Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Friday, June 24th
By Jessamyn Cuneo
It was a scene that screamed vintage: Rusted Root (a band that used to tour with the Grateful Dead), many dread-locked or tie-dye-wearing fans, and a venue which included a huge dance floor, many long tables spread around the edges, a few fully-stocked bars, "beer girls" who walked around selling beer off of their trays, high ceilings, and private sky-rooms that you could look up to and watch couples making out in.
The place was packed, the air hot and stuffy. Clouds of skunky smoke billowed up every few minutes. As Rusted Root took the stage, the crowd screamed in anticipation to get started. And once the band began playing, there was total chaos on the dance floor.
Seriously, did anyone have any sense of balance that night? Not even the band was keeping their force flowing very well. At times, the music was so bouncy and energetic that everyone was jumping up and down like popcorn. Then, suddenly they'd switch gears, the audience would be unable to get a handle on the beat of the next song, and you were almost sure to be stepped on, elbowed, or spilled on by the people surrounding you. All in all, it was a fun show with ample amounts of gusto, and a wide variety of instruments.
Jenn Wertz and Liz Berlin, both vocalists, guitarists and percussionists, switched instruments almost every song-jumping from tambourines, to guitars, to a piccolo, and even a metal, ridged vest that Berlin wore on her chest and strummed with a stick. It kept the atmosphere changing enough to kind of distract you from the similarity of their songs. The entire group looked like they were pumped to be there, and the crowd was having fun despite the lack of coordination and the monstrous heat.
Rusted Root is a band best known for two songs. "Ecstasy" was the best preformed song of the night, which had the girls in the audience spinning like ballerinas and the guys throwing their hands up in the air. The group ended with their biggest hit, "Send Me on My Way" (which, of course, no one saw coming). When the show was over, Berlin and lead guitarist/vocalist Michael Glabicki came out and signed autographs-an unexpected and benevolent touch which is rare these days.
Rusted Root began in 1988 and is still going strong. They have just released their fourth album, Welcome to My Party, after taking a year off, during which several of them did solo work. Liz Berlin, co-founder of the band, has just released a solo album entitled AudioBioGraphical. She found some time to chat about the group, as well as her own interesting side-projects and philosophies.
Liz credit's the band's long-term compatibility to the constant growth and change they all have experienced. "There have been different stages of [the band]. There was the 'innocent' stage, the 'honeymoon' stage, and the 'life goes on' stage, when we all start maturing, and some of us have kids and do other things. So we started taking breaks, and it's been really healthy to go away and come back."
On top of putting out AudioBioGraphical, which she had been working on for five years, Berlin has also founded a recording studio/theatre/skate park called Mr. Smalls, as well as a Rock & Roll Band Camp in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. With so many projects to manage, Liz fuels herself through her positive mentality.
"I look at it as an ongoing responsibility to myself to work hard at music and creativity," she says. "I treat it all as a job to get accomplished. To write and create music is a personal growth thing-I have to write songs."
She spreads this valuable key to success through her camp as well as through her music. When asked what she thinks are the two most important things for a kid with a dream of being a rock star to focus on, she had some sage advice which she offered with nothing but the utmost sincerity:
"First off, focus on learning your instrument, and don't think of yourself as local, or the career you desire as unattainable," she says.
Finally, she adds, it's important to clear your head of any mental blocks. "Don't let [those thoughts] hold you down. Be what you want to become. There are already enough hurdles in the world; you don't need to create more in your own mind."