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Trippin Billies covers Dave Matthews Band at Blue Moose

BY LAURA WILLIS | NOVEMBER 18, 2010 7:20 AM

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For the Trippin Billies, the Dave Matthews Band is more than a multiplatinum-selling band — it's a way of life.

The members of the Chicago tribute band attend concerts and watch old videos of Dave Matthews, meticulously observing each note and gesture. Over the course of 15 years, the musicians have not become tired of the popular jam band of the mid-90s. To the Trippin members, each classic song brings something new.

"We like the music, but it's also intricate. You actually have to use your mind," said group founder and lead guitarist Bill Denny. "The material always has something coming up that isn't typical of what is on the radio."

The Trippin Billies will perform Dave Matthews hits at 9 p.m. Friday in the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave. Tickets are $7 in advance, $9 at the door.

Denny's boredom spawned by repetitive songs sparked the idea for the band. Listening to acts around local pubs in Chicago, he kept hearing a limited number of Neil Diamond and Van Morrison tunes.

"I thought we should focus on the Dave stuff because we enjoyed it," he said.

Chicago's vast music scene helped him to contact local musicians who had a special quality resembling Dave Matthews Band members. He visited clubs and chatted with potential band members about the tribute project after each show. He recruited six people with the same instrumentation as the original Dave Matthews Band. Like Denny, they enjoyed the band's music, too.

"Once you have guys who genuinely like the musician you are playing, then you are cooking with gas," Denny said.

Nashville native Grant Chinouth moved to Chicago in 2006, and he was quickly recruited as the Trippin Billies' lead singer. In addition to playing with the tribute band, he also performs on his own.

He notes that while his own music does not have the jam-band quality of Dave Matthews, similar qualities exist.

"I don't change my voice whatsoever, so lots of times, people tell me it reminds them of the Dave Matthews Band," he said.

In Chicago, which has a large population of Dave Matthews fans, word of the Trippin Billies quickly spread. The group has toured the United States, but it primarily plays in the Midwest. Playing at Chicago's House of Blues became a second home.

"The House of Blues in Chicago is a treat for us to play," Chinouth said. "Every time we have been there, it has been memorable. Any show that the energy is right between us and the crowd is a success."

Chinouth is not the only member to have other musical projects. Drummer Kelsey Tarver is a popular musician in Chicago gospel churches, and saxophonist Steve Schnall is working toward a doctorate in music.

A passion for the Dave Matthews Band keeps them together.

"It's fun to do the Dave thing, because it is always changing," Denny said. "I think we would go crazy if it didn't."


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