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Jack Johnson grooves & soothes Blossom crowd

By malcolm Published: June 18, 2008

In a recent Saturday Night Live skit, resident goofball Andy Samberg plays singer/songwriter Jack Johnson as host of a talk show called “The Mellow Show” where he talks about being mellow to fellow mellow artists Dave Matthews and John Mayer and laments the passing of his many pets including a mini-gortex wearing iguana who died of neglect and “extreme mellowness.”

It’s the kind of silly/funny parody of the Hawaiian-born, ex pro-surfer’s image and music that should make both his detractors and fans chuckle and obviously Johnson has a sense of humor, as the skit is the featured video on his web site.

Tuesday night at Blossom, though his two hour set of tunes drawing from his five full length albums was very, very mellow, the near capacity crowd was in no danger from the (surely mellow) Grim Reaper. The mostly 18-30 crowd with a healthy heaping of older yuppies danced, sang a long and generally worked harder on having a good time under the pavilion and on the overstuffed briefly rain soaked lawn, than the object of their musical affection.

Johnson's triple platinum and counting Curious George soundtrack is officially named Sing-a-longs and Lullabies For the Film Curious George, but the first three words could be the title and description of just about all of Johnson's albums and concerts. His music is fairly narrow in range with unhurried tempos, gently rhythmic guitar strumming, gentle melodies that never reach for highs or lows but simply float around in a comfortable midrange so anyone can sing. Johnson seldom raises his voice above a friendly speaking level and his occasional guitar solos are like his singing, smooth, melodic and unfussy.

Johnson’s four piece band took the stage casually, looking like they had just stepped out of the audience (dude, it’s part of the appeal, he’s a regular cat just like you and me!) opening with the lightly funky groove of Hope from his 2008 album Sleep Through The Static, arguably his most musically mellow and lyrically serious collection to date. Switching between acoustic and electric guitar Johnson’s setlist bounced back and forth between two basic song formats. There is the midtempo, gently funky and/or reggae flavored groove found in songs such as Good People, Sitting, Waiting, Wishing and the crowd favorites Bubble Toes, Banana Pancakes and Staple It Together which featured a fun melodica duel between keyboardist Zak Gill and opener Money Mark. On the other end of Johnson’s (mellow) musical spectrum are the (more) soothing slower songs such as Losing Keys, Go On and Breakdown.

Through it all Johnson swayed (gently) back and forth keeping the banter to a minimum. Easily the hardest working man onstage was Gill whose grandmother drove up from Columbus to see him. Gill danced, frequently stood and body jammed, provided vocal harmony, animated accordion and added some swing to Johnson’s reserved grooves with his comping on the keys.

On the Blossom grounds fans could register to vote and volunteer and environmental organizations such as Surfrider Foundation and Climatecounts.org where fans could learn about the three “R's” (reduce, reuse, recycle) and other environmental concerns.

On and offstage Johnson comes across as a truly groovy, caring and yes, very mellow dude. The kind of guy who, if you walked up to him on the street, called him an expletive and kicked him in the nethers, he’d probably ask if you felt better and offer to talk about your anger issues and ways to channel your negative energy over a cup of chai tea at the nearest coffee house.

And, even if one finds Johnson’s music boring-as many folks do- it’s difficult to actively dislike the guy. His music is so inoffensive, safe and polite that a nonfan is more likely to forget their actually listening to it than be upset by his soothing sounds.

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