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Talented Trio Strikes a Chord in ‘Jukebox the Ghost’

Observer Scene | Friday, February 1, 2008

There are three notes in a musical triad and three members of Jukebox the Ghost. Coincidence? In the case of Jukebox, probably not. With its mix of eccentric lyrics, piano proficiency and upbeat tempos, the upstart band from Washington, D.C. has struck a chord with casual listeners and seasoned fans alike, inspiring rave reviews and building a growing underground following.

Legends keys up its calendar this weekend with a performance from the indie pop-rocking trio, set to storm the stage after Rocky Volatalo performs at 10 p.m. In devising band names, Jukebox the Ghost came up with the perfect stage name for itself, as the group’s music calls to ear bygone bands and shades of songs past while infusing its tunes with an up-tempo and youthful flair.

The genius of Jukebox starts with the talented fingers and vocal chords of pianist and singer Ben Thomewill. The man tickling the ivories has also tickled the fancy of listeners and reviewers, who have compared him to both Ben Folds and Queen, high praise for any piano man. And as far as his voice goes, Thomewill tends to maintain a fairly temperate pitch while occasionally breaking into falsetto forays. Don’t let the cascading ripples of piano notes and shrill trilling fool you, however -Jukebox can jam with the best of them. Guitarist Tommy Siegel enters this department as Jukebox’s resident rocker. Drummer Jesse Kristin keeps the band on beat by alternately pounding out the percussion backbones to the band’s frenetic songs and slowing things down for its low-key tunes.

Part of that diversity of sound comes from the band’s musical inspiration. “All of the members have incredibly different influences,” manager Seth Kallen said. “Ben (piano) is classically trained, and takes a lot from classical composers. Tommy (guitar) is a big Frank Zappa fan and Jesse (drums) played in a bunch of punk bands throughout high school.”

Thomewill and company met during their years at George Washington University and decided to form the band from there. Thomewill said he originally planned on a career in politics, but then changed tracks, becoming a music major. It seems safe to say he made a wise career decision. Although Jukebox has graduated from college, its manager says that the band’s origins make for great university concerts.”The band has never been to South Bend, but are really looking forward to playing at ND,” Kallen said. “Their early shows were at a ton of college parties at GWU, their alma mater, so it’s great doing stuff like this on the road.”

The band has come a long way and continues to travel wide and far since arriving on the scene in our nation’s capital. Jukebox is currently in the midst of a tour spanning the Midwest to the East Coast and then down south.

With its hip combination of quirks, craftsmanship and cool factor, Jukebox the Ghost figures to bring panache to the stage for its Saturday night show. Even better, since all Legends concerts have free admission for students, you won’t even have to part with a quarter to hear this Jukebox play.