When Rusted Root got its start, founding frontman Michael Glabicki had just dropped out of his first semester of college, forever changed by a trip to a war-torn Nicaragua.
He wanted to bring home some of the culture and creativity he witnessed in the midst of revolution and Rusted Root was the way to do it.
In those days, it was as simple as it was difficult.
You and a couple of friends got in a car and spiraled around the city, then the state, then the country, then the planet, building a following, playing shows and making albums.
But that was back in the early 1990s, on the cusp of the information age’s virtualization of music culture. Before ProTools, iTunes, or Napster; before YouTube, MySpace and ring tones. Before viral videos made it so anyone could be in a band and get worldwide exposure, back when beepers were as common as smartphones are today.
And yet, the platinum-selling band and its music has evolved with the times without abandoning its, uh, roots – upholding the tradition and ethos of a blue-collar touring act combined with the technological savvy of the digital era.
Rusted Root has an interstellar touring reputation, but the jam band sextet has also raised its stock through online-only bootleg releases and landing singles on television commercials and movie soundtracks during a time when having a song in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car TV ad is as good as a radio hit.
While the band is known to have long gaps between albums, Rusted Root regularly releases live sets exclusively on its website, where dedicated Rootheads can hear samples of works in progress from forthcoming releases as they are stage tested in their live performances.
Fans are invited to leave comments about the new material in web forums.
Yet, while finding multiple ways to stay relevant, Rusted Root can straddle the line of pop.
The band’s audience is multigenerational, and its music touches on many genres, including bluegrass, alternative rock, world beat with influences from Middle Eastern, African and Latin rhythms.
While individual members of the six-piece outfit, including Glabicki, have been working on solo projects since the last proper Rusted Root release in 2009, the band is in the mixing phase of a new record due for release this year.
Expect to hear songs from the upcoming album, as well as old favorites and material from individual solo efforts when Rusted Root takes the stage on Sunday at The Knitting Factory, 919 W. Sprague Ave.
They’ll be using every tool in their arsenal to keep your attention.