by Whit Hill
There's certainly no reason why social change and fun can't go hand in hand--everyone loves a good demonstration, especially one with happy, finger-snappin' music. Mutual Kumquat--an area band with an ever-changing cadre of players--mines this truth and brings out tune after tune of hopeful, politician-skewering, heart-on-sleeve, war-decrying messages.
The band was born on a July afternoon in 2000, under a California kumquat tree, to buddies Chris Good, Nate Shull, and Ben Long. Its goal: to produce "good times revolution music" for the people of the United States--positive, pop songs influenced by bluegrass, funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and afrobeat. The band settled in Indiana where it released its first album, Dream On It in 2004. Then the group scattered across the country for over a year before reforming at a war protest at Fort Benning, Georgia, and deciding to get serious. The band is now based in southeastern Michigan and opens for the MacPodz at the Ark on Friday, January 22.
Mutual Kumquat's eponymous 2008 album is a collection of 13 heartfelt songs about love and war. There's no new lyrical ground broken here; these fresh-faced young musicians simply express what they feel: their outrage about Iraq and the sicko shenanigans that got us there, their love of their girlfriends, and their love of vegetables?
Yes, one of the most memorable cuts is "Song for the Veggies," a paean to virtually every edible item that can be grown in dirt. It made me hungry for kale, which I actually have in the house.
The guys of Mutual Kumquat play lots and lots of instruments with sort of a jam-band sensibility. They sing their messages with mostly gentle voices which they layer like a harmonic veggie lasagna. (See what they've started?) I've never seen them live, but I bet they're fun to watch, and I bet they get people dancing.
[Originally published in January, 2010.]
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