The Congress
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The Congress

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF
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"It's Been A Good Year for this Congress"

A lot has changed for the Congress since the band released its 2010 self-titled debut EP. For starters, it's gone from being a quartet to a trio, and it brought in a new drummer, Mark Levy, about a year and a half ago. This was right around the time the band started touring heavily and building up its fan base across the country, including the South, which is where singer/bassist Jonathan Meadows and guitarist Scott Lane are both from — Richmond, Virginia, to be specific. While the Southern-rock thing is not inherent in the first EP, the trio's new album, Whatever You Want, is a heavier-rocking affair. We spoke with Lane about the difference between the two. Westword: How would you say you've changed musically in the two years since you released your first EP?

Scott Lane: It's really easy to tell how [the two recordings] differ — just listen to the two of them. The EP had a singer-songwriter kind of vibe, in my opinion, and the instruments were kind of built around an acoustic guitar and a voice. That's kind of how I recorded it, and I think that's really reflective in the style of the EP. It was also before we were playing as a band. I don't think we had played more than one or two gigs, and every time, it was with a different player on bass and drums. We didn't really have a band yet. Jonathan had just moved out, and we were like, "Let's just get some friends together and record." That was the vibe of that EP.

Then we toured for about a year and a half, and we got tighter and started writing arrangements, and we had a lot of time to develop these songs. And when it was time to make the next record, we decided we really wanted to make it reflective of our band and alive in an honest way. The EP has organ and horns and pedal steel and all this stuff on it. We had all of our friends who are good come in and lay down something. It wasn't really honest to the band, I feel like. If you listen to that, you'd be like, "Oh, cool, go see them," and then it would be two guitars, bass and drums, and you won't have that organ and all that stuff.

This time we decided to do all the instrumentation between Jonathan and I, and Mark on drums. I played all the keys on it, I played most of the guitars, and Jonathan played some guitar. Jonathan and I split the bass, and then half the record has our old bass player on bass. It's a balls-to-the-wall rock-and-roll record compared to the other record.

How do you like playing in the trio versus the four-piece? Has it changed the dynamic a lot?

It really does, a whole lot. The first thing I noticed...I've been playing music with Jonathan for many years. I know his playing style and where he's going to go really easily, and so basically, if he's playing bass and I'm playing guitar and those are the only harmonic instruments going on, I mean, there's already just so much trust there. The first thing that happened was that we were immediately tighter because Jonathan and I know each other so well.

Then, beyond that, it used to be that we had two guitars, and one of the biggest things I also noticed was that the sound guy used to try to distribute us with the two guitars evenly and have a good spread. I think a lot of times it took away from the bigness of our sound. Once we were a three-piece, I noticed immediately that the sound guy would just start jacking my guitar up and up, so everything was immediately sounding huge. Basically it's more like a big rock-and-roll sound, which is great. It got tighter and bigger, for sure. - Westword


""Whatever You Want" Album Review"

When I started writing for TSE I was basically given a free-for-all creatively, but, with one little caveat—no politics. None. No exceptions. How I feel about it isn’t important, because I can’t comment on it anyway. This is about the music.

So, when my editor graciously pointed me in the direction of a Denver, CO band called The Congress, I couldn’t help but think of a Matisyahu rant from “Refuge” on Live at Stubbs, “we live in a world of fragmentation where the majority of the people don't appreciate or care about so much the person that’s running things, you know, at that time the king was the people, the king was the people, meaning that all the people were a part of the king, the king loved the people with his whole heart he would do anything for them, he was not just a politician you know, he was a warrior, you know, a general on the front lines, he would die for his people, he was a singer, a writer, a poet, you know, a real person."

Without any political connotations whatsoever, it’s easy to catch a grip on this message and seek refuge in things that are spiritually holy, without declaring any begrudging affiliation. Art. Music. Poetry. Story telling. Love making. Head banging, toe tapping and cleansing your soul through the necessary urges of mystic rhythms. It’s a tribal passion that everyone has a right to pursue with happiness. Originally spawned from open mic nights in Richmond, Virginia, The Congress made a western shift to Denver, Colorado with a mission in mind. In an interview with TSE, bassist/poet/rocker/King Jonathan Meadows described it as, “the lost and dying art of owning your craft…touching your instruments…having a conversation with your audience.” Or, as Jack Black says via poetic transcendence in “Kickapoo” on Tenacious D’s Pick of Destiny, “a vision he did see-th, fuckin’ rockin’ all the time, he wrote a tasty jam and all the planets did align.”

Self described as a “power trio” bassist/singer Jonathan Meadows, guitarist Scott Lane and drummer Mark Levy are hitting the road, embarking on what Meadows termed facetiously, “the last American Adventure…everyday.” These guys will pound the pavement and make the American frontier their own, or die trying, and it’s tough not to circle the wagons around a spiritual mission of such an accord when the music is so earnest and sincere. In “Oh Babe” a schizophrenic apology ballad that shifts tempo’s from acoustic to doo wop to Pink Floydian right-to-left across your headphones big rock finish—with the kinetic jumble of shaking of a magic 8-ball (toy, not drugs…although…). Meadows muses, about such pavement, “hear me, darling please, I don’t want to do wrong have patience, sometimes I can’t lie I drink and act like a vagrant, yes I drink ‘til I meet the pavement.” The song sounds eerily like a mix of Pavement, At Dawn MMJ and the swinging evil carnival keys of Luna Park in 1907 just before the place burst into flames and the lion escaped from the pen.

Their debut LP Whatever You Want has been branded by the band as, “first and foremost a rock ‘n roll record” and hints at further elements of southern hospitality, outlaw country, soul, jazz, African-style American folk. It’s simple without being simplistic, yet layered without having to pay the stylist. This style of music fuses the relative ease of chewing Layers gum and with the greasy face of eating top-shelf fried chicken at the same time.

Several times during the listening to Whatever You Want that I’m struck with that nostalgic bliss feeling I get from watching the Wonder Years. I’m not saying the songs sound like Joe Cocker, but some of the freewheeling guitar will take you place, a window, and/or a crevasse that will allow you to view that portal. It’s up to you if you choose to accept it, that mentality that says to me, “you know, find your space…and jam.” Speaking of getting jammed, there is a song “Walls” which I can only imagine was written to be the lovemaking soul cry for the late summer season. Heck, use it in the fall. It’s sexy and thematic. Quintessential blues number “Impatiently” takes a slow methodical blues riff and rides it through an entire sunset walk on a long dusty road. I think I even found some gravel in my shoes. And in tone-setting track #2 (remember when #2 meant something?) rocker “Reason” the guitar solo is released like a jail break reminiscent of any Wilco live show, when the band just hands the show over to jazz sensation Nels Cline.

My favorite song on the album is a bar storytelling anthem in the wake of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimmie Three Steps” affectionately titled “Jonah Gideon.” Though it has the southern flavor you’ve come to expect from The Congress, it sounds a great deal like Ryan Adams drank too much Red Bull and was then shot with a whale harpoon on the docks of the Carolina coast. And, while the “old house burns to the ground” you find yourself craving the soothing sea salts of the Atlantic Ocean. Then, you’ll dry off, roast marshmallows over the house and wash it down with an ice cold Harpoon IPA in a white Styrofoam cozy, which for the sake of this piece, represents the icy jams they’re laying down nation wide via a white road beaten van.

It all comes together full circle. We have a band in The Congress that should play to TSE nation like a more grassroots, beer-swilling MMJ. You have a thirst for new music and more bands that are doing things for the right reasons. I’ve created the synergy, you further the buzz.

Come together now people—tell me this isn’t feather and ink iron-clad merrymaking? - Steam Engine Blog


"Rockin' Denver Band Takes it on the Road Again"

The Congress begin a late summer/early fall tour beginning in their native Colorado on August 29th and then stretching into Lawrence, KS (9/30), Louisville, KY (10/2) and many other points in the South, eventually landing in Little Rock, AR (10/29). See full tour dates here.

. In a little less than a year, Denver based band The Congress has established itself as one of the most dynamic live acts in the Rocky Mountain region (And recently knocked the socks off JamBase Associate Editor Dennis Cook when they played S.F., evoking everything from Wilco to Little Feat to Weezer and still sounding like very much their own band the whole damn time).

The Congress began as a creative endeavor between Richmond natives Jonathan Meadows and Scott Lane. Lane had moved to Denver in 2008 to begin work as a freelance and studio guitarist. Shortly after, he convinced Meadows to make the move as well, and in September of 2009 the two founded The Congress along with Damon Scott and Dwight Thompson. Since then The Congress has performed more than 100 shows across the nation on the strength of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album. The album was recorded in Denver, Colorado by Grammy Award Winning engineer, John Macy (Gladys Knight) and co-produced by multi-instrumentalist, Daniel Clark (K.D. Lang, Mandy Moore, Courtyard Hounds). - JamBase


"Cultivation"

I finally had a Friday night off last month and my girlfriend wanted to go see a band that was playing in Edwards. I agreed; eager to have a night out with the girls. I wasn’t expecting to find my next Cultivation band. Standing on the side of the room I anticipated the first few chords and then got distracted by a woman who was so drunk already she fell back onto some guitar cases. When no one moved right away to help her up, guitarist and singer Jonathan Meadows stepped out from behind his mike and extended his hand to help the woman up. “That’s nice,” I thought as the woman stood up and immediately pitched forward and fell on her head. I thought the entire night might be upstaged by this woman but the music from The Congress is hard to let fall by the wayside.

Jonathan Meadows (guitar/lead vocals), Scott Lane (guitar), Dwight Thompson (upright and electric bass/ backup vocals), and Damon Scott (drums/percussion) create a blended sound rooted in Americana Rock. Watching them live they certainly have a Jam oriented feel. However the songs off of their first self titled album have a distinct singer songwriter’s touch. When you listen to the album you can picture the songwriter sitting with their acoustic guitar and notepad; cup of coffee and cigarettes not far from reach. This isn’t saying you can’t dance to the music. Before the end of the first set, the drunk woman aside with ice on her head, half of the bar was up on their feet dancing away.

For a band formed less than a year ago, members of The Congress have wasted no time recording and distributing their first album and setting up a couple tours. “We just got done with our first tour in the southeast last month, and we are about to leave for our first west coast tour in July. Really looking forward to that and heading back to the Southeast for our second run in September and October. And we are of course highly anticipating playing mountain towns in Colorado this winter!” says guitarist Lane. Mountain folks really like to get down!”

As he’s talking to a magazine based in the mountains all I can think is, “Know your audience, right?” The Congress knows what they are doing. At press time the band is touring through the West Coast, but look for them back in Colorado in the middle of August. To purchase a copy of The Congress’ debut album or to find a tour date near you go to thecongressmusic.com. - Mousike Magazine


"Attn: Congressmen in Town"

Jackson Hole, Wyo.-Fans of soulful, American rock ’n’ roll take note. There are a lot of Colorado bands that come our way, but The Congress has a sound that floats them to the top of the batch.

Originally started in Richmond, Virginia, with vocalist Jonathan Meadows and guitarist Scott Lane, the current band officially formed just last year in Denver. The two soon found a fitting rhythm section in bassist Dwight Thompson and drummer Damon Scott—previously local Denver guns for hire.

There are new bands, then there new bands with veteran players. The Congress is the latter. With a just a seven-song, self-titled EP in their discography, the blend is truly a genuine bed of Southern R&B, rock, psychedelia, Americana and gospel. Of note on the recording is Meadows’ soulful phrasing ala George Lowell or Chris Robinson. The album was tracked in just four days at Macy Sound Studios in Denver, and produced by Grammy-winning engineer John Macy.

“The whole recording process was magic…lots of Jameson, writing on the spot, and experimenting with tons of ideas, all in a huge time crunch,” Lane recently told the Vail Daily. “We all have a deep affinity for how the album turned out, and look at it as ‘this is just what happened,’ since there was no time to map out the tunes or rehearse.”

Tunes with heavy B-3 organ – particularly “Loretta” and “Down the Road” – are compositionally well built, with true climatic moments and restraint. The keyboard player turned out to be a part-time member and session player friend of theirs from Virginia named Daniel Clark. Horns and pedal steel also add vintage warmth to the mix.

“We started with four songs but ended up recording seven, including writing ‘Queen Mary’ with Daniel the day before we went into the studio,” Lane continued. “Daniel, who is our keyboard player whenever he can be, spearheaded the production with Jonathan and I. He has superhuman musicality and great experience from writing, producing and performing with KD Lang, Mandy Moore, Ryan Adams and The Court Yard Hounds.

Lane’s guitar playing is also a strong element on the release. Certainly influenced from some southern rockers like the Allman Brothers, his gritty, compressed tone helps push the improvisations to nine.

In the end, the combination that you can sample from their EP (Myspace.com/ScottLaneD) is only a piece of what The Congress is likely to do at a show. The band’s love of improvisation has become a writing tool, and it’s emphasis continues to revolve around dedicated listening during performances. Within those boundaries lie the tools to build epic songs like some of their favorite bands of the day, including The Grateful Dead.

“We write songs in the American tradition, and we play rock and roll, but it is really more than that,” Lane said. “The sum of our parts also includes straight-ahead jazz, Latin and world beat, and some strong psychedelic content. People usually find our music to be pretty fresh, but we also have been compared to bands like The Black Crowes and The Band. In a live environment, we get much weirder than them.” - Jackson Hole Weekly


"Virginia Native Jonathan Meadows reaches ’across the aisle’ to form Colorado’s The Congress"

When The Congress’s Jonathan Meadows moved from Richmond, Va. to Colorado just a year ago, it was with a one-way ticket in hand and the convictions of a close friend in mind — convictions that the burgeoning Rocky Mountain music scene could be fertile enough to support him as he began to write and play after two years away from live music.

“I was in a band in Richmond called The Grove,” Meadows said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “It was out there, man, we thought we were like The Dead. We invested everything into that band, moved to the Virginia countryside and had a big following. But, as it does — life happened. Things happened to people, and the band crumbled. After that I took a long break.” But then, as friends do, Meadows’ long-time musical companion and lead guitarist Scott Lane called him from Colorado, where he had moved in 2008, in an attempt to convince him to start fresh on the Front Range.

“He said, ‘What are you doing back there man?’” Meadows chuckled as he recalled Lane’s persistent tone, “‘I’ve met a bunch of people out here who are badass. You need to come out here and let’s play. I’ll line up a gig.’ And so I did. We played around a couple of times with various people but almost right away we had solidified our lineup.”

That lineup, which features the addition of Dwight Thompson on bass and Damon Scott on drums, is now known as Denver-based The Congress. Their soulful brand of rock and Americana is rooted in a traditional Virginia mindset — one that is full of beauty and contemplation. And yet the music retains a noticeable edge, perhaps owing to the storied history of Meadows’ hometown, to which he attributes some of his inspiration. “Richmond is an old city, it has tons of character,” Meadows said. “There’s a lot of messed up things that have gone down there — the burning of the city in the Civil War, of course, but also current racial and social class tension. Still though, there is a great, very happening music scene, of all genres, but without any attention to it on the map.”

That lack of attention, coupled with the pleading of Lane, was what finally brought Meadows to Colorado in 2009, where, after two short rehearsals, the newly formed The Congress began playing around the Denver area. They knew, though, that in addition to honing their live act, they needed to get into the studio to begin realizing their full potential. So last year they teamed up with famed Denver recording engineer and Grammy winner John Macy (Macy Sound Studios), as well as renowned keyboardist Daniel Clarke (K.D. Lang, Ryan Adams, The Dixie Chicks), to cut a seven-track debut EP.

“We wanted the album to be something along the lines of Harvest (Neil Young) — not the songs or the style necessarily, but the feel of it,” Meadows said. “We wanted that sound. That old sound. We wanted the warmth and character of it, for it to feel as if you should listen to it on an old record player.” Those intentions were certainly helped by the piano and organ work of Clarke, a personal friend of Meadows’ from Richmond. “Beyond the obvious — Daniel’s masterful and otherworldly piano and organ playing — on a production level, he wipes your personal filter away,” Meadows said. “There is no room for withholding ideas or creative flow. He’s got the ability to draw things out of you that you didn’t know you had.”

The result of the collaboration is a stunning self-titled debut, one that features a careful blend of musicianship and songwriting, and one that Meadows is very proud of. “Everyone brought virtuosic talent to this album, but the cool part is they were able to check that at the door, and just serve the music. Making this album with these guys was easy,” he said. “I want that to be known — this record really made itself.”

But, anyone who is familiar with the development of a young band knows that the live performance of a group can speak volumes about their character and desire to succeed. For The Congress, this certainly rings true. Over the past year, the band has logged two separate tours — one in the Southeast and one in the Northwest. “The past year has been insane,” Meadows started. “Beginning in May of 2010 we hit the Southeast, and it was good. While we were doing that, our booking agency lined up our Northwest tour, which went very well, and was very beautiful, too. Every day the sights we saw made me want to cry! We also did a couple of official after-Phish shows on that tour (with Great American Taxi and The Stax Brothers) which were great.”

With such impressive tours already under their belt and a fresh EP in tow, one may think that The Congress might be content to relax for awhile. Meadows thinks otherwise. “We’re writing new songs faster than we can play them, and have Colorado and Southeast tours in the works for 2011,” he said. “Every time we play together another piece falls into place, the light gets a little bit brighter.” - Marquee Magazine


"The Congress at the Camel"

When the Congress’ Jonathan Meadows belts out the lines, “I’m going home / away from / the place where I was born” on “Loretta,” the first track off the Denver-based band’s eponymous debut EP, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize he’s speaking from personal experience. Having spent years as a Richmond native playing local gigs, Meadows was encouraged by longtime friend and guitarist Scott Lane to move to Colorado for a fresh start with the area’s music scene. Filling out a lineup with bassist Dwight Thompson and drummer Damon Scott, the Congress has since landed all kinds of critical praise across the state with its soulful mix of Southern R&B and rock ’n’ roll. - Style Weekly


"The Congress on KRFC Ft Collins"

"One of the best things about hosting this show is that I get to hear a lot of new music long before the band or the artist makes it available to the general public. And I don't always get to play it all, but in this case I'm pretty happy to say that I can... The Congress, I don't know too much about, but based on what I'm hearing on their new self titled debut, I've got a feeling we will all get to know them better this coming year." "Best New Albums for 2010." - Chris K, "The Colorado Sound" Radio Show, Rocky Mountain Music Network


""Steal This Track""

The Congress started in Richmond, Virginia, with vocalist Jonathan Meadows and guitarist Scott Lane blending simple rock with R&B of the American South. Lane relocated to Colorado in 2008, and Meadows followed in 2009, and the two soon found a fitting rhythm section in bassist Dwight Thompson and drummer Damon Scott. The quartet played its first Denver gig after just two rehearsals. Since then, the Congress has established itself as a passionate, soulful live act, with rich, stirring songs like “Loretta” and “Back Where You Are.”

As you steal “Back Where You Are,” it might sound familiar. You might have heard it on CNN because the band donated the song for use in the United Methodist Church’s Haitian relief commercial. Even without the charitable tie-in, the song’s evolution from a simple blues number to a rousing gospel singalong (complete with choir) is inspiring and irresistible. Hear it for yourself. - The Denver Post


""Congress brings psychedelic Southern R&B to Vail Valley""

VAIL, Colorado — Solid rock and roll mixed with some Southern R&B and finished with a little psychadelic improv. That's Denver-based band The Congress' recipe for a good time. The group will perform a free show at 9:30 p.m., Friday, at Main St. Grill. Scott Lane, the band's guitarist, said that judging by the last time the foursome performed at the Edwards bar, attendees can expect a high-energy show.

“You can expect us to be sweating profusely and rocking out until they tell us to stop,” Lane said. “Seriously, last time it was a throw down.”

1. Vail Daily: Describe your favorite audience.

Scott Lane: The best audiences are the ones who feed off our music and give back. I think I speak for everyone in the band when I say that music is, to us, reciprocal with the listeners, whether it be 10 or 1,000 people. The music is at its best when we make those relationships with people.

2. VD: Tell me about your debut EP. Where was it recorded?

SL: The album was tracked in four days at Macy Sound Studios in Denver. John Macy is an incredible person and a Grammy-winning engineer who had some really impressive work under his belt as well as some very strong support from Denver bands. The whole recording process was magic — lots of Jameson, writing on the spot, and experimenting with tons of ideas, all in a huge time crunch. We started with four songs, but ended up recording seven, including writing “Queen Mary” with Daniel Clarke the day before we went into the studio. Daniel, who is our keyboard player whenever he can be, spearheaded the production with Jonathan and I. He has superhuman musicality and great experience from writing, producing and performing with kd Lang, Mandy Moore, Ryan Adams and The Court Yard Hounds. We all have a deep affinity for how the album turned out, and look at it as “this is just what happened,” since there was no time to map out the tunes or rehearse.

3. VD: Describe your sound

SL: We write songs in the American tradition, and we play rock and roll, but it is really more than that. The sum of our parts also includes straight-ahead jazz, latin and world beat, and some strong psychedelic content. People usually find our music to be pretty fresh, but we also have been compared to bands like The Black Crowes and The Band. In a live environment, we get much weirder than them.

4. VD: Tell me about your latest tour. Where did it take you?

SL: We played 15 shows in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Illinois. I've got to say my favorite show was opening for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the Dominion Riverrock Festival in Richmond. Playing in front of a big festival audience was awesome, and we were really touched when Grace gave us a bunch of really positive shout-outs while she put on an incredible show. I don't ever want to drive through Kansas again though, as the car and the trailer were pummeled by baseball-sized hail that destroyed the windshield, headlight covers, dented the trailer like a golf ball, and shattered the vent cover.

5. VD: If you could perform at any venue, where would it be?

SL: Red Rocks. The vibe there is incredible.

6. VD: How often do you guys improvise at your live shows?

SL: We improvise a lot. Solos are almost always improvised, and there are always different tunes throughout our show that end up resulting in total band improv. It is pretty natural for everyone, as most of us were formerly just freelancers.

7. VD: As a Colorado transplant, what do you think about the state's music scene?

SL: I'm from Richmond, VA, where there is an amazing amount of talent per square foot, but such a limited infrastructure for music performance or recording. Not to say there aren't studios and venues, but in comparison Colorado just has a ton of it. Colorado is also different in that there are towns scattered all over the mountains with their own unique and awesome music scenes, and most of them have some really great clubs that support touring bands. - Vail Daily


"The Congress on Emerge Music Group"

"The Congress is an exciting new band out of Denver, CO that will release their fantastic self-titled debut CD on March 11. This is a diverse, fun album that features a huge variety of instruments (organ, horns, and more) and styles that support great vocals from lead singer Jonathan Meadows.

"Loretta" is high energy song that would fit in well in a New Orleans club. "Back Where You Are" (featured on the Emerge Music Group Haiti Benefit CD) is a soft and simple ballad that simply works. "Queen Mary" has a southern rock vibe that deserves to be turned up loud. Whether this band is rocking out or slowing it way down they make great music!

Those of you in the Denver area should check out their CD release show at The Walnut Room on March 11 (http://www.thewalnutroom.com/show/detail/27611). Everyone else should be sure to head over to iTunes on that same date to download the album!"

-- Ira Miller, Emerge Music Group - Emerge Music Group


""The Congress" Album Review"

"Co-produced by heavyweights Daniel Clarke, Scott Lane and Jonathan Meadows, The Congress draws on music of all sorts, from blues and gospel to country and jazz and just a little bit of reggae. The result is expressive and confident, subtle in parts and brazen in others. The album is at its best when the keyboard is set to organ and cranked over effectively simple guitar and wailed, soulful harmony. Jonathan Meadows has an earnest voice; he ends his notes high and optimistic, and is equally comfortable singing accompaniment to a single piano line and a blaring complement of folk orchestration. By the time this thing makes its official debut in March, the weather will (hopefully) be warm enough to justify rolling through town with the windows down, a smile on your face and The Congress keeping your head bopping."

--Kiernan Maletsky, Westword - Westword


""The Congress""

When I first heard that The Congress was coming to Richmond for the holidays, I immediately called dibs. This was my show. And good thing it was the day after Christmas, too, since I might have had to fight another staff member for it. They were back from Denver, and I'd been excited since I'd first heard about the show back in early November.

Now you might be wondering why I'm covering a band from Denver, if we're a Richmond publication. Fair enough. I first heard of Jonathan Meadows (guitar and vocals) and Scott Lane (guitar) from the popular Monday open-mic night at Emilio's on W. Broad, and they (plus keyboardist Daniel Clark - who also plays with Modern Groove Syndicate) are both Richmond guys through and through.

Unfortunately, due to travel complications, I didn't get a chance to meet the "actual" Congress. Despite this understandable setback, I was delighted to hear that Todd Herrington and Joel Denunzio of Modern Groove Syndicate would be joining Scott, Jonathan and Daniel at Emilio's for the December 26 show.

Also, please forgive my lack of photos. The day after Christmas does not lend itself well to people's schedules, but this was a show I could not miss.

Richmond was abuzz when this was announced. For weeks beforehand, regulars at Emilio's were coming up to each other saying, "Holy shit, I can't wait for this show." So I hope you can see why I'm pulling in a Denver band for this month's edition. They're Richmond homegrown and absolutely phenomenal. Plus, this was their CD pre-release party, and I couldn't miss sharing this with you guys.

The Richmond-based band People's Blues of Richmond (PBR) opened with a loud, driving set that perfectly matched the energy of the crowd pouring in the doors. For the day after Christmas, this was a crowd Emilio's wouldn't soon forget. (Oh! And stay tuned for a feature on PBR, people. These guys are good, loud, in your face and not-to-be-missed. Check them out ASAP).

When the Congress took the stage, it all made sense. Why I had been so excited for their show. Why the crowd was pulsing with anticipation. Why this show had been talked about for months. And it made sense why I was covering a band from Denver. Even though they're playing based out of a city nowhere near Virginia, they take the spirit and soul from our state with them. Daniel Clark's keys are reminiscent of that old-time gospel that stirs your soul down to it's quick. They might not be playing here, but the soul is right.

I talked to Daniel and Jonathan briefly the next night, when they played a show at Europa with the talented guys from Emilio's house band (Kai Eason, Andrew Rapisarda, Raphael Katchinoff and Chris Ryan). I asked Jonathan why he'd left for Colorado and what was so different about the music scene out there. It was a hard difference to describe. While he acknowledged the energy and dedication of the Richmond scene where he'd been so active over the years, he brought up a good point. The Colorado scene was more conscious of the music. While many people here go to their favorite bar to grab a beer and think, "Hey, if there's a band - awesome!" In Denver, people seek the music. They delve into the scene and look for the venues where their favorite bands are playing. While many of us here in Richmond definitely subscribe to that ideal, in Colorado it's a standard. Plus, as Jonathan said, "You can make a living from your music." It's not hard. It's what I hope most for our thriving Richmond scene, to be honest.

One thing I wish I could convey to you in better words, is the feeling you experience in front of these talented musicians. I can tell you that Daniel Clark's keys hit a note in your soul that you didn't think existed (and they do). I can describe how articulate Scott Lane's guitar work is or how awe-inspiring Jonathan Meadow's voice is, and I'd be telling the truth one hundred percent. But you can't really understand until you see them live.

Their self-titled CD is phenomenal (with cover-art by the talented Dave Klemencic of LarJar Trio), and each track blows me away. From Long Way to Go to Queen Mary. As Daniel Clark so beautifully put it "The spirit is on the music." Take it how you like, but it is. And that feeling was conveyed even through just their first set at Emilio's. As they covered "Kids" by MGMT to wrap up their 1st set, I don't think there was a soul in that bar not on their feet. Yes, the spirit is on that music, and the energy is in the crowd.

Given that this was their pre-release party, I had to ask them about their CD. Recorded by the amazing John Macy (who also accompanies them on pedal steel), it's a 6-track masterpiece that showcases the soul and spirit of this group. They told me that the several days they spent in the studio with John Macy were some of the most fun of their lives, with the only "roadblocks" coming when a song turned out differently than they'd anticipated or when these different approaches dictated different needs. Not roadblocks, really, Jonathan and Daniel said. More like challenges to the way they had first imagined their music, and ways in which they could make it work.

I've never sat with two people who believed in their music more, and their conviction reminded me again why this group is so critical to any music scene they frequent. Halfway through their second set, I realized that the best way to describe Scott Lane, Jonathan Meadows and Daniel Clark (accompanied by Herrington and Denunzio) is that hearing their music, the soul that winds through their Appalachian influence, brightens your day. I stand in front of them and smile because to hear art this good, to experience such a series of incredible moments is not something you forget. It's a few hours that makes a normal day the day of your life.

-- Meredith Ripple, Magazine33 - Magazine33


""The Congress is what happens when hired guns band together""

By A.H. Goldstein, Thursday, Mar 18 2010

Dwight Thompson was ready to quit. After years of playing bass for hire, he'd simply had enough.

"I was actually at a point this year when I was like, 'I'm giving this two more years and then I'm done,'" he recalls. "I'd rather have a day job than play music for some audience full of drunken assholes."

Before he could make good on his vow, though, Thompson ended up joining the Congress — a freshly minted quartet featuring drummer Damon Scott and led by guitarists Jonathan Meadows and Scott Lane — and found a musical connection that had evaded him over the years.

"I've always been a for-hire guy, except for with this band," Thompson notes. "This is the only band I've ever actually said I was a part of, or considered myself to be a part of. I was fed up with music. I was pissed off at people, but I loved playing it, because there are those moments when it's great. But I'd never worked with a group of musicians where it's always great, where it works all the time."

Until now. The intrinsic harmony between the members is evident on their debut EP. The group's self-titled seven-track disc, recorded at Macy Sound Studios, encompasses vintage R&B textures, Appalachian harmonies and free-form psychedelic solos. "I think everything, without even talking about it all, just kind of happened exactly how we would have imagined it," Meadows insists. "It was really odd how it just fell right into place."

There's a reason things fell right into place, and it has a lot to do with the fact that the guys come from similar backgrounds. As it happens, Thompson isn't the Congress's only former hired gun. When Lane moved to Colorado from Virginia a couple of years ago, he freelanced with a few local artists like Mike Maurer and Salem before linking up with Thompson and Scott, who kept time for Angie Stevens and Adam Stern. Shortly after the trio came together, Lane managed to talk Meadows, his friend and collaborator from Virginia, into moving to Denver.

"Scott started playing with a couple of bands, just as a session guitar player," Meadows remembers. "And he was still staying in contact with me for like a year, trying to convince me to move out. A year later, I bought a one-way ticket out here — brought one bag, a guitar and came out."

With the lineup solidified, the songwriting process came quickly and naturally. "There were definitely songs that Jon and I had written," Lane recalls, "but we kind of just started playing live and improvising on it. We built it as we played live, getting tighter as a band. Then we took it into the studio and were almost writing on the spot."

As the band transitioned from the stage to the studio, the guys called upon a wide network of musicians they had each built up as session players. Daniel Clarke — a multi-instrumentalist who has played keyboard for k.d. lang and Mandy Moore that he met at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond – is one of the first guys Meadows persuaded to perform on the outfit's first recording.

Clarke flew out from Virginia and joined a long list of local players who played on the sessions, including John Macy, owner of the studio where the band recorded, who contributed pedal-steel guitar; saxophonist Eric Bernhardt and trumpeter David Rajewski; vocalist Julia LiBassi, who provided backing vocals; and Robby Peoples, who pitched in on harmonica. The resulting record, released last week, has an ambitious feel, one that fuses the fat textures of Stax Records with the raw emotionalism of backwoods hootenannies.

"You can hear Virginia in our music, for sure," Meadows admits.

Indeed, the influence is hard to miss. You can hear it in the finger-picked acoustic patterns on songs like "Back Where You Are" and "Minutes," as well as the sinuous organ lines on tunes like "Ten Years Gone" and "Down the Road." The traditions of Southern blues and folk music are also clear in the underlying theme of the record.

"I always thought that 'Back Where You Are,'" the lyrics, to me, kind of revolve around that one phrase, 'The cripples who bear the burden of stillness,'" Thompson observes. "Who would ever want to sit in one place and never get to go out and experience life? It seems to me it's almost about the love of movement."

And a love of improvisation, evidently. Despite having an array of guest musicians on the album, the outfit has no trouble playing the tunes with just the four of them. "It's not necessarily a smaller sound," Lane explains. "Instrumentally, everybody picks up the slack where the other instruments were."

You kind of expect that sort of flexibility coming from an act that views its live shows as a chance to write new music on the spot. "Recently, we've almost been writing songs improvisationally," confirms Scott. "Everyone's listening so well.... At the end of this conversation that we're having, however long it may take, we've really constructed something that we might be able to use. That's the goal."
- Westword


""The Congress" Album Review"

"These Virginia boys turned Coloradoans are cold-blooded assassins of song and soul. The Congress' new self-titled CD is a grand experiment with equal parts blues, jazz, rock & soul. It's at times masterful, whimsical, and wonderful! Lead singer Jonathan Meadows is a star in the making and the rest of the players on the recording back him with impeccable timing and talent. It's difficult to compare The Congress to other artists, but I hear a little Joe Cocker mixed with STING in Meadows' vocals. This music has been distilled over time like a smooth sipping bottle of whiskey."

- Tru Blue, Colorado Music Buzz - Colorado Music Buzz


Discography

"The Congress" - 2010
"Whatever You Want"- 2012

Photos

Bio

Evoking emotions that you thought had long passed – the feeling of your first cigarette, or the way you feel listening to a worn vinyl as it warmly crackles against the sound of a summer night – The Congress is naturally compared to many names and styles of years gone by. But drawing such comparisons is, in many respects, a misguided endeavor. Misguided not because you’d be wrong, but because you’d be missing the beautiful point – The Congress are a natural evolution of more than 60 years of purely American music. With a spirit rooted just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and now calling Denver – “The Queen City of the West” – their home, they’ve got enough soul, grit, and have spent enough time in the woodshed and on the road to call them pretty much whatever you want. But whatever words you think you need to describe their contribution to the American music tradition – save your breath. The Congress plays Rock & Roll.

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPDcM7lFLQ8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1kNQPMvarE&feature=plcp