Jam and the Playground Kids
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Jam and the Playground Kids

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By Benji Feldheim - Daily Chronicle
Kurt Foster was pleasantly surprised the last time his band Jam and the Playground Kids played in DeKalb.

JPK, in which Foster plays guitar, won a recent battle of the bands at Otto's Niteclub. The competition brought the quintet up to the venue's main stage, after about three years of playing smaller stages.

JPK, a band based in Ottawa and Marseilles in Illinois, first formed in 2004. The members knew each other from high school or from the area and shared similar interests in music. Focusing on old styles of folk, blues and rock, the band was formed and began playing at camp-outs and shows at local bars.

As time passed, the band's membership changed, but the repertoire grew. Between personnel changes - and losing their practice space as well as many pieces of music and lighting equipment to a fire about two years ago - JPK stuck with their desire for the audience to have as much fun as they do at their shows. They will bring their rock- and blues-infused improvisation back to Otto's main stage Saturday.

For the last year, Foster has played with Josh Daniels on guitar, Josh's twin brother, Jordan Daniels, on keyboards, John Donohue on bass and Jon Przybylski on drums. While they initially played shows with an anything-goes mentality, these days they are focused on writing more material to add to their live improv style.

Foster spoke with the Daily Chronicle just before New Year's Eve about incorporating more lyrics and singing into their sound, the hope to play larger summer festivals and not letting miscues kill an entire show.

D.C.: So what's new with the band? Are you guys working on any new material?

K.F.: We're always trying to work on new stuff and new originals. We'll try a jam at a show, and if we like it we'll continue to go with it, or try it at a practice and if we like what happens, we'll go forward.

We all put our part into the songs, suggesting ideas to each other. We'll point out if something is holding the song back or something that might work a little better as opposed to what was first played.

A big thing lately has been writing more lyrics as opposed to jams. We want better songs that don't all have to be 15 minutes long.

D.C.: How has the written material developed?

K.F.: When we first started out, I was the only one singing. Now we have two others singing. Josh and Jordan brought more structure into the thing, and they both sing. We're really enjoying writing songs and coming up with good meanings. It gives the audience something to take home instead of just words for the sake of words.

D.C.: What subjects or experiences do you draw from for your songs?

K.F.: It can be as simple as the things we do together, hanging out and having fun. It's also from personal parts of our lives. We write about what's going on presently in politics. Or just about life. We'll look at the simple things and show the importance of them, turn ideas around about what should be important, instead of money and the typical American-dream type of topics.

We have one song called “Life Is,” it's a mix of all of us writing lyrics just about life. It has different pieces of imagery, like a creek flowing downhill, and it picks up speed, for example. We all have a little part in it about what life is to us.

D.C.: How do the band members add to the sound as a whole?

K.F.: Jordan plays a Hammond organ and a piano, and what's neat about the Hammond is he hooks up to a Leslie cabinet (speaker), so it sounds the way it's supposed to sound. Jordan's got a really soulful voice, too.

Josh plays guitar and he holds rhythm really strong, but he's gotten more comfortable with lead parts. That's been really exciting, I can sit back now and play chords. John is our new bassist, and he plays this heavy blues and rock style that's very consistent and strong. Przybylski has always played drums consistently, but he's been playing a lot better, too, trying different things.

D.C.: Have you guys been in a situation where a jam just didn't work?

K.F.: We just listen to each other and see where one person is going and try to follow them. One leads and eventually everyone else will feel that groove. When you get two people feeling it, it tends to falls into place.

It helps to practice a lot. We play about two or three hours a day on the weekdays. Weekends we're usually playing a show, which sometimes is a practice, too.

Last weekend we were playing, and we tried something that totally dived. So we went into a blues tune we all know so we could get back on the track. Then we talked to each other about it, and just went forward with the show. Maybe you won't mess up by playing safe, but if you're not striving to do something different, then what's the point? That's the risk. You just have to move on from it.

D.C.: What's a piece of advice you've learned that you would offer to someone looking to play music that calls for improv?

K.F.: You should always be having fun. It doesn't matter so much if you mess up, just keep at it, and don't be afraid to mess up. If you like practicing and working at it, you'll find what works for you.

Above all, don't try to please anyone else. It's a release more than anything. For me this is what I want to do with my life, play music and share stories. I'd like to see us stick together and play bigger festivals. We've played at some campouts with our friends, but it would be great to be on one of those stages.

Reporter Benji Feldheim can be reached at bfeldheim@daily-chronicle.com.

If you go

What: Jam and the Playground Kids in concert. Jobu and Haywood Yards will also perform. Only those 21 or older will be admitted.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Where: Otto's Niteclub, 118 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

Tickets: For prices, call 815-758-2715.



Link to article directly:

http://www.dekalb-chronicle.com/articles/2008/01/10/features/a_e/a_e01.txt - Dekalb Daily Chronicle, Dekalb IL


Discography

Afternoon Moon
Big Bass Budig (that's my brother)
B-minor Jam
Circle of Friends
Corner Street Toke
D-minor Happy
Frozen Army
F#minor Crank it
Ghost Dance
Hemp will do it, too
Here and now
High Perched and Smiling
Jam!
Let's Watch, See, Feel
Life is
Moon Friend
Nothing but the Rain..
Question for the President
She keeps on dancing
Ship Captain Crew
Something Positive
Stew
Still the same Sunrise
The Mighty Mez
This is my Day
To Keep you Satisfied
Tree of Life
Trees
Where did the Time go

Photos

Bio

Jam and The Playground Kids is a unique blend of crowd energy and original creativity. They use the crowd to fuel their artistic visions, making for an explosive experience for both the band and the crowd alike. This energetic mix opens the gates for improvisational music and intense spinning, jumping,and dancing that everyone gets into. There's always that excitement whenever they play and neither the band or the crowd knows what to expect next! Although the Band enjoys showing respect to all musicians and genre's who have influenced them such as "The Grateful Dead", "Pink Floyd"and many more, they concentrate mostly on original material and spreading good insight and love to everyone who witnesses them play. When Jordan unleashes his Hammond keys the only thing I can suggest is to put your seat in the upright position and tray tables up cause it's time for take off. Josh keeps a constant rhythm of playing and vocals with a great stage presence that's entertaining in itself. Kurt sends your mind spinning with his amazingly smooth leads and vocals. John (a.k.a Pryz) is a rock solid beat on the drums, the backbone or foundation of the tunes! In the midst of all the jamming he can still take the band where it needs to go. Donahue (a.k.a Lil' John) gives that underbelly bass line that rocks you to the core, and at the end of the night your body will still be vibrating. Thumping out a resonating smoothness that gives the music weight. This is definitely a band worth seeing. You will not be disappointed. Check out their myspace page where you can hear some of their music and see set lists of recent shows. Come see this musical concoction and good time infusion for yourself! ENJOY