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Hometown heroes
Local favorites return return for holiday weekend blowouts
Bobby Lee Rodgers

Traditionally, touring musicians will come home to visit their families around the big, warm, cozy holidays: Thanksgiving or Christmas. That's when you'll catch them doing ad hoc solo shows at the downtown clubs, because they're in the area for a few days, weary of leftover turkey and itching to get out and play.

This Independence Day Weekend, however, is a tradition-breaker. Brock Butler and Ted Bowne, of Perpetual Groove and Passafire, respectively, are bringing their guitars downtown to play a few hits, and a few new tunes, and to see what sort of musical mischief they can make.

Both of those bands started in Savannah; both are now nationally-renowned and extremely popular touring acts.

And Bobby Lee Rodgers, one of Georgia's favorite musicians, will make his first area nightclub appearance fronting an all-new band.

Fourth, schmourth: It's an exciting weekend in Savannah. With apologies to John Philip Sousa, this is the kind of music that goes with fireworks.

 Brock Butler's Mystery Three. The recent loss of Athens' landmark Georgia Theatre - it burned down on June 19 - was a devastating blow to a lot of people, including the members of the originally-from-Savannah jam band Perpetual Groove, who used the venue as a home base (and were in fact scheduled to play the theater that very night). Lead singer and guitarist Butler got the call at 7:30 a.m. and raced downtown, just in time to watch the roof cave in.

P-Groove, as it's known to its fans, went onstage one night later, at a different club. All proceeds were given to the Georgia Theatre staff.

"It had the feeling of a wake or something," Butler explains. "Everybody was having a good time, but it wasn't balls to the wall, blissfully goofy like it can be sometimes. Because looking around the room, you couldn't help but remember what necessitated us being there in the first place."

Drummer Travis Kline and bassist Ayinde Bryant will join Butler for a pair of shows at Loco's Grill and Pub this weekend. It's a homecoming of sorts for the Virginia native, who began P-Groove during his years as a student in SCAD's design program.

Brock's solo performances (and his solo recordings) are abstract, electronic and improvisational. He can, and does, manipulate the sound one guitar can make. "I have a lot of pedals that'll make the guitar sound like anything but a guitar," he says, "and try to combine them in a unique way that doesn't sound cluttered."

So what can we expect from this weekend's brand-new combo of players?

"I'm kind of looking forward to finding out," Butler says. "It's kind of a mystery to me too, because we haven't really done it yet. I've played with both of them at different times, but in completely different capacities.

"I'll still be using the loops and acoustic stuff, but to have that drum and bass underneath it, I think, will make it a little more interesting, and move a little quicker.

Ted Bowne. After three years of near-constant road work, Savannah's roots-rock dub reggae band Passafire is taking the month of July off. Singer and guitarist Bowne, however, is playing solo shows Thursday at Live Wire Music Hall, and Friday at Fiddlers Crab House (he'll be back at Live Wire July 9).

It's not Passafire, folks. "I bring all the equipment that I can, set up a bunch of microphones and do a lot of looping," Bowne explains. "I hook up a mixer onstage and run a bunch of stuff through it, then I run that through a loop pedal. And sometimes I'll just sit there and play straight acoustic."

(Sounds a lot like what Brock Butler is doing at Loco's.)

Passafire just finished its first headlining tour of the country, and according to Bowne it went extremely well. The band now has Los Angeles-based management, and a booking agent out of Chicago.

"Every night on the road," Bowne says, "we'll say ‘We are Passafire from Savannah, Georgia.' That's our thing. We're very proud to be from Savannah.

"Most of the bands in our genre seem to be from the west coast; when we tell people we're from Georgia, it kind of flips their mind a little bit."

Life on the road, he explains, is pretty much exactly as he expected, with one or two exceptions.

"Like the endless, endless hours spent in the van. We don't have a crew yet, per se, so we still load our own gear in and out. Day in, day out, that can get a little frustrating. Only very rarely do we get to do an after-party kind of thing.

"It's like a job, man. I didn't expect it to be as much like a real job."

Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio. July 4 at the Live Wire. This isn't the first local appearance from Rodgers' new outfit; they bowed at the Savannah Music Festival back in March.

It is, however, the start of something new. Rodgers - the singing, songwriting, guitar-wizard wunderkind - believes in this group so much that he disbanded the Codetalkers, after a decade together, to devote all his energy to it. Ike Stubblefield, the South's unparalleled master of the Hammond B3 organ, trades riffs with BR; the great R&B drummer Marcus Williams completes the lineup.

Rodgers, who lives in Savannah but maintains a healthy business and creative base in Atlanta, has recently been in the studio working on a CD with Stubblefield and Williams, and other project with multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven.