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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 04:40 pm

Bottle Rockets get fired up

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The Bottle Rockets perform at the Hoogland Center for the Arts Saturday, Jan. 29, at 8pm.

During the mid-90s The Bottle Rockets ruled the roost as a thought-provoking, hard rocking, Midwestern, alt-country band in the middle of a roots rock revolution centered in St. Louis. Later in the decade and the first years of the new century, things calmed down a bit for the whole genre and the band. After an unusual string of usual music industry battles the band relit around 2005. Always led by front man, guitarist and chief songwriter Brian Henneman, along with the other remaining founding member, drummer Mark Ortmann, the recent resurgence came with the addition of new band members, guitarist John Horton and Springfield resident, bassist Keith Voegele.

When he joined the Bottle Rockets in 2005, friends and family rejoiced for what seemed an ideal fit for Voegele, a St. Louis native who dedicated his life to playing music. So far all is going well with the move. The Bottle Rockets just released their second studio CD with Keith on the four-string and Lean Forward took off on the roots rock charts with rave reviews from all the right places including Rolling Stone, Paste, No Depression, Washington Post, Crawdaddy, and other media outlets. The band just returned from a January tour of Spain, and now play an Illinois run of Springfield, Chicago and Carbondale, then take a few weeks off before resuming the tour in late February.

“We just played 9 shows in 11 days and the crowds acted like they were waiting for years to see us,” exclaimed Voegele about the band’s visit to Spain. “Every show was a total surprise and the new record is doing great there.”

Lean Forward came in as the number two record in Spain for 2009, even with the early fall release, and the band and their label, Chicago-based Bloodshot Records, are thrilled.

“We came in behind Levon Helm’s latest record and we’re fine with that,” he said. “It’s weird to see us on the Americana charts next to Levon, Rosanne Cash and names like that, but thankfully those charts are there now and we get on them.”

In 2008 the B-Rox, as their fans affectionately call them, celebrated 15 years of being a band by playing 15 dates in selected cities around the country. That year appeared to also be a turning point in the way the group dealt with being a band in general. They made their latest record in New York City with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, who produced a couple of successful disks for the band in the mid-90s and understands the group vision well enough the guys refer to him as the fifth Bottle Rocket.

“The record is doing much better than the last one; it sold more in the first six months than Zoysia ever did,” he explained. “And we’re touring mostly on weekends, cutting out the off nights. Our fans are mostly our age and have kids and jobs and it works out best for all of us to make every show a good one.”

With a contented, welcoming record label, a sensible, solid touring schedule, the new album rising on the charts and crackling, sparkling live shows, the Bottle Rockets seem poised for a continued existence with plenty of good arc left and not quite ready to explode yet into a brilliant finish.

“We want to be working on a new record by summer to release it for next year,” said Voegele of future plans. “Then we do it all over again. We’re just trying to be smarter about it now.”

The Bottle Rockets play the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Jan. 29 at 8pm with Lucky Patterson and the Wolf Crick Boys opening the show for the WUIS-sponsored Bedrock 66 Live! concert series.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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