured] verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, we are sometimes labeled a ‘jam band,’” shrugs lead guitarist Jay Baab. “But that’s not the case.”

“Jam bands are certainly an inspiration,” adds Ffej Herb (yes, that is Jeff spelled backwards), the group’s elder statesman and drummer extraordinaire. “But we take what we like from the genre and leave the 45-minute-long improvisational jams where they are.”

It is this ability to cherry-pick the best aspects of a litany of influences that form the band’s sound. What separates herbie from the mindless noodling of jam rock is their thoughtful, careful adherence to arrangement. Says usually quiet bassist Ben Eberts, “There is always a target for us, a goal that we’re heading towards. It’s not as if we are just improvising the whole thing.”

This is clear in the band’s precise execution of mind-bogglingly complex interludes that sound orchestrated more by the likes of an insane classical composer than by the likes of jam rock-and-rollers. There is often a disappointing trade-off between technical dexterity and genuine feeling, but herbie straddles the line, straying from the equally awful extremes of soulless clinical technicality and effusive but talentless schlock. For them, Herb declares, “there are no boundaries.”

Within the constraints of an hour and a half set, herbie manages to evoke just about every music style one could possibly imagine. Anywhere from Edgar Winter to ELP, Phish to Rush, Sublime, Steely Dan and beyond, the band takes an encyclopedic trip down the past 30 years of good music – yet it isn’t as if each song sounds like one of these influences.

The true mastery lies in herbie’s acute ability to forge these strange (and often contrary) styles of music into cohesive songs that do not end up sounding like forced rock-and-roll pedantry. It is truly a synthesis, not a sloppy mish-mash of incomprehensible style-shifting. Each song seems to be a microcosmic reminder of how every member’s influence contributes to the “herbie sound.”

“If you listed all of our personal influences,” says lead-singing, guitar-picking George Griffo, “they would hardly line up. Jay is really into country. Ffej likes hardcore. Ben is really into jazz. I am into rap.” They are a pastiche of individual personalities sewn together by a robust humor and a musical playfulness. Genre-bending at its best is an exercise in the childishness (and I mean that in the best possible way) of creative endeavors.

Some people might be thinking that a band channeling such distinctive influences would necessarily be some music-snob elitists content to wallow in rock-and-roll esoterica. In this case they’d be dead wrong. What keeps herbie afloat more than their sophisticated musical arrangements and near-virtuosic mastery is the fact that they never forget about putting on a good show. All the fancy playing and tempo-twisting in the world can’t cover up that an audience is what makes music worth making. And judging by the eclectic crowd at Gullifty’s the Saturday I witnessed the band’s act, herbie have succeeded in bringing their music to the people.

I saw men in cowboy hats drinking beer straight from the pitcher, dancing with insurance agents and earthy hippy-types sipping beer with other usually unaffected bohemians, all getting down to herbie’s unique set. This strange juxtaposition not only mirrors the band’s inborn eclectics, but also shows how they have managed to reach out to a diverse group of people, uniting them under the umbrella of good-time music. If only world leaders had the same success uniting bickering factions. Perhaps the band should look into solving the problem of world peace.

I would be remiss in my critical duties if I were to leave out a fundamental aspect of the band’s persona, both on stage and off. That is, their self-dubbed “music dorkiness.” Case in point. Without realizing it, Griffo announced to his audience, “This is a song in E-minor, in 5/4 time signature.” Confused looks abounded about the bar, and for those not trained in music theory the words sounded like gibberish.

“We’re all music dorks,” Baab says almost inaudibly into the microphone. But unlike most music dorks, the guys of herbie make music theory fun! The song in odd time signature mentioned above, titled “In Your Area Gary” (IYAG for short), was easily the climactic moment of the night, as the entire bar exploded in chaotic dancing during the song’s perfectly inlaid rhythms. They may be music dorks, but herbie sure know how to have a lot of fun, constantly toeing the line between absurd and brilliant.

The night I saw them, they were paying their respect to one of Griffo’s fallen heroes, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who recently died of a heart attack. In serious homage, the band donned matching black skull caps (one of the rapper’s trademarks) and Griffo and company even rapped during their encore closer, a song about male personal hygiene that I would guess is the only one of its kind in the tri-county area.

If their debt to ODB was the serious moment of the set, their hilariously tasteless rapping acted as the appropriate counterbalance in one of the coolest affirmations of Herb’s “no boundaries” code of ethics.

The band members met while Griffo, Eberts and Baab attended bucolic Lebanon Valley College. It was on LVC’s campus that they also met Herb, a drummer who “approached them at a spring arts festival at school.” Though the band still maintains a hip, “collegiate” feel, the four all have white-collar day jobs that foil harshly with their let-loose weekend demeanors.

A typical work week for the herbie? “We’ll play a show a weekday night in Jersey or Philly and not get home until, like, four in the morning, and get up for work after two hours of sleep,” Baab explains. “Then the next night we’ll do it all again.” Someday, however, there is hope that day and night jobs will merge.

Boundaries are artificial, and the constant high-energy entropy that seems to emanate from a band like herbie is a constant reminder of that basic fact. They are a band that pulls from diverse personal and musical perspectives and blends them into a distinctive, uncontrived medium that even the cursed “J” word can’t take away from.

If you want to check out the manic lovechild of all the acts mentioned in this article, buy herbie’s CD, High Impact. For additional information and a bit of video game fun, consult the band’s website at www.herbierock.com.
- Fly Magazine


"The Train Zone"

The band herbie [is] a rare amalgamation of up-tempo to furious trip-hop, blues, and eight varieties of rock; children, I’m telling you, they played. Now, I’ve got a confession to make. I first caught herbie in a jam-band line-up at last year’s Millennium Music Conference. I figured they were some college band that flunked school and mastered playing. Or they were all some kind of secret in-breeds not allowed out of the house and forced to play in a basement or something. Whatever they were, they were just far too stinkin’ good, too stinkin’ creative, too stinkin’ innovative, and a far too stinkin’ nontraditional jam-band different for me to think I could adequately snapshot them into words. They hit me like a pole-ax whomping on a mantra-mumbling idiot doing his ohms.

I’ve revisited herbie several times since I first caught them and still can’t get by my muteness. Whether they are playing large crowds or intimate venues, given good sound or bad, these guys are riff-firing afterburners that charbroil everyone in their presence. It’s just stinkin’ wrong that they can musically tap-dance through tonic changes with the skill of those Blue Angel pilots that do jet-air show tricks and all the while the band is acting like they are working on their tan at a day at the beach. It’s wrong when a band is so musically hypnotic that you can’t focus on the lyrics (they slipped in the repeating verse “buy our CD” and it just didn’t matter – they laughed – the riff was good). There may be better, and more traditional, jam-bands out there. But herbie is the golden idol standard by which others can be measured. I can’t believe anyone else puts out a more comfortable cornucopia of contagious countermanding cadence (go ahead, chat that for a while and see if you zone out to your happy place). I just hope they never form a cult – I’d likely be one of the first shaven-headed fools to show up.
- The Pennsylvania Musician


"Featured Band Article - select quotes"

“…herbie consistently turns heads. They are a band that can play in front of any type of audience and blow people away.”

“There is a fine line between creative genius and certifiable insanity, and I am still not sure which side the members of herbie fall on.”

“…only a handful of artists in this area leave a crowd awestruck. herbie compels an audience follow their set like a movie.”

“Catch herbie at one of their live performances and tell me the area doesn't have local talent.”
- Harrisburg Online (www.hbgonline.com)


"CD Review - "High Impact""

Since first forming four years ago at Lebanon Valley College, herbie has evolved into one of east-central Pennsylvania's most talked-about bands. herbie's studio debut album, High Impact, introduces listeners to the group's frenzied hodgepodge of sounds. Guitarists/vocalists George Griffo and Jay Baab, bassist/vocalist Ben Eberts and drummer Jeff "Ffej" Herb blend elements of rock, funk, ska, reggae and blues into energized jam-geared workouts over High Impact's seven songs (plus one untitled bonus song). But although herbie leans toward jam-band tendencies, their songs and melodies are streamlined and tight, and largely devoid of the indulgent noodling or endless instrumental passages often associated with jam-geared rock. The group's songs often shift moods and tempos, with a few unexpected side journeys to keep things interesting. herbie opens High Impact with two tasty funk-flavored numbers, "Fudge" and "Inside;" both establishing the group's base of musical operations located somewhere between Sublime, Steely Dan and Phish. The group flexes their harder rock muscle on "Cool Ethan" and "T-Dog @ the Burger Star;" and exercises a more playful ska/reggae-geared vibe on "Zeke." "Dr. Monster" offers a melodramatic mix of funk, ska and harder rock flavors, before herbie closes the album with the lengthier funk/rock/jam epic "Brand New." Recorded and mixed by Jason Drayer and Mike Washkevich, and co-produced by the band, High Impact sounds balanced and basic, with minimal studio gloss allowing herbie's presentation to retain its spontaneous feel and edge. On High Impact, herbie successfully streamlines jam-geared rock to the bare essentials, in the process delivering a fun sound both jam fans and conventional rock fans should likely appreciate. - Altoona Mirror and www.rockpage.net


"CD Review - "High Impact" (2)"

Setting the tone, herbie opens up High Impact with "Fudge", a live song with obvious enough Grateful Dead influences that it could be sliced into Blues for Allah and it would stand up well in the comparison.
With its blast of ringing guitars, an oddly country-rock melody, simple vocals and surprisingly focused lyrics, another tune, "Cool Ethan", rips off in some other totally energetic direction.
And so it goes on this seven-song forty-minute wonder. The energy on High Impact bristles. The pacing never drags its feet. Nobody ever seems tired and the chemistry is pure musicianship.
This material is so strong it could have been recorded on a tin box, replayed only during high school football games over grainy speakers, and it would still shine brilliantly. Fortunately, the recording is pretty good and the experimental elements get their full due.
High Impact is soaked in great songs... Perhaps the choicest jam on the CD, "Zeke", has almost classical scope in the control of the tension but somehow gets all meshed with this Tex-Mex salsa that allows for astounding instrumentation. Then there's an adventurous symphonic pop attitude in "T-Dog @ the Burger Star" that skitters with a psychedelic touch that's not describable. This stuff is put together like a Swiss watch and you've just got to hear it to feel how well it works.
- Harrisburg Online (www.hbgonline.com)


Discography

Left of Center (full-length live LP - 2008)
Hind (4-song EP - 2005)
High Impact (7-song LP - 2004)
Foreshadows (3-song EP - 2002)

Photos

Bio

"herbie is perhaps the best example in the mid-state area of a band that demands from audiences and critics alike a new vocabulary to describe an utterly idiosyncratic genre that would include, well, just them." – Fly Magazine

herbie, known for its eclectic blend of high-energy rock, uptown funk, infectious jams, and eclectic jazz, formed in September of 2000. The first dawn of assembly began inside the minds of guitarists Jay Baab and George Griffo. Brought together as college roommates at Lebanon Valley College (LVC) in Annville, PA, the duo soon realized they shared a common love for music and a mutual vision to create it. They didn't have to look far to find Ben Eberts, fellow LVC classmate and trombone-major-turned-bassist, who immediately connected with Jay and George on musical levels. In July of 2002 (after the departure of the band's original drummer), seasoned drummer Ffej Herb joined the band, and the revised foursome commenced with rehearsals and writing new material to give herbie a fresh, more sophisticated musical direction.

In September 2003, and with a stockpile of more than twenty original songs, the band began working on its first full-length release. The result was High Impact, a collection of seven of the band's most memorable tunes culled from its varied catalog of original compositions, including the single, “Fudge” and live favorites such as “Cool Ethan” and “Brand New”. The album was released to a capacity crowd at Remy's Nightclub in Harrisburg, PA, on January 24, 2004. In a review of High Impact, Harrisburg Online proclaims, “This material is so strong it could have been recorded on a tin box, replayed only during high school football games over grainy speakers, and it would still shine brilliantly.”

"What keeps herbie afloat more than their sophisticated musical arrangements and near-virtuosic mastery is the fact that they never forget about putting on a good show." – Fly Magazine

After a successful year in 2004, herbie decided it was time to make the leap from local Central PA band to regional touring act. With a demanding performance schedule including dates from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, as well as appearances in DE, MD, NJ, NY and VA, the band performed over sixty shows in 2004. Among its impressive list of notable venues are World Café Live (Philadelphia, PA), The Funk Box/8X10 Club (Baltimore, MD), Kenny's Castaways (New York, NY), Chameleon Club (Lancaster, PA), and Dragonfly (Harrisburg, PA). However, the band still appeals to an ever-expanding fan base in its native Central PA, having appeared at the prestigious Patriot-News ArtsFest on multiple occasions, as well as The American Music Festival. Its music also appears regularly on commercial radio throughout the region, including Central PA’s three most recognized stations: WTPA 93.5 FM, WQXA 105.7 FM and WRVV 97.3 FM. The band is also a big hit on college campuses, having performed at colleges and universities throughout PA, NJ and MD. herbie (and its parent company, Herbie Entertainment Group) is also a member of NACA, the National Association of Campus Activities.

… [herbie] can musically tap-dance through tonic changes with the skill of those Blue Angel pilots that do jet-air show tricks and all the while the band is acting like they are working on their tan at a day at the beach. – PA Musician Magazine

herbie’s live show is fun, energetic and diverse. Says Fly Magazine, “Within the constraints of an hour and a half set, herbie manages to evoke just about every music style one could possibly imagine. Anywhere from Edgar Winter to ELP, Phish to Rush, Sublime, Steely Dan and beyond, the band takes an encyclopedic trip down the past 30 years of good music.” It is not uncommon for the band to mix original songs and cover tunes with stretched out improvisational passages and impromptu musical interludes. The band is truly in its element on the stage, and the members of herbie consider themselves first and foremost a live band. herbie is indeed at home when performing live on stage, and audiences everywhere know it. herbie has also shared the stage with a diverse list of national artists across the musical spectrum - from Everclear to Brother's Past - and consistently wins over audiences who appreciate straight-ahead rock music as well as jam-style genres.

“…only a handful of artists in this area leave a crowd awestruck. herbie compels an audience follow their set like a movie.” – Harrisburg Online

In late 2006, the band lost founding member George Griffo, who parted ways with the band amicably after a long tenure with herbie. The band held auditions for a new fourth member and named George's successor soon thereafter, fellow LVC alumni Andy Mowatt. Andy immediately clicked with herbie's musical direction as well as its personality and collective sense of humor. herbie is optimistic and looks to the future with an eagerness and hunger that is seldom found, even in consid