The band performs nearly 160 concerts a year.
By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
Sure, Ekoostik Hookah's Dave Katz would rather be giving the broadcast of his beloved Cleveland Indians his full attention, but there's work to do. At the moment that means he must take part in a phone interview from his home just north of Columbus.
For the 11-year veteran of an independently run band, he's well aware of the responsibilities such as promoting the group's latest album and tour dates that other artists may shrug off. Like many of its peers within the jam band genre, Hookah is a grass-roots organization that must pay as much attention to the business end behind the scenes as it does the improvisational give-and-take among musicians on the concert stage.
"We have a capable staff, our manager and all of the in-house people. In an ideal situation, they would take care of everything and we would just walk out and play or show up in the studio," he said.
"I think that we worry about things more than we need to, but at the same time, because we are so involved in the company we have to. For your own piece of mind you want to know what's going on behind the scenes."
Fourth release: Katz hints at but doesn't elaborate on the difficult process the sextet went through to create its fourth studio release, "Seahorse." There was a four-year lapse between the new recording and its last one. Live albums satisfied fans during the interim.
"When we do anything it takes a long time, being that there's so many of us and we all have to agree on something," he said.
"Seahorse" shows an added depth in songwriting yet it maintains Hookah's patented mesh of rock, blues, bluegrass, funk and jazz.
To make up for lost time, the band has already laid down tracks for its next album in the hope of having it out within the next year. The recording time was set up between live dates. Hookah performs nearly 160 concerts a year. Its tour itinerary regularly finds the band playing clubs and theatres across the U.S. while the summertime includes outdoor, multi-act festivals. Later this month, there will be several local dates in Kent and at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park.
Katz spoke on the phone prior to Hookah's annual spring visit to Negril, Jamaica. Fans join them on this working vacation through a travel package that was set up on the band's Web site, www.ekoostik.com.
Hookahville: A similar sense of band-audience community sprouts up twice a year with Hookahville, the group's two-day music festival. Joining them over Memorial Day weekend will be Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck & amp; the Flecktones, Medeski Martin & amp; Wood, Umphrey's McGee and Railroad Earth. For more information, go to www.hookahville.com
The event originated as a get together in Katz's back yard and over the past eight years has grown to include premier artists from a variety of styles including Willie Nelson, David Crosby, Arlo Guthrie, Dickie Betts and David Grisman.
"We've always had this thing, and it started with Hookahville, about finding venues that the crowd likes. That was the whole thing about Hookahville, we thought it would be really cool to play in the woods and have a bunch of people come up and see us. It turned out so well that we did it again. Then we thought, 'Maybe we could get a bunch of people to go to Jamaica with us. Why not? We'd like to go. They'd probably have a great time.' We actually have a festival coordinator that is an in-house guy that organizes things like that."
Doing things independently may bring additional stress to the band members' lives, but the ability to do what they want to do when they want to do it makes it worthwhile.
"It's all about being able to play music, which is what we love to do," Katz explained, "and, at the same time, make enough money to live off of it and be able to continue doing it so that we have a good time and people that come see us have a good time."