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Nero in Ottawa Citizen

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Nero shatters jam band stereotypes

Fateema Sayani

The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, September 16, 2004


CREDIT: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen

Nero fans in Ottawa don't often get to hear them play in their home town. From left, Jay McConnery, Chris Buote and Dave Lauzon play Maverick's on Rideau Street Saturday.

Nero thinks the jam band label can be taken the wrong way, but they've long ago accepted that their music isn't a foray into the uber-cool new sound.

Playing for some seven years, often in Ottawa, but more often at festivals and small parties in southern Ontario and upstate New York where their fans seem to congregate, the guys in Nero -- guitarist Dave Lauzon, drummer Jay McConnery and bassist Chris Buote -- like to work on improvised sets that keep the audience guessing.

While they may not have the hot, new hairdo or wear the slick outfits of rock stars, that sort of freshness that goes along with being trendy is built into their sound -- instrumental jams that can wail on for 10 minutes or so, but keep the crowd moving. It's the beauty of improvisation -- sets can move from rock to indie rock to folksy to bluesy to dance. Watching Nero play means listening to three talented musicians build layers of sound until it culminates in a dizzying twirl.

"Music fans have a hard time getting that image out of their head, the one of their long-haired uncle and his band jamming out trying to catch a sunflower at some weekend bender," McConnery says of the jam band label.

But the label has also helped them -- their fans are known to collect minute details of their sets for future comparison like fans of Phish or the Grateful Dead might do. They rarely have trouble getting shows: obscure festivals, club dates and outdoor shows seem to fill up their 100-plus gig calendar every year. Only a few of those end up being in Ottawa because of touring schedules -- usually around key holidays when the trio catches up with wives or girlfriends.

Tomorrow's date follows the April release of their third album, Zedonk, where they add more rock to the jams.

Nero with New Shady Groove at Maverick's (221 Rideau St.) Saturday, 10 p.m. $9.

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