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Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand Reinvigorates Bluegrass

Music has a great ability to renew itself. Check out Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand, a bluegrass group from Utah breathes new life — and not a little bit of humor — into the a genre steeped in tradition.

This is background from the band’s site.

RubberBand is a perfect name for Ryan Shupe and his band of amazing musicians. Each member possesses years of experience on his respective instrument and when the band comes together their collective talent is explosive and undeniable.

The five man band, hailing from the Salt Lake City, Utah, is a breath of fresh air in an age where much of the music is over-produced, “practically to death,” and their organic approach to performing has built them quite a following, not only through the West but around the rest of the country as well. Lead singer Ryan Shupe originally formed the band as an outlet for his songwriting but it soon took on a life all its own, becoming bigger than anything he could have originally imagined

A descendent from a long line of fiddle players, (he’s the fifth generation to play,) Shupe has been playing violin nearly as long as he could walk. His father assembled a group of young children, to play and tour professionally, and called them the PeeWee Pickers. This was when Ryan was still under the age of 10. He continued to play in bands all through school. In college, weary of starting bands only to have someone drop out, he ingeniously decided to form a loose outfit of musicians known as the RubberBand, where members could drop in and out at will and he would have a rotating group from which to pull when he needed them. However, one by one, the musicians began to stick and their cohesiveness fueled their musical fires until they became regional favorites. Most of the members had known each other from the area circuit before they joined Shupe in the RubberBand.

I am not sure that Shupe was the first to have a flexible entry/exit/reentry policy — which is what seems to be described below — but clearly has the good sense to see that it’s a good idea. This is from Wikipedia:

Ryan Shupe started playing the fiddle at age 5.[3] He played in various musical groups growing up starting with a group of talented 10 yr olds called the “PeeWee Pickers” who toured nationally.[4] His experiences in bands forming and then breaking up led him to the concept of a “rubber band”. It would be elastic in members being able to rotate in and out without a name change or breaking a groove.[3] Since their formation they have become one of the most successful musical acts from the state of Utah among other acts such as SHeDAISY, Peter Breinholt, and Neon Trees. The band also made an appearance on the popular U.S. Television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on October 18, 2006 for a family in Logan, Utah.[5] (Continue Reading..)

Above is “Simplify” and below is “Walk the Walk.” The meeting of new and old is particularly apparent when a nice few moments of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” break out during the comedy toward the end of the song.