Denver-based band Cycles headlines this week’s local music scene with a 9 p.m. performance at The Lariat Friday, Nov. 10. Next week, award-winning bluesman A.J. Fullerton steps into the spotlight on the Lariat stage at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.
Cycles guitarist Patrick Harvey and drummer Michael Wood first met at The Gorge Amphitheater in Washinton during the 2013 Phish summer tour. The musicians ran into each other two more times during the same Phish tour. At the time Harvey was attending Columbia College, an internationally recognized arts school in Chicago.
Then, “my roommate happened to run into (Wood) in Chicago and recorded an album for him,” said Harvey. “After that, I kept bumping into him all over the country.”
Wood eventually moved to Denver and, after meeting Cycles bassist and vocalist Tucker McClung, encouraged Harvey to come to Denver and start a band.
“It was the perfect time for me to move, and I came to Denver right after the (Grateful Dead) Fare Thee Well shows,” said Harvey. “For over two years now we’ve been together touring. It’s been a lot of fun … a really natural thing.”
McClung grew up in Austin, Texas, where his father was something of a blues guitar legend (which prompted the younger McClung to play bass). While he had very little in the way of formal music training, he had plenty of exposure to music and musicians as a kid.
Harvey said Wood has played drums since second grade. He also plays piano, “writes a lot of songs and does production stuff. He’s also got great knowledge of music theory. … I ask him a lot of questions.”
Harvey had private music lessons growing up in northern Kentucky and is the only band member who went to school for music.
As Cycles, the musicians blend rock, jazz, hip hop, soul and more to create a versatile soundscape, and the band’s live shows emphasize improvisation so that no two live shows are the same.
“We try to keep it different. … So even if we play the same song in two different gigs, we play it differently – maybe a five-minute version one night and a 17-minute version the next time.”
Living in the same house together and practicing daily has created a chemistry between the band members that is evident in live performances and in the studio. Speaking of which, Harvey, Wood and McClung released their third album, Vacation, in June and have recently embarked on a fall tour to promote the new release, which is available on iTunes.
A.J. Fullerton Band
The last time A.J. Fullerton played in Buena Vista, he opened for legendary bluesman Otis Taylor at The Lariat. For his Nov. 18 Lariat show, Fullerton will perform with his own band. Since his last Lariat gig, Fullerton has released his first studio album, Kalamath, and watched it earn the Colorado Blues Society’s 2017 Best Self-Produced Album award, which makes it a contender in the 2018 International Blues Challenge competition.
In 2016 Fullerton also won the Colorado Blues Society’s International Blues Challenge competition and Members’ Choice Awards for Best Slide Guitar, Best Acoustic Act, Best Young Performer and Best Duo Act (with Nic Clark, who usually plays in Fullerton’s band).
As Fullerton’s awards demonstrate, his progressive blues songwriting and live performances were already making a mark on the Colorado music scene. With Kalamath, he solidifies his standing and looks primed to explode onto the national blues scene.
Released Aug. 24, 2017, Kalamath has been garnering wide attention. In the months following its release, the album has received stellar reviews from such sources as The Marquee Magazine, The BolderBeat and The Montrose Daily Press.
“Kalamath puts forth a modern blues concept based on the Hill Country Blues of North Mississippi, which draws on a century of tradition while striking out into new territory along the way” (The Marquee Magazine).
Raised in western Colorado, Fullerton picked up the guitar at age 14 and “never put it down.” During those early years of learning to play, Fullerton said he was looking for “the one thing that just felt right” musically.
In spite of playing Americana and classic rock covers, the sound of the blues eventually drew him in, and it worked out pretty well, considering the organizers for the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival dubbed Fullerton “The Future of the Blues.”