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Another RoadSide Attraction brings its cabaret to Boulevard Tavern

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Another RoadSide Attraction powers its musically eclectic show with about 25 instruments, several of them handmade.
WANT TO GO?Another RoadSide Attraction WHERE: The Boulevard Tavern, 806 Kanawha Blvd.WHEN: 10 p.m. SaturdayCOST: $5INFO: 304-205-7951 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another RoadSide Attraction prefers to let other people describe its sound. The six-piece band rolls into The Boulevard Tavern with around 25 instruments Saturday for a show starting at 10 p.m."We have a hard enough time describing what we sound like anyway, so we usually rely on what other people say," said vocalist Jordan Rivers.Rivers is listed on the band's page on the music website ReverbNation as playing the big-bodied, 6-string Latin bass that mariachi bands use called the guitarron, plus the guitar, musical saw, mandolin, kazoo, accordion, a box of wrenches... The ellipsis at the end of that description is revealing as it leaves out a few other impressive things, like "the clockworks," a homemade percussion kit Rivers helped concoct.Among other instruments the band wields on stage are the accordion, spoons, mouth trumpet, viola, ukulele, kazoos, tenor banjo, washboard and the mouth organ known as a melodica.They are all acoustically powered instruments, played into microphones if it's a club gig like at the Tavern, 806 Kanawha Blvd. Or they're played straight into the air if the band is on the street or under a tree busking for dollars, as they hope to be Saturday at the Vandalia Gathering on the Capitol Complex lawn.Despite the multifarious instruments, loading into a club is a charm, said Rivers. "It's easier than being an electric band where you have to haul all the amplification. This is the kind of music that can go on after the lights go out. As long as there are candles around."
As for the sound itself, an admirer on the band's ReverbNation site, describes Another RoadSide Attraction as "equal parts gypsy jazz, vaudeville, circus funhouse, and riverboat steam, rattled around in a boxcar for a couple thousand miles, served with sangria and sausages."The band mixes the sound of an offbeat cabaret with maybe a circus midway, even as some of the unusual instruments recall familiar sounds from old-time and traditional music."A lot of our instruments are kind of unorthodox, like the guitarron," said Rivers. "It's a big ol' mariachi bass and sounds a lot like an upright. But it's a lot more portable, so I can actually get the thing around."
Then there are the homemade, handmade instruments, often pieced together from shopping expeditions and serendipitous discoveries."I spend a lot of time going through any place I'm at kind of tapping on everything to see what kind of tone it makes. Going through a hardware store, you find some gold, some really nice sounds you can't find anywhere else."The band has been playing gigs farther and farther afield, with a high profile appearance at this year's FloydFest coming up July 27 and run-outs from Florida to South Carolina to an upcoming Northeast tour.Most band members still have day jobs, but the goal is to go full-time as Another RoadSide Attraction. (If the band name sounds familiar, it is the title of a popular Tom Robbins novel.)That's the plan, anyway, as Rivers attends to his occasional day job of cleaning high-rise windows, banking on the faith that the rope -- and his fortunes as an eclectic musician -- both hold up as he rappels off a building."I remember the first time I went over the edge of a building. You have to put all your faith in this rope the width of your thumb. You ask yourself: 'How did I find myself here?' That's a good question."
He is happy to find himself these days in all the new places the band's travels have taken him. He recalled one evening, post-gig, riding a golf cart along quiet streets in Port Royal, S.C."I had one of those moments. The streets were empty because of the Super Bowl. It was a gorgeous night, with the palm trees and all those big ol' living oaks spreading over the streets. It was kind of surreal to get out of Virginia, and a couple days later you're in a completely different place."Reach Douglas Imbrogno at or 304-348-3017.
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