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Jim Weider, formerly of The Band, plays Mystic tonight

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The explosions you hear tonight at the Olde Mistick Arts Cinemas will not be sound effects from the latest Bruce Willis movie.

Instead, follow the glorious noise inside where, as part of the cinemas' live concert series, guitarist Jim Weider's PRoJECT PERCoLAToR will perform. An instrumental witch's cauldron of roots, jazz, funk and jam, PRoJECT PERCoLAToR is that rare outfit whose virtuosity never gets in the way of the energy or the hookiness of the songs.

Weider is most renowned as the guitarist who replaced Robbie Robertson in The Band - and he toured and recorded with that immortal outfit for 15 years. In fact, Weider is still a mainstay in drummer Levon Helm's band. Over time, he has worked with such folks as Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Los Lobos, Mavis Staples, Graham Parker, Keith Richards and Bob Weir.

For all Weider's rootsy antecedents, though, he consciously shifted into new territory with PRoJECT PERCoLAToR, writing material on the albums "PERCoLAToR" and last year's "Pulse" that immediately grabs listeners - and at the same time gives his killer musicians room to exult. Members of PERCoLAToR include drummer Rodney Holmes, keyboardist/violinist Jason Crosby, bassist Steve Lucas and guitarist Avi Bornick.

The infectious songs range from Hendrix space balladry, Metersesque tongue-in-pocket groove, and Allen Holdsworth-flavored fusion - and the chops of the players are beyond the realm.

"I'm so proud of these guys and so grateful to get to work with them," Weider says by phone from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. "They're all so seasoned, but they love to go out and play for people - to give them an experience that's different; to take them on a journey."

Weider is excited by the creativity and energy of the roots/jam community, which has strengthened over the last 15 years as bands like moe. and Galactic have broadened the paths of the Grateful Dead, the Radiators and Phish.

"I think the roots/jam/Americana thing is very popular, particularly among older music fans, and we've resonated with those crowds," Weider says. "We're excited by that, and you can see it whether I'm out with my band and particularly when I'm playing with Levon."

At the same time, Weider worries about the trends in the music business to place a low priority on the live music experience.

"There are definitely less live music venues, and less people going to see music. You open Rolling Stone and see sneaker ads or turn on MTV and see reality shows. I think a lot of music fans hear about something and think, 'Well, I can just go on Youtube or download it, and I'll get it that way.' But they're missing a lot," he says.

Weider laughs and says he's dating himself, but he references television shows he watched growing up like "Hulabaloo," "Shindig" and "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

"You'd see bands from across all spectrums, and it made you want to go out and experience it yourself," he says. "Even MTV in the early days would air live footage. I just wish the powers that be would push more musicality to the masses. I think folks would enjoy it."

Jim Weider's PRoJECT PERCoLAToR, 8 tonight, Olde Mistick Art Cinemas, 27 Coogan Blvd., Olde Mistick Village, Mystic; $25; (860) 436-8228,


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