Oregon-based band moves audience, makes music

Oregon band Rootdown had its audience dancing, clapping and singing along at the band’s Pro Cat Cab performance April 20 in the Fred Meyer Lounge.

Rootdown is a four-man band from Eugene, Ore., featuring Paul Wright on vocals and guitar, Jackson Michelson on vocals and bass, Matt Salinas on guitar and Craig Paulson on drums.

Their sound was an upbeat reggae/rock style, and by the way the band members jumped and danced around the stage area, it was obvious they were having a good time. They were constantly encouraging the audience to clap and dance along.

“Audience involvement is important to us,” Wright said. “I think we feed off each other’s energy when we’re all in it like that. We want that crowd participation. If we’re getting that, it makes us feel like we’re doing our job right.”

There were several songs that the band had the audience sing along with the chorus, and even one that had the audience split into two groups, shouting a response call back to each other. But the song that got the best reaction from the audience was an unexpected improvisation session about halfway through the concert.

“Who watches the show ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’” Wright asked the audience. “We really like the improv on that show, so during our shows, we like to do some improv locally.”

Wright asked for suggestions of local things to include in their improvisation. The result was a song about the UFO parade, the Oregon burrito, Muchas Gracias, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and of course the Linfield mascot, the Wildcats.

“We don’t do improv like that for every show—it’s usually just if the moment’s right,” Wright said. “This was one of the best. I feel like it fit the college, it fit the town. Improv is something fresh and in-the-moment where we can show our talent. It’s engaging and entertaining, not just for the audience, but also for us, especially when it’s good like it was tonight.”

Rootdown has been playing together since 2007. According to Wright, the band has played at more than 70 colleges in the past couple of years.

“We played at a festival, and from that we got booked at a bunch of colleges from Alaska down through California, and over to Denver,” Wright said.

Rootdown’s new CD, “Tidal Wave,” has brought them attention from radio and record companies, as well as colleges.

“I liked their sound; I liked the bass. They had a good beat, and good audience involvement,” freshman Lexy Chapman said. “I love the freestyle rapping. I’ve been to a few concerts where they did that, and this was one of the better ones.”

The Cat Cab featured a number of Rootdown’s newest songs. Wright said playing new songs at concerts is the way the band tests them to see how people react to them.

“With songwriting, usually the music comes first, then I fit words to it,” Wright said. “Usually, I write about what’s going on in my life at the time, just whatever makes sense for the song. We also use a lot of improv during shows or in the studio, so songs can grow from that.”

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Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon Gollery can  be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

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