Tomato Can
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Tomato Can


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The best kept secret in music


"Article from Out & About magazine - Dec 2005"

Tomato Can is explosive blues from a younger perspective

When a young Jimi Hendrix went to England for the first time in 1966, he dropped by a Cream show for what wound up being an impromptu jam. Hendrix was unknown at the time; the very idea of him sharing the stage with Eric Clapton’s band was unthinkable. But after Jimi plugged in and tore through Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” the local graffiti that proclaimed “Clapton is God” was soon in need of revision.

Hendrix’s is the kind of story you might hear one day about Tomato Can, a two-piece Wilmington blues act that fittingly does their own rendition of “Killing Floor,” as well as an eight-minute workout of Hendrix’s “Red House.” Led by 22-year-old keyboardist Mark Bader and 15-year-old guitar prodigy Pat Kane (who’s played with Johnny Neel and Derek Trucks), the duo is turning heads in the local blues scene almost as fast as Hendrix did in London nearly 40 years ago.

The philosophy behind Tomato Can is that less is more. “With just two people,” Kane says, “it’s easier to work off each other. There’s no interference. If Mark’s building up to something [on piano], I’ll build up with him [on guitar].” Bader likes the creative freedom. “We don’t step on each other’s toes,” he says. “We trade licks back and forth just listening to each other.”

The set-up—guitar and piano, with no bass—puts the pair in touch with the purity of blues. “Everybody is stuck on being technical,” says Kane, who began playing guitar just two and a half years ago. “But I’d rather have two notes than 16. You don’t need all those extra notes.”

What they’ve managed to pull out of those two notes is a diverse covers catalog that includes Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Traffic—even the theme from The Pink Panther. They’ve also begun highlighting their versions with experimentation. “We’ll take a Howlin’ Wolf song and put a funk groove to it,” Kane says. “We do ‘Can’t Be Satisfied’ by Muddy Waters and speed it up.”

The duo first played together more than two years ago at a middle school graduation performance, but didn’t reconnect until June when they were reintroduced by long-time record store owner and mutual friend Bert Ottaviano. They’ve played only about 10 shows since then, but already the buzz is taking hold.

“It’s refreshing to people,” says Bader. “It’s two white boys playing the blues, so it’s different. These guys we look up to, they actually lived the blues. We’re paying tribute to that.” Kane says their music is finding audiences that range in age from 18 to 65. “It doesn’t matter how old or young you are,” he says. “We want music fans. We’re not aiming for the high school crowd.”

The name Tomato Can was chosen by Ottaviano, an avid boxing fan. “It’s a reference to an underdog fighter, someone who’s inferior,” Bader explains. (The tomato symbolizes the blood loss suffered by the lesser boxer.) “He wanted us to have a name people would remember.”
- By Michael Pollock


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Feeling a bit camera shy


Tomato Can is a three-piece band made up of 16-year-old guitar wonder Pat Kane (who's played with Johnny Neel and Derek Trucks) and keyboardist Mark Bader, as well as recently added third member, bassist Jon Pelkey. The band's eclectic sound is a mixture of its influences, which not only include blues greats such as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, but also Tom Waits, John Coltrane, and Medeski Martin & Wood.

Check out our website for all of our upcoming shows!