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Coffeeshop rocker brings his San Diego sound to the JACC

Sarah Vabulas and Molly Griffin | Friday, August 27, 2004

Another school year has begun, and yet again, students must contemplate how to spend their precious first weekend hours. If you’re a music fan, The Show version 3.0, sponsored by the Student Union Board, scheduled for tonight is an event not to be missed. This year’s concert will bring co-headliner Jason Mraz, one of the biggest up-and-coming artists on the popular music scene, to the Joyce Center for a price that is impossible to beat. His album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” debuted in November 2002 and rose quickly in the charts. You’ll most likely remember Mraz for his song, “The Remedy,” which constantly played on top 40 radio stations across the country during the summer of 2003.Mraz grew up in Mechanicsville, Va. listening to the Dave Matthews Band and local roots musicians. He began his career with an interest and participation in musical theatre. After graduating high school he moved to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, but dropped out after only a year to take up the guitar and focus on songwriting. After living and working in New York, Mraz returned to Virginia, but only for a short time. In 1999 he headed west to San Diego, known across the country for its coffeehouse scene and large support of upcoming singers and songwriters. One of the most famous artists to emerge from this unique music scene prior to Mraz is Jewel. Mraz began playing local shops and found a weekly gig at a popular, local coffee shop called Java Joe’s. Around the same time, Mraz met drummer Toca Rivera. Soon afterward, the two were playing together with Mraz on acoustic guitar and Rivera on djembe. They created a live performance that showcased as much comedy between the two as it did music.Mraz’s popularity traveled to Los Angeles over the course of the next two years, earning the attention of record labels. In early 2002, Mraz signed a contract with Elektra Records. He returned to Virginia, where he wrote and recorded his debut album. Mraz worked with producer John Alagia, famous for producing for the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and OAR. He was backed by another Alagia-produced band, the Agents of Good Roots.Since his move to California, Mraz has shared venues with wide range of artists including Bob Dylan, Paula Cole, Jewel and David Gray.The fruits of their labors came to be “Waiting for My Rocket to Come,” an album which hit the top 40 charts thanks in a large part to the success of the single “The Remedy.” The heavy radio rotation of the single, coupled with word-of-mouth buzz, helped the album find its way into the CD collections of music fans across the country. “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” blends Mraz’s early influences and coming-of-age by combining country and roots rock with the poeticism of coffeehouse folk, elements of jazz and the rhythmic charge of hip-hop. His wide-ranging and unusual blend of musical influences reveals itself in it in his singles like the upbeat hit “The Remedy,” the romantic ballad “You and I Both” and the hip-hop tinged “Curbside Prophet.” Like many coffeehouse artists, Mraz writes emotional songs about a variety of subjects, but relationships, both good and bad, remain the central focus of much of his music. Mraz’s training as a vocalist shows itself on his debut album, which is marked by the pure clarity and range of his vocals. True to the hip-hop style he admires, Mraz also scats and raps on some of his songs, which adds a different spin to the usual acoustic singer/songwriter sound. On Tuesday, Mraz released a live CD/DVD combination set. “Tonight, Not Again: Jason Mraz Live at the Eagles Ballroom was recorded and filmed last October at Milwaukee’s Eagles Ballroom. Jason is joined onstage by his band and a number of special guests, including Blues Traveler’s John Popper. The set list includes four new Mraz-penned songs. In addition to the full-length concert, the DVD includes an array of bonus footage, including exclusive behind-the-scenes segments.Jason Mraz is not simply just another coffeehouse singer/songwriter. The artist has great potential for longevity. His creative lyrics, inspired delivery and ability to write high-energy music will keep fans looking for more as his career continues to grow.