Sound Advice: BoomBox (Feb. 3)

Electronic Rock duo and a Jam scene favorite with some serious Grateful Dead ties performs at 20th Century Theater

Over the past couple of decades, Electronic music has increasingly become as much a part of the fabric of the eclectic “Jam band” scene sound as extended guitar solos. BoomBox is one of the best representatives of the sonic crossover, because you can easily trace the lineage of the Electro/Funk/Pop project back to Jam icons The Grateful Dead, not just in the music’s DNA, but also in the literal DNA of guiding creative force Zion Godchaux.

Godchaux’s parents’ full musical background gives partial insight into BoomBox’s sound. Donna Jean Godchaux was a singer and session musician in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and can be heard on classic recordings like Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” She joined The Grateful Dead in the early ’70s with her husband, keyboardist Keith Godchaux — in the middle of their eight-year tenure with the group, the couple welcomed Zion (middle name “Rock”) into the world.

Keith and Donna formed The Heart of Gold Band in 1980 after leaving The Dead, but Keith died tragically in a car accident after the group’s first show in San Francisco. In the early aughts, Donna revived Heart of Gold with the help of Zion, who wrote songs, sang and played drums, percussion, guitar and sax on the band’s comeback At the Table album.

Another part of the Heart of Gold revival was sound engineer Russ Randolph. Zion and Randolph bonded over similar musical tastes — which, on top of classic Soul and Rock, also included House music (Zion was a DJ during the ’90s), Modern Rock and Hip Hop — and began making music together separate from Heart of Gold. The pair created BoomBox in 2004, the same year At the Table was released.

BoomBox is definitively an Electronic project, with Randolph handling the drum programming and other tech in concert, while Godchaux fronts the band with his vocals and guitar. The duo instantly ingratiated itself into the Jam band scene with its mix of hypnotic rhythms, atmospheric psychedelia and heavy elements of Soul, Rock and Blues, finding the sweet spot between programmed and organic sounds.

BoomBox became a regular presence on the road, playing huge festivals and shows with the likes of Particle, The Disco Biscuits and The Motet, which joins BoomBox later this year to co-headline Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre. But BoomBox’s sound has wide appeal that extends beyond Jam die-hards — with a solid songwriting core, many of the tracks on 2014’s Filling in the Color are in line with the ElectroPop sensibilities of acts like Empire of the Sun or (early) MGMT.

Last year, after Randolph left BoomBox amicably, Godchaux enlisted DJ Harry, a Colorado DJ/producer who has been exploring the Electronic/Jam band synergy even longer than BoomBox (his 2001 debut album was a remix project of music by the band The String Cheese Incident). Western Voodoo, the first BoomBox album since Randolph’s departure (which Godchaux has described as “Dirty Disco Blues”), is due later this year. Last year, the band released the single "Right Around Two," which featured Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals. More recently, BoomBox dropped Western Voodoo single "Restless Too":

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