Promising a night of superb musicianship, humorous antics and well-crafted lyrics, North Carolina jam band The Mantras are set to make a long overdue reappearance on Saturday Feb. 4 at The Cider House music venue near UT's campus. Presented by WUTK The Rock, opening act Grandpa's Stash will begin around 9 p.m. with The Mantras closing out the night.
Comprised of guitarist Keith Allen, drummer Justin Loew, keyboard player Justin W. Powell, bassist Brian Tyndall and percussionist Brent Vaughn, The Mantras were drawn together originally by their shared love for improvised music (three of the five of them hold music degrees in jazz or jazz studies). They made it official in 2005 in Greensboro, North Carolina and became The Mantras. By 2011, they were regularly selling out shows in their home state and had been hard at work building a name for themselves on the tour circuits.
The Mantras have had the honor of sharing the stage with artists such as Umphrey's McGee, Eoto, George Clinton and P-Funk, Papadosio, The Werks, Perpetual Groove, Zoogma and many more. Last year they played around 120 shows, and guitarist Keith Allen says they expect to play as many as 175 or more this year.
"You just have to keep going and stay positive. It's all ups and downs." -Keith Allen, guitarist for The Mantras The last time The Mantras visited Knoxville in 2010, they played the Phish after party and sold out the show. The next show they booked, ironically, was cancelled due to a massive rockslide in North Carolina that blocked I-40 for weeks. This time, Allen said the recent rockslide isn't going to stop them. They have added space in their busy schedule to detour around it and make it to Knoxville on time.
However, Allen worries that the length of time that has passed since then may affect the turnout at Saturday's show.
"I'm looking forward to it," Allen said of the upcoming Knoxville show. "But I don't really know what to expect. If anything it's going to be a building block. We are basically pulling the trigger on becoming full time this year, and it will be good to at least establish some kind of presence in Knoxville, even if it's not a hugely attended show. At least we're starting, you know?"
If there's one thing The Mantras consider important to their group's philosophy, it's keeping a good attitude and outlook. Implied in the name of the band, there's a common passion and positivity the band mates share which informs all of their efforts and provides them with a deeper reward than recognition.
Allen said, "I think the whole thing kind of originated because of music, and I think we all can kind of agree that the music is a form of meditation in a way. Just the sounds that you create when you're playing music, I think those vibrations and everything help take you to a state of higher consciousness. And it all kind of fits a little too well with the definition of a mantra and everything, being a sound or a syllable that was created at the beginning of a chant to try and help you into a higher realm of consciousness."
He continued, "And then we actually as a band have tried to expand a lot more recently on looking into the philosophies and everything. Things are starting to get pretty real for us as far as touring, and we're just getting lots of connections. And we've all kind of had these bouts with insanity, and the breathing and the meditation and stuff helps to keep us centered. Music does it, but I mean, if we could stay on stage all the time that would be one thing, but the rest of the time you have to deal with real life, you know?"
"You just have to keep going and stay positive. It's all ups and downs," Allen concluded.
The Mantras' positivity is evident in their live performances, which they share for free on Archive.net and on their website, and this weekend's performance should be no different. Thanks to their talented sound technician, Matt Gordon, they have every show recorded in multi-track high quality format that can be burned on the spot and given to fans in attendance for free.
This show is for guests 18 years of age or older. Tickets are $8 in advance, available at www.thevalarium.com, or $10 at the door. There will be a $3 surcharge for guests under 21.