In the February 27, 1997, edition of this column, Reed Foehl, longtime leader of Acoustic Junction, explained why he and his mates had decided to rechristen themselves Fool's Progress shortly after signing a two-album deal with Capricorn Records. "We felt that we weren't reaching as many people as we could because of the connotations of the name," he said. "A lot of people to this day think we don't have a drummer and we sit on stools. Basically, it was a name that fit us once but doesn't anymore. But back then we were still on a grassroots level--we didn't think we had the kind of support we needed to make that kind of switch. And now we do."
Today Foehl is crooning a different tune. After spending nearly two years as Fool's Progress, the combo recently re-emerged as Acoustic Junction. And Foehl, who'll appear with his cohorts on Thursday, February 4, at Herman's Hideaway, now admits that the appellation swap was a sizable mistake. "No pun intended, but it was foolish of us to get suckered into it," he says. "I don't want to put the full blame on others; it was our decision, and we agreed to it. But if we had it to do again, we definitely wouldn't do it. We put a lot of time and effort into building up Acoustic Junction, and it paid off. But as soon as we tried the Fool's Progress thing, it was just like starting over. I just didn't realize how much a name means to people. If you change names, even if it's the same band, they look at you differently."
Despite Foehl's remarks, Fool's Progress wasn't a complete washout. The outfit's eponymous Capricorn bow hit stores in May 1997 and received airplay on a slew of Triple A stations. In addition, the players (Foehl, multi-instrumentalist Tim Roper, bassist Curtis Thompson and drummer Matt Coconis) participated in a series of events sponsored by VH1, including a charity concert that also featured Edwin McCain, and traveled extensively on their own and in the company of other noteworthies, such as fellow Coloradans Leftover Salmon. But as time went on, it became abundantly clear that many of the folks who'd made Acoustic Junction a successful touring attraction from coast to coast were no longer on the bus. "A lot of people weren't even informed that we changed the name," Foehl says. "We'd been selling out 500-seaters, but after changing our name, we'd only bring in 150."
In the end, the bandmates realized that the Fool's Progress handle was jeopardizing their very survival as a group. As a result, Foehl recounts, "we called up Phillip Walden, who's the vice president of Capricorn, and told him, 'We need our livelihood back. We're getting killed on the road.' And he said, 'Whatever you guys want to do.' He was really good about it, and we're thankful for that."
The shift, which became official in late October, paid immediate dividends. A tour of New England "was our best since we'd become Fool's Progress," Foehl says. "We sold out some theaters and brought in, like, 350 people to others--and the response to the name change was overwhelmingly positive. Either people would tell us that we'd done the right thing or they'd ask, 'What have you guys been doing for the past year?'"
Plenty, as it turns out. Acoustic Junction's latest album is already in the can and should be available for purchase in April. Foehl describes it as an eclectic collection whose variety can be traced to the circumstances of its recording--the musicians cut ditties in several studios, including facilities in New York, Massachusetts and Colorado--and the departure of Coconis early last year. Before settling on Tom Diehl as Coconis's replacement, Acoustic Junction laid down tracks with percussionist-to-the-stars Kenny Aronoff and Aronoff protege Kevin Leahy (those tracks will appear on the disc) and also collaborated with former Hall and Oates bassist T-Bone Wolk, Morphine's Billy Conway and singer Graham Nash. This last guest star's contribution to the project was spurred by a chance meeting with Foehl. "I was singing a song, 'Dancin' With You,' that I'd just written the night before outside the Sweetwater Cafe in Mill Valley, and Graham just happened to be passing by," he says. "Well, he loved the song and approached me, and we chatted for twenty minutes about music and life and record deals. After that, I followed up with a letter asking if he might like to sing on the song, and he said he'd love to. It came out beautifully, and I hope we can continue the relationship in the future."
In the meantime, Foehl is sinking his roots deeper into the Colorado soil. He and his wife, Jen, relocated to Massachusetts, where Foehl was raised, in late 1996, prior to the arrival of their first child (a second joy bundle is due this summer). But in April 1998 they bought a house in Lafayette, not far from the Boulder clubs where Acoustic Junction got its start, and Foehl couldn't be happier. "We love New England and always will, but I think our hearts will always be in Colorado," he says. "The mountains really drew us back."
So, too, did the Acoustic Junction moniker. As Foehl puts it, "I've come to believe that it fit us all along. I listen to a lot of folk singer-songwriters, and ultimately, that's where our music comes from. We tried to deny that for a little while, but we're not denying it anymore."
On Saturday, February 6, Brethren Fast and Funkus Groovus become the first acts to benefit from several recently installed features at Soapy Smith's--a new stage, a new lighting system and a new PA. Chris Dellinger, who serves as the club's booker, says these alterations represent a fresh direction for the room. "We used to be more focused on the restaurant part of things," he says. "But we want people to know that it's mainly a live-music room now. We want to make it the place to see live music in LoDo." Among the acts likely to take advantage of these accoutrements is Blister, Dellinger's band, which is scheduled to put out a new CD, White Trash Summer, in April.
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Also putting out. On Friday, February 5, Space Team Electra floats to Quixote's, and Pete Wernick's Live Five plays for the first of two nights at Niwot's Left Hand Grange Hall. On Saturday, February 6, Westword's Marty Jones and his Pork Boilin' Po' Boys headline at the Mercury Cafe. On Sunday, February 7, music-bizzer Mark Bliesener speaks prior to "Locals Launch" night at the Soiled Dove, while Shemekia Copeland roars at the Little Bear. And on Wednesday, February 10, Boulder's Soma hosts an unbeatable turntablist showcase starring members of the Invisible Scratch Piklz and the Beat Junkies.
One more thing: As noted on page 4 of this issue, "Long Live the King," the lead piece in last week's music section, was incorrectly bylined: Although I was listed as the author, its writer was actually one of Backbeat's fine contributors. This is the second such gaffe in about six months, and it's deeply embarrassing to me. For this reason, I give you my solemn pledge never again to make this mistake, or any other. And so, until next week, I remain...
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.