Dave Bruzza: Unsafe at Any Speed - April 2019
Words & photos by Jon Rosenberger (PhotoFooFoo)
Greensky Bluegrass, the five-piece string music band, has grown from humble 2003 beginnings in the living rooms and open mic nights of Kalamazoo, Michigan into the nationwide jamgrass touring juggernaut of today. Regularly selling out fifteen hundred seat theaters from coast to coast including multiple nights at Colorado’s revered Red Rocks Amphitheatre and performing at seemingly every notable music festival in the country all summer long, their star is on the ascent with seemingly no roof in sight. So what does an acclaimed, successful jamgrass rock star do when he isn’t out riding the beautiful people tour life? The answer for the members of Greensky is to go on ‘buddy’ tour. The individual members of have nearly always done solo or duo outings, often as show openers in support of friends on ‘off’ nights, but the last few years have seen more polished, organized multi-night runs complete with merchandise and properly rehearsed band mates.
Dave Bruzza, Greensky’s guitar player, has mini toured in both Michigan and Colorado the last two years under the b(r)and name Unsafe at Any Speed. Unlike his fellow bandmates his extracurricular outings have much more of a polished side project feel to them. The songs are well rehearsed, the band is uber tight, having a great feel onstage for what each of them is doing musically and yet loose enough to allow for improvisation and surprises. Only the bass players have altered in the past with Dave having brought along at times Greg Burns, bandmate Mike Devol and on this year’s campaign Dominic John Davis on the bottom end. Dominic has a few day jobs of his own, most notably as the bass player for Jack White and as a record producer including this year’s Greensky Bluegrass release All For Money. Dom and Dave have a long history working the circuit in the Midwest as Dominic started his career in the Michigan band Steppin’ In It. Michael Shimmin returned on drums, he’s also a sometime member of Steppin’ In It, as well as providing percussion for bands in an incredibly wide array of genres such as celtic music, R&B, and folk, as well as rock. Shimmy can keep time on everything from an egg shaker to a cajon to a full double bass kit and he does a tremendous job with Unsafe filling in the time signatures and even providing several full on drum solos. Jimmy Matt Rowland, aka Mr. Jimmy, is on keyboards. Mr. Jimmy toured with Rayland Baxter’s band opening for Greensky a few years back and his whirling organs and smiling, head bopping stage presence have been welcomed in sit-ins and various band permutations ever since. His ivory wizardry is astonishing, seemingly always knowing the perfect thing to fill in with and when exactly to sit out and let the song flow around him. Finally, Lyle Brewer shares guitar duties with Dave. They met via the Ryan Montbleau band which was a Greensky opener as well, and while I was initially surprised last year that Dave would enlist a second guitarist, I quickly came to realize why Lyle was inveigled away from his day job as a guitar professor at the Berklee School of Music.
Lyle is an amazing guitar player. He lives, eats, breathes, walks the dog, washes the car and farts all while thinking about guitar playing. How he can be better? What he can learn from others? How to share his love of guitar with others are the sorts of things that drive his progression as a player. The question I heard most this last weekend and which I gladly answered was “Who the hell is on the other guitar?“
The wonderful thing about all of these extra marital projects is that for those of us that have been a part of the camper community since it nearly began, fell in love with this band and these players in tiny dirty bars and crappy old ballrooms and have watched this band rise and grow and edge closer to the elite land of number one albums, of luxury buses and jets instead of vans and station wagons, it’s a chance to go back home, to stand with your friends on the rail with plenty of room and enjoy a show together singing back songs that you all know. Slightly different versions of them? Sure. Rockier, mature versions of what you love, but you love them just the same and the experience and feelings are the same too: community, connectedness and joy between audience and band all getting to experience something special with one another. If you get the chance to catch any of these "side jobs," do it, seek it out, they are special, they are just as as special as the guys doing them.
Colorado Tour Dates:
4.25.19 | Cervantes Other Side | Denver, CO
4.26.19 | Boulder Theater | Boulder, CO
4.27.19 | Ten Mile Music Hall | Frisco, CO
Like Reflections, Foggy Mountain Special , Cold Feet, Room Without a Roof, Cocaine and Jim Beam, Worried About the Weather, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Radio Blues, Take Cover, Wings for Wheels, Pipeline, If I Had a Boat, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You, A Letter to Seymour, Blood Sucking F(r)iends, I’d Probably Kill You, Kerosene, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, I’m Still Here, Mr. Charlie, It’s Not Mine Anymore