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Music / Blues Traveler

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From L-R: Ben Wilson, Brendan Hill, Chan Kinchla, John Popper, Tad Kinchla

Blues Traveler is a jam band formed in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987 and primarily known for its two 90s hits "Run Around" and "Hook" (both from the album Four) and for the band's lead singer, John Popper, appearing on Roseanne as an old friend of Dan.

Principal Members (Founding members in italic, most recent in bold):

  • John Popper - lead vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar
  • Chan Kinchla - electric/acoustic guitars
  • Brendan Hill - drums
  • Bobby Sheehan - bass (1987-1999; died of a drug overdose)
  • Tad Kinchla - bass (1999-present)
  • Ben Wilson - keyboards (2000-present)

Studio discography:

  • 1990 - Blues Traveler
  • 1991 - Travelers and Thieves
  • 1993 - Save His Soul
  • 1994 - Four
  • 1997 - Straight On Till Morning (final album with Bobby Sheehan)
  • 2001 - Bridge (first album with Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson)
  • 2003 - Truth Be Told
  • 2005 - ¡Bastardos!
  • 2007 - Cover Yourself (new arrangements of previously released songs)
  • 2008 - North Hollywood Shootout
  • 2012 - Suzie Cracks the Whip
  • 2015 - Blow Up the Moon
  • 2018 - Hurry Up & Hang Around

Live discography:

  • 1992 - On Tour Forever (EP, packaged with Travelers and Thieves)
  • 1996 - Live from the Fall (double album)
  • 2002 - Live: What You and I Have Been Through
  • 2004 - Live on the Rocks
  • 2006 - ¡Bastardos en Vivo! (EP)

This band provides examples of:

  • Band of Relatives: Tad Kinchla, Chan's younger brother, joined as bassist following the death of Bobby Sheehan.
  • Based on a True Story: The song "Closing Down the Park" is about the Tompkins Square Park riot of August 1988.
  • The Cameo: All of the tracks on Blow Up The Moon are essentially collaborations with cameos from Hanson, Rome Ramirez, 3OH!3, JC Chasez, Jewel, and The Plain White Ts among others.
  • Epic Rocking: It comes with the territory as a jam band. "Crystal Flame," "Alone," "Sweet Pain," "Mountain Cry," "Whoops," and "Make My Way."
    • Live performances of some songs (or medleys of them) can easily run over 15-20 minutes.
  • Grief Song: "Pretty Angry."
  • Iconic Item:
    • While performing onstage in his pre-weight-loss days, John Popper wore a set of custom-made belts either slung across his chest or hung around his neck. They had pockets to hold harmonicas in every possible key, so he could easily switch one for another mid-song. The belts no longer fit properly after he lost the weight, so he started carrying his harmonicas in a black attache case.
    • He often wears a broad-brimmed hat whose band is made of flattened harmonica plates during shows.
  • Large and in Charge: John Popper was one of the heaviest singers on the scene during his day, eventually tipping the scales at over three hundred pounds. Health issues (diabetes and a heart attack) eventually led him to have gastric bypass surgery, which allowed him to lose a great deal of weight.
  • Long Runner Lineup: Both the original quartet with Bobby Sheehan (mid-1980s to 1999), and the current quintet with Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson (2000 to present).
  • Misery Builds Character: Although "blues" was part of their name, they were always quick to point out that they'd never actually "paid their dues" the way most blues artists did back in the day.
    Popper: We're five white kids from the suburbs whose parents supported us while we were starting out, so let's not insult the term.
  • Mixed Metaphor: The second and third verses of "Run-Around" are constant strings of these.
  • Motor Mouth: The third verse of "Hook" is nearly 200 words long. It still takes less than a minute.
  • Off to See the Wizard: Blues Traveler parodied this story in the video for "Run-Around": The Dorothy stand-in and her buddies can't get into the club where the band is performing, and when they manage to sneak in backstage they discover that the band are in the Wizard role, performing offstage while younger, slimmer performers mime playing to their work onstage.
  • "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression: Deliberately used in "Hook", serving as an example of said "hook" (which ties in to the song's premise: it takes no effort to write a hit song as long as you use a familiar chord pattern and "sing with inflection").
  • Re-release the Song: "But Anyway" was the first song of the band's first album in 1990. It was re-released as a single in 1996 with its inclusion on the Kingpin soundtrack, and would go to #5 on the Billboard alternative rock chart.
  • Run for the Border: "Get Out of Denver" is a local variant.
  • Scatting: Quite a few songs (both studio and live) delve into this.
  • Shout-Out: The first line in "Regarding Steven" is one to "Sympathy for the Devil". Throughout the latter song, Satan says, "Hope you guess my name"; the first line in "Regarding Steven" is "Well, I guessed your name and I'm sure you know mine..."
  • Shrug Take: More or less the entirety of "But Anyway":
    Someday an answer will find us
    Quite a longshot, but anyway...
    I think the past, the past is behind us
    Be real confusing if not, but anyway...
  • This Is a Song:
    • "Hook" is entirely about itself, confessing that the singer doesn't mean any of it, and how the lyrics he's singing at that very moment don't really mean anything, but you won't care because the song is catchy.
    • "Battle of Someone" plays with this; the first verse is cynical and pessimistic, the second verse is hopeful and optimistic, and the third verse is a balance between the first two. A line in the third verse reads, "The preceding verses are the halves of my soul."