By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
Rock was right: A lot of cats form bands in hopes of doing rails off the hind ends of high-priced hookers. Or because they want to see their names up in lights. Whatever leads most dudes to a life of music, though, it's a safe bet that they're not on a "mission of peace through inner work and world patriotism."
But that's exactly what drives Dr. Kurt Smith, founder of the Wild Divine Band, a group that debuts a one-of-a-kind multimedia extravaganza incorporating a similarly named 3-D video game Saturday, July 31, at the Boulder Theater. And just in case that "mission of peace" line wasn't enough to tip me off to what kind of hippie-dippy, tree-hugging shit the Wild Divine will be pushing this weekend, the press kit for the event (www.wilddivine.com) reveals that proceeds will benefit Earthdance, an organization that promotes world peace through dancing and a "synchronized prayer for peace." (I wasn't aware that dancing could elicit anything other than token arousal and a few laughs, but maybe Savion Glover, Crazy Legs and Justin Timberlake should be nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.)
Despite the event's goofy-sounding premise -- or maybe because of it -- I left work early last Friday to head up to Eldorado Springs to visit with the good doctor. I certainly couldn't argue with Smith's credentials: In addition to fronting the Wild Divine Band, he has a Ph.D. and is a noted authority in biomedicine. He's also an extremely successful entrepreneur who's helmed six high-tech companies, including one that created the Journey to Wild Divine, the new role-playing video game that's already been lauded by Wired and Discover for its innovative technology that integrates biofeedback technology for the Everyman. The game, three years in the making, comes with a "Light Stone" device that attaches to your fingers and measures your tension and heart rate. Normally, such a device can't be had for under a thousand bucks; Journey retails for $160. To navigate the game, a fantasy-based mountainous landscape that essentially puts you in the role of yogi apprentice, you have to learn to control your breathing and heart rate. Throughout Journey, you're charged with levitating rocks and shooting arrows at targets in the distance simply by using your own energy. The biofeedback mechanism gauges your body's reactions and gives you aural and visual feedback; in the process, you learn how to employ ancient yogic breathing and meditation techniques, which in turn helps you deal with stress in a more productive manner.
Considering how much caffeine and nicotine I take in on a daily basis, I assumed my ticker would register something like the pounding of Dave Lombardo's kick drum. But according to Journey's co-creator, Corwin Bell, who acted as my personal yogi ambassador as I test-drove the game, I'm ready to handle any stress that comes my way: My lungs can levitate with the best of them. If that's the case, the Wild Divine Band deserves a lot of the credit.
I'd had plenty of time to familiarize myself with the band's disc, Soul Flight, on my forty-minute, white-knuckle hellride through the I-36 corridor. In the opening strains of the record, which samples the sounds of whales jabbering in the ocean, initially I heard more Enya and trace elements of the Moody Blues than the promised Pink Floyd-like tunes. But as I approached the Flatirons, which were appropriately obscured by clouds, the ethereal sonics kicked in. Much to my chagrin, the disc -- whose production is as crisp and steady as anything I've heard recently -- was already working; I could feel my blood pressure dropping with each mile. By the time I pulled up to Smith's spacious spread, a stunning two-story stone house nestled among the shacks and shanties at the base of the canyon, I'd completely decompressed. Smith led me directly into the Crucible, the lavish hardwood studio where he and the rest of the Wild Divine Band -- guitarist Andy McEwen, bassist Chris Wright and drummer Brian Dillan -- created the Soul Flight concept album.
"The concept is the experience of a soul coming into this life and then experiencing it and leaving," Smith explained. "It's sort of that Celtic notion that everything's intertwined. That everything's divine and everything's wild at the same time. Once we've gone through our deconstruction, our panic time in life, then all of a sudden we get that discovery that, 'Oh, there's this neat mixing that's going on, and I'm a part of it.' It's not about me anymore; it's like, 'What can I do in this world?' So the whole album is an inner journey of the individual. It's a metaphor for every one of our journeys."
And that includes the unlikely trajectory of Smith, a punker from St. Louis who originally studied musical engineering. "The punk scene was really about community," he said. "It was counterculture saying, 'Hey, something's fucked. I don't know what it is, but something's fucked here.' You're naive enough to not know what it is, but you get it. And you're like, 'How am I going to express this?' That was when I was young and naive. As you get older, it's fine to stand on a street corner and say 'Fuck you all.' But that doesn't do anything. So I wanted to do something meaningful that induced some kind of shift or change. And that required having resources."