The Bridge hopes its music will span oceans


Bands are lucky enough to find gigs in their hometowns, let alone land a national tour. But the Bridge, a six-man blues/rock group from Baltimore, Md., went beyond that ultimate goal to play beyond the borders of the United States.

Today, the group will make its first stop in Iowa City at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., as part of its Winter Tour 2009 following the release of the band’s newest album, Blind Man’s Hill. The show will start at 9 p.m., and tickets are $7.

With the traditional instrumentation of guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums, the Bridge adds color to its sound by incorporating saxophone and even mandolin and beat box. By combining elements of blues, soul, and funk, the band has been compared with such bands as the North Mississippi Allstars.

“I don’t think there are too many bands out there with electric mandolin, beat box, saxophone,” Bridge guitarist Cris Jacobs said. “That alone is sometimes enough to turn heads.”

The group has performed at venues across the country and has traveled to Europe to play blues and jazz festivals.

Jacobs started playing guitar when he was 16 years old, and he was influenced by bands such as the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, and Santana.

“I’m really inspired by the roots of American music and where it all came from,” he said.
Jacobs and Bridge mandolin player and beat-boxer Kenny Liner first started to play music together about eight years ago in an acoustic ensemble. The group started to play at open-mike nights, eventually finding a bass player and a drummer and dropping their acoustic sound.

“It evolved organically,” Jacobs said. “We kind of liked that it was a new sound that was incorporating a lot of different styles.”

Since the band’s formation, the group has played with several well-known musicians, including Mike Gordon, Phish’s bassist, as well as Les Claypool and Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band.

Later this year, the Bridge will play the same venue as Little Feat, one of the group’s biggest influences.

“The band’s overall influence is just a greater respect for traditional American music,” Liner said.

“Everything that we do as a whole has to do with the roots of American music.”

When he was 18 years old, the band he played in wanted an acoustic sound, so he taught himself to play the mandolin, an instrument one of his former bandmates referred to “the drum of bluegrass.”

“The Bridge is a fun band to see live,” Liner said. “We do a little of everything; we respect a lot of different kinds of music.”

The Bridge released its début album, Cross Street Market, in 2004 and followed with a self-titled album in 2006.

The group has performed at the All Good Music Festival in West Virginia for the last five years. This summer, the sextet will play at the Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, Ill., before heading to Lexington, Va., for the Buffalo Creek Music Festival.

“It’s our first time in Iowa City, and we’re excited to be there,” Liner said. “Hopefully, it will be a place where we continue to come a lot.”

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