The Spokesman Review
Ben Harper fans can thank the Folk Music Center in Claremont, Calif.
That's the family-owned business where the folk-fusion musician grew up, nurtured by the musical instruments and by artists like David Lindley, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder and Joan Baez, who hung out there.
"It's my musical lifeline," Harper said in a recent phone interview while driving through Hollywood. "In a very important way, it's where I grew up. It's where I wrote my first song. It's just a very important musical environment for me. It was very important to me to stay connected to that and have my kids connected to that."
"That song is my son's song as much as mine," Harper said, explaining that his scratchy beard would make his young son run away when he tried to kiss him.
Harper and his band, the Innocent Criminals, plan to release a double live CD early next year.
Harper's music is heavily rooted in tradition; a mix of Delta blues, rootsy folk and straight-up rock. But his tunes are inflected with a certain newness, so much so that some writers have called him "alternative's alternative."
"I'm writing in so many different directions and styles right now," Harper said. "I wake up and I'm not exactly sure what comes next. ... I am a part of every song I've ever heard or danced to."
But few songs have meant as much to Harper as those of Jimi Hendrix.
In fact, as he drove through Hollywood recently, Harper had just finished taping a VH1 show on the greatest rock stars ever. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns VH1.)
Hendrix, of course, was his pick and also was named to the top slot on the show.
"Jimi Hendrix is the closest thing this planet has ever known to an alien," Harper said. "His being, his presence, his sound, the feeling, the textures in his music. Listening to Jimi Hendrix, it's beyond biblical for me."
Harper is married and has two young children. But it was his recent 30th birthday that really stood out as a milestone, he said.
"You can be somewhat immature and irresponsible until you're 30," he said. "And once you're 30, there's no pretending you're anything but 30."
Ben Harper tour dates:
Aug. 29; Sacramento, Calif.; Memorial Auditorium
Aug. 30; San Jose, Calif.; Event Center Arena
Aug. 31; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Santa Barbara Bowl
Sept. 2; Laytonville, Calif.; Hog Farm PigNic
Sept. 3; Portland, Ore.; Portland Meadows
Sept. 4; Seattle, Wash.; Bumbershoot Festival
Sept. 8; Berkeley, Calif.; Greek Theatre
Sept. 9; Los Angeles, Calif.; Greek Theatre
Sept. 10; San Diego, Calif.; San Diego Street Scene
Sept. 13; Morrison, Colo.; Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Sept. 15; Kansas City, Mo.; City Market
Sept. 16; St. Louis, Mo.; American Theatre
Sept. 17; Indianapolis, Ind.; Murat Centre
Sept. 18; Cincinnati, Ohio; Taft Theatre
Sept. 21; Toronto, Ontario; Air Canada Centre
Sept. 22; Montreal, Quebec; Molson Centre
Sept. 23; Boston, Mass.; Suffolk Downs
Sept. 24; Northampton, Mass.; Three County Fairgrounds
Sept. 2728; New York, N.Y.; Roseland
Sept. 2930; Philadelphia, Pa.; Electric Factory
Oct. 8; Sedona, Ariz.; Verde Valley Amphitheatre
Oct. 25; Dallas, Texas; Bronco Bowl
Oct. 26; Austin, Texas; The Backyard
Oct. 27; Houston, Texas; Aerial Theatre at Bayou Place
Oct. 28; New Orleans, La.; Voodoo Music Festival
Oct. 30; Nashville, Tenn.; Ryman Auditorium
Oct. 31; Columbus, Ohio; Mershon Auditorium
Nov. 12; Detroit, Mich.; State Theatre
Nov. 4; Chicago, Ill.; Aragon Ballroom
Nov. 5; St. Paul, Minn.; Roy Wilkins Auditorium
Nov. 6; Madison, Wis.; Madison Civic Center
Nov. 9; Pittsburgh, Pa.; A.J. Palumbo Center
Nov. 10; Richmond, Va.; Landmark Theatre
Nov. 1112; Raleigh, N.C.; The Ritz
Nov. 14; Blacksburg, Va.; Burruss Auditorium
Nov. 15; Atlanta, Ga.; Atlanta Civic Center
Nov. 17; Washington, D.C.; DAR Constitution Hall
Nov. 18; Greensboro, N.C.; War Memorial Auditorium
Nov. 19; Charleston, S.C.; Charleston Performing Arts Center
Nov. 20; Asheville, N.C.; Asheville Civic Center