At an outdoor barbecue on a mellow evening last weekend, someone put a new CD on the stereo. Two old friends, sipping Budweisers, stopped their conversation and listened intently to the music. Gradually, smiles creased their faces and they nodded in approval.
Tom Trombley and Peter Detmold, the drummer and guitarist/vocalist of The Reducers, were absorbing the sounds of "Rave On: A Tribute to The Reducers Vol. 1," an indepedently organized project that features 24 of the band's tunes performed by an international array of artists/admirers.
"We think it's great," Detmold says. "It's a very good, fun album. It's flattering; people seemed to really take care with their versions. There are a lot of great performances and great arrangements."
Thoughts of an homage like "Rave On" had been discussed by various folks for well over a year. The idea took on a poignant urgency, though, when Reducers bassist/vocalist Steve Kaika was diagnosed with cancer late in 2011.
Ben Parent, a longtime friend of the band who performs in The Rivergods and heads his own Good Sponge record label, says, "When Steve got sick, I got wind that some New London ex-pats based on the West Coast were thinking about doing a Reducers tribute CD as a fundraiser for Steve."
Indeed, Bill Dumas (who made a full-length documentary called "The Reducers: America's Best Unsigned Band") and Jes Farnsworth, guitarist/vocalist for California power pop band The Backstabbers - and Kaika's nephew - were adamant about doing a tribute compilation and reached out to Parent to get things organized and coordinated back here in New England.
Sadly, Kaika passed away in June before "Rave On" could be released, so the concept of a "tribute" takes on an additional element of melancholy vibrance.
A release party for "Rave On" takes place Saturday in the Rose Barn Theater at Waterford's Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and many of the artists represented on the album will perform - the variety of which reveals how far-reaching, transcendant and inspirational the Reducers music has been. In that spirit, some of the tracks on the album are reverentially note-for-note versions; others are wildly creative in their distinct arrangements.
Parent says, "Between Bill and Jes in California and myself here, we were able to reach out to a lot of artists touched by the Reducers' legacy - more than we were able to include on a 24-track disc, believe it or not!"
Though initially unaware of the project, the surviving Reducers - Trombley, Detmold and guitarist/vocalst Hugh Birdsall - were contacted at the outset just to make sure they were supportive.
"They were cautiously enthusiastic about it," Parent laughs. "Actually, they were humble and gracious about the whole thing, but then excited to help. They suggested bands and offered contacts."
Some of the album's artists who will perform at the party are live performances Heap, the Dogmatics, the Manchurians, Paul Brockett Roadshow, the Rivergods, the Clothespins, Jes Farnsworth, Matt Gouette, Blonde Furniture and Missy Roback. Copies of "Rave On" and related merch will be available for sale and will benefit Kaika's family.
Detmold is excited over the opportunity to see Saturday's performances. "You know, whenever we listen to our stuff, we're overly critical. It's cool that hearing other people play them helps us believe the songs actually stand up over all these years."
RELEASE PARTY FOR "RAVE ON: A TRIBUTE TO THE REDUCERS VOL. 1," 6:30 P.M. SATURDAY, ROSE BARN THEATER, EUGENE O'NEILL THEATER CENTER, 305 GREAT NECK ROAD, WATERFORD; $10 SUGGESTED DONATION AND ALL PROCEEDS FROM ALBUM AND MERCH SALES BENEFIT THE STEVE KAIKA FAMILY; (860) 443-5378, GOODSPONGE.COM.