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Legends’ biggest act yet debuted Wednesday night

Michael Barrett | Thursday, November 6, 2003

Ah, music – the eternal magnet of the masses. Well, this week is not one to disappoint at Legends, where four bands are slated to play Wednesday through Saturday. Wednesday night hosted nationally renowned singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw, who is arguably the biggest act to play Legends thus far. Thursday’s show features Notre Dame’s own Sudsbury Shore. Friday is also a big night with jam band Umphrey’s McGee, whose Chicago-based members are Notre Dame alumni. Saturday’s band is Chauncey, a critically acclaimed pop rock act out of Boston. You can call Legends butter, because it’s on a roll.

Gavin DeGraw is a 26-year-old talented singer/songwriter out of New York, who has turned heads in the industry for quite a while. Now his underground success is finally paying off with critical acclaim of his album Chariot helping to add to his already large and devoted fan base.

Growing up in upstate New York, DeGraw learned at a young age to appreciate music more than simply a profession but rather a fundamental part of life. After he started playing piano and singing at age eight, he continued to develop his skills into his teenage years. It was during this time that he discovered the music of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, two legendary artists who still have an influence on Gavin’s music. He was able to further hone his craft at Ithaca College on a music scholarship. He dropped out of classes after one semester, however, when he realized that he was spending most of his time writing songs. DeGraw then moved to Boston, where he attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music for a year while fronting a rock band and playing gigs. He left because he felt the school was restricting him from pursuing certain musical territories.

After moving to Manhattan in early 1998, he started playing shows, which soon gained him local recognition and in turn gave him the confidence to continue. It was a few months later when fate intervened at an open-mike night at Wilson’s, a popular Upper West Side club. It was here that he impressed the crowd so much that the club’s owner, Debbie Wilson, became his manager the next day. Gavin’s popularity spread quickly throughout the Manhattan music scene, where he continued to play his exciting shows, alternating between a solo piano act and a full rock band. When he first received an offer from a major music label, he declined in order to further develop his craft as a songwriter and performer. He subsequently signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, who released a six-song CD Gavin Live, recorded from shows at Wilson’s.

It was after playing a sold-out gig at Joe’s Pub in New York in the spring of 2002 that he signed a deal with J Records and soon began work on his debut album Chariot with producer Mark Endert (Fiona Apple, Tonic, Ours). In regards to adjusting to the studio, DeGraw says that it was a “real process” because he had to “learn the language and the science of making a record.” DeGraw truly exposes emotion and talent beyond his years on this album, resulting in rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Despite his relatively sudden success, DeGraw remains level-headed because “writing and playing songs and making a connection with people … make a lot more sense to me than trying to be the Next Big Thing.” Check out his website at www.gavindegraw.com.

Sudsbury Shore will be playing Thursday night at Legends. Composed of current Notre Dame students Brad Faircloth on guitar and vocals, Greg Ujda on bass and vocals, Brendon Collins on drums and vocals, and Matt Marnocha on keys/organ/guitar/vocals, this talented band mixes elements of jazz, funk, electronic and folk music.

Friday night will feature Umphrey’s McGee (www.umphreys.com), a nationally-renowned jam band of creative musicians who also happen to be Notre Dame alumni. Based from Chicago, these guys have one of the most unique sounds out there, blending everything from classical and bluegrass to gangsta-rap and metal to jazz improvisation and funk. Forming in 1997 on our very own campus, original members Joel Cummins (’97; piano/vocals), Brendan Bayliss (’98; guitar/vocals), Ryan Stasik (’98; bass) and former drummer Mike Mirro joined with percussionist Andy Farag and guitarist Jake Cinninger. The band had previously released Greatest Hits Volume III and Songs For Older Women, and after Mirro recently left for medical school, drummer Kris Myers joined the band.

Known for encouraging bootlegs at their shows, they rely heavily on their fans to spread their music and name around via the Internet. This is the main reason why venues where they’ve never played before will often times be sold out based solely on word-of-mouth. Their captivating live performances, often likened to Phish, and their huge following across the nation has led them to increase their popularity throughout the country. Their biggest show to-date was the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, where they played in front of 12,000 people alongside such bands as Widespread Panic. They have also played at such festivals as the High Sierra Music Festival, South By Southwest, Hookahville and HarvestFest. Another recent highlight has been the release of their DVD, as recorded at the Skyline Stage in Chicago. Umphrey’s McGee recently released their third studio album aptly titled Local Band Does O.K. It is obvious they have done more than mediocre, and their exciting show is bound to “wow” the Notre Dame audience on Friday night.

On Saturday, Legends will host Boston-area band Chauncey, a rock/pop group influenced by the Beatles and Radiohead. Steve Morse of The Boston Globe describes the band as “fine angular pop with a cerebral edge, designed for people who still think pop should mean something.” Fronted by John Paul Powell on keyboards and vocals, the band consists of Eliot Hunt and Jake Zuckerman on guitar, John Bistline on bass, and Shawn Marquis on drums. The band has toured with such acts as Guster, Midnight Oil and Dispatch, thus exposing their music to as many as people as possible. Their self-titled album chauncey won “Best Rock Album” by Boston Magazine, which said that the “swerving melodies, bending rhythms, and emotional truths … revived our faith in rock ‘n’ roll.”

For updated schedules of events and other news, visit Legends’ website at http://www.ndfoodservices.org/legends.