Blending into the Mill

BY NICK FETTY | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

When the phrase “double bogey” comes to mind, some people may recall Tiger Woods’ latest performance. But for the Blend, it means a subpar ride in a short, black tour bus.

The band will travel in Double Bogey, a GMC bus that gets nine miles to the gallon, to Iowa City this week as part of the group’s TwoToneTour.

“There are a lot of moments that I thought my life would end in that bus,” said lead vocalist Toussaint Morrison.

Hailing from Minneapolis, the Blend will bring its fusion of hip-hop, jazz, and rock to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. The concert will start at 9 p.m. today; admission is $6. The group will also play an acoustic set with Ben Kieffer at noon Friday at Java House, 211 1/2 E. Washington St., as a part of the “Java Blend” series.

“[Our music] is live band hip-hop mixed with rock and influences from jazz and funk,” said Blend keyboardist and alto saxophonist Linden Killam.

Having played everything from fraternity parties at the University of Minnesota and outdoor gigs at the University of Wisconsin, the Blend has a strong following on college campuses. The ensemble has also had the opportunity to share the stage with fellow Minneapolis rappers Atmosphere and Brother Ali.

Morrison said he attempted to start the Blend in 2000 but failed because of conflicts among the band, the DJ, and the MCs. Morrison tried to form the band for second time by putting a group together for a talent show consisting of himself, one DJ, two MCs, a bass player, and a drummer. The band played, and won, the competition — and at this gig, the name the Blend came about.

Killam has played piano since kindergarten, started saxophone in fifth grade, and continued to study music until college graduation. Though he doesn’t have many specific jazz influences, he compares his sound with that of Paul Desmond.

Shakespeare, Ice Cube, and Aerosmith are some of Morrison’s influences, but poetry is his biggest source of inspiration. Morrison studied theater at the University of Minnesota.
Before forking over nearly $3,000 for Double Bogey, the band rode in an even more unreliable vehicle.

When the band was on its first tour, the trailer they were pulling was nearly ripping the bumper off of their vehicle, so they stopped in what Morrison said was a heavily Christian town in Ohio. A man there repaired the car for free because his son was a musician.

In April, the Blend will play at the annual VEISHA concert in Ames. A week later, IT will perform for Spring Jam ’09 in Minneapolis, a benefit to help find a cure for cancer.

“We go well outside of realm of hip-hop or rock and have our own unique sound,”  Killam said.

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