Rock and roll as we know it is mostly inspired by the blues. As a fan of music, especially live music, I tend to appreciate bands that give the blues the credit it deserves, while introducing some of their own influence to an otherwise traditional pattern. Clay Campania Band does this well.
A few weeks ago, I found myself down on Dirty 6th on a Saturday night, doing what a guy on Dirty 6th does, when I stumbled into Friends Bar and caught a live show by Clay Campania Band. As you may or may not know, 6th Street is packed with live acts on the weekends. While all are talented, few stand out among the dense music scene in Austin.
Fortunately for me, Clay Campania Band was an exception. They completely blew me away with their blues-inspired, yet extremely diverse, performance.
Clay Campania’s Roots
While rooted in the blues, Clay Campania Band intertwines a unique blend of R&B and reggae into their live performances. Having been born and raised in Hawaii, frontman Clay Campania’s reggae influence can be clearly recognized in his guitar-playing and vocals.
It doesn’t stop there. Even when covering classic rock songs such as “Something in the Way She Moves,” by the Beatles, Campania goes off into extended lead breaks that include various references from other genres. And his genuine and well-tuned lead vocals give each song a smooth, yet bold, finish.
While always unpredictable, the band is always on the same page and plays one of the tightest sets I’ve seen in Austin. They tend to cater to the audience when it comes to the covers they play, but their repertoire of songs is deep and diverse. In addition, they throw in some original tracks, which gain automatic approval from the lively crowd, despite being unfamiliar.
Since moving to Austin in 2010, Campania and his band have earned a highly-praised reputation and loyal following. While Clay Campania Band holds residency at Friends Bar (usually on Sundays and Tuesdays), they stay busy around the city all week. Their schedule is always up-to-date on their Facebook page.
Style and Sound Wizardry
Many guitarists, especially those with blues roots, hover along the minor pentatonic scale. That’s totally cool, and some of the most well-known blues guitarists out there made a living on the pentatonic. However, what’s impressive to me is a guitarist who is able to incorporate more complex scales/modes into their lead breaks.
I don’t mean to get all technical on you. After all that, my point is this: Campania is like a friggin’ wizard when it comes to scales. For example, in Clay Campania Band’s cover of the Stevie Ray Vaughn instrumental, “Lenny,” Campania seamlessly glides from the minor pentatonic scale to the Mixolydian mode, introducing a jazzier tone and all those in-between notes that really complete the sound.
Additionally, he’ll often throw in unexpected nuggets of famous guitar riffs that everyone recognizes. As a listener, this allows you to wander down all sorts of paths you didn’t expect, with the assurance that you’ll always be brought back home.
Hear Clay Campania Band for Yourself
Mckenna provides a jazzy flavor to the band’s sound, throwing in complicated modifications to his progressions with humble confidence. Davila tightly knits it all together with improvised drum patterns, and certainly isn’t afraid to dish out remarkable drum solos that crash onto the set with a commanding presence.
The chemistry of this band is phenomenal, and can be noticed when watching them seamlessly communicate during heavily improvised song renditions.
Follow This Band!
There aren’t many rock and roll musicians out there who aren’t at least partially inspired by the blues. It’s a home base of sorts for many local bands you’ll hear around Austin. That said, Clay Campania Band is a rare act that sets up camp at said home base, but isn’t afraid to wander into a variety of other territories.
With hints of R&B and reggae, Clay Campania and his highly talented band offer a truly complete live set, with unpredictable covers, adventurous lead breaks and a uniqueness that’s hard to come by within Austin’s plentiful music scene.
While holding weekly residency at Friends Bar, Clay Campania Band is always out and about. Keep up with the band on their Facebook page, which includes their schedule, music videos and more original music coming soon.
@andychuckchase wants to know:
Have you been to a Clay Campania Band performance yet?