New York street performers make tracks to Greenbelt -- Gazette.Net



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It was the summer of 2009 and the members of Roosevelt Dime were playing on a Manhattan street corner, trying to nab the attention of people passing by.

“We were trying to play music that would get these busy New Yorkers to stop in their tracks and shake their tail feather for a couple of minutes,” says bassist Eben Pariser, 29.

That sound will make its way to Greenbelt when the five-piece band plays the New Deal Café on Wednesday.

Before the Brooklyn-based band spent that formative summer playing on the streets, they had released their first album, “Crooked Roots,” a few months earlier, says banjo player Andrew Green, 28. The band had included several tracks featuring horn players and were so pleased with the new sound that they decided to move in that direction.

“That’s the next logical place for this to go,” Green says. “That’s the unique sound that’s most captivating to us.”

On the bustling streets of Manhattan, street performing is extremely competitive, Green says. By adding a trumpeter and wind player, the band found that their sound became a lot more captivating in that setting.

“The horns were the perfect remedy to that. They could literally cut through the subway noise, the street noise,” Green says. “That went a long way to informing the sound we took to performing. You have to win that audience over quick when performing on the streets.”

The summer playing on the streets led to the creation of the band’s signature sound — dubbed steamboat soul — which infuses bluesy country roots music with Motown and New Orleans influences, Pariser says. The band named their 2011 sophomore album “Steamboat Soul” after that sound.

“It taught us really how to communicate this energy to the audience in a way we can reproduce and bottle up,” Pariser says.

What makes Roosevelt Dime’s sound all the more interesting is that it is created with the unusual instrumentation of Pariser’s acoustic bucket bass. The instrument consists of a bucket attached to a pole and a string, with the pitch adjusted by shortening or lengthening the string.

“Just like any instrument — over time you figure it out,” Pariser says.

The lineup also includes drums, clarinet, sax, trumpet and Green on banjo. He and Pariser are the band’s primary songwriters, each usually bringing a partially completed song to the band’s rehearsal in a Brooklyn living room.

“That’s where we start to arrange it and dress it up in this steamboat soul vernacular,” Pariser says. “That’s where the whole things gets sort of formalized and reproduced in a way that is explosive and fun and fresh every time.”

Green says the band creates music that is catchy and comforting, yet unique enough to set them apart.

“You hear it the first time and walk away humming the melody,” he says. “It’s familiar yet it’s different enough that it captures your ear as novel.”

Roosevelt Dime often gets lumped in with the folk community, but Pariser believes their sound is diverse enough to resonate with many different audiences.

“All different types of people from all ages can all enjoy our music, which is one of the things I’m most proud of in this group,” he says. “It really seems like people of all different backgrounds can really come together and enjoy it and that really feels good.”

Although Roosevelt Dime’s sound may evoke a feeling of the south, it is their home in Brooklyn that can be credited with helping them figure out what makes them special.

“Brooklyn keeps us honest because there is a band on every street corner at this point,” Pariser says. “Being around that much music makes you have to choose what you are going to do. And if you’re going to do something, do it well.”

ccalamaio@gazette.net