Detroit Bump City: Tales of prog rock, artful pop and paint huffing from across the country | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Detroit Bump City: Tales of prog rock, artful pop and paint huffing from across the country

Got suits, will travel.Chris Sterr and his band, Bump, are based out of Detroit. He says the city isn't as bad as the death-and-despair rap it often gets, but the former automotive capital of the world has definitely provided the prog-rockers with a few stories.

This is just one of those:

"We used to play these gigs downtown at this old venue called Fifth Avenue," Sterr recalls. "It was a house gig every Tuesday and every night we'd be loading out and these homeless guys would flock around us and they'd be grabbing our gear to help us so we'd pay 'em. A couple of these guys would have silver or gold on their lips and face because they'd been huffing paint. It was crazy."

Maybe it's these sort of instances that keeps the band on the road for several months of hard-driving touring each year, like the band's current excursion that takes them to the Silver Moon on Tuesday and then to Southern California before finally ending in Florida in early April. Sterr says that isn't so and that the Bump has a warm place in its heart for the Motor City.

"When you travel, you see how unique Detroit really is. You don't see that when you live there your entire life," Sterr says. He then goes into the current state of Detroit's music scene, an environment that currently fosters quality acts ranging from hardcore to blues and jazz. He never mentions Eminem once during our conversation on an afternoon where Bump is preparing to play part of a two-night stand in Denver.

Bump's current cross-country quest is in support of the band's recently released album, Forward, a disc that Sterr believes builds on the band's ability to write solid songs and is their most "focused" effort to date. Sterr describes Bump as having graduated from the jam band scene in recent years, shifting more to a style that showcases their songwriting skills.

"When we started playing we were sort of a jammy Grateful Dead, Phish sort of thing but we slowly began to realize that A: you need to forge your own path and B: you need to find your own sound and that's what we've been doing for the past five years," Sterr says of the quartet's gradual stylistic evolution.

Bump offers up a sound that isn't directly akin to Detroit's most known sounds, Motown or garage rock, but they do pay homage to their city's roots. In fact, in 2004, the band released a now-out-of-print EP entitled The Heart of Cadillac Square, which was a tribute to the band's Motown heroes.

But Motown isn't the aim of Bump these days as they have built a style that's essentially a melodic take on prog rock that can be both spacey and poppy yet manages to showcase the band's instrumental prowess - something they kept from their jammier days. The idea of Midwest progressive rockers with jam roots might bring to mind Chicago prog heroes Umphrey's McGee, and sometimes Bump shares some of that live technical vibe, but for the most part Bump is in a different class. Perhaps the main difference being that, at least with their new material, Bump seems concerned with creating a solid pop rock song. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

After all, you can't blame a band for leaning a bit toward pop after having to deal with paint-huffing volunteer roadies.

8pm Tuesday, March 10. Silver Moon Brewing Co. 24 NW Greenwood Ave.

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