C. Gibbs strikes up band for Mellencamp
John Mellencamp "owns the World" this weekend, with shows Friday and Sunday at the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park.
But while fans are waiting for the "voice of the Heartland" to sing his defining classics, such as "Little Pink Houses" and "Jack and Diane," they have the choice of two rootsy opening bands to warm up with.
Son Volt, one-half of now-defunct, acclaimed Southern Illinois folk rockers Uncle Tupelo, will open for Mellencamp on the main stage of the World, but meanwhile, in Lilith Fair fashion, newcomer C. Gibbs Group will entertain on a side stage for those who can't be held to their seats.
And just who is the C. Gibbs Group? We caught up with the initialed leader of the band just after a soundcheck last week in Kansas City, the band's first date on a "sideshow" tour with Mellencamp that will keep them on the road until July.
The C. stands for Christian, and the deep-voiced Gibbs is touring to promote the band's debut album, 29 Over Me, which came out on Atlantic Records at the end of last month. In the recording studio, Gibbs shows the mature pipes and introspective lyrics to compete with Crash Test Dummies and Wall of Voodoo, but in conversation he sounds far more like the restless 27-year-old his bio portrays, peppering his speech with vocal shrugs and a stream of "you know what I means?" He cites Pavement, PJ Harvey, and Elliot Smith as current artists he envies, but crafts his own very distinctive mix of rock with slices of pop and folk.
While this is likely the first time you've heard of him, the San Diego native has been paying his musical dues the past decade, hooking up to tour with Modern English after a brief college experience in England, then relocating to New York and touring with underground favorites Foetus as well as forming his own punk rock band Morning Glories. The often mellow C. Gibbs Group started out as a "solo" side project from the louder Morning Glories, but ultimately, it was Gibbs' singer-songwriter material which got the attention of record companies. Now Morning Glories have essentially been absorbed by the side project, but Gibbs is unrepentant.
"We do a couple of the old Morning Glories songs in our set, but that band was more diplomatic and the songs were more written around a riff or a groove. I liked to play dark, sensitive ballads and I couldn't introduce them to my 'punk rock' band. So I started the C. Gibbs Group. I like having the freedom to call the shots — though now I'm finding out about the responsibilities of paying for salaries and hotel rooms."
Gibbs is already thinking ahead to the next album, as 29 Over Me was recorded a year ago and includes a number of songs he wrote long before 1998 — one track goes back eight years.
"This album is kind of like the survival of the fittest of all the songs I've written. These are the ones that survived the test of time — my all-star song list," he says.
This is the second tour the C. Gibbs Group has been on in support of 29 Over Me. Previously, they played with hard-rocking alternative act Everclear, as the bands share the same manager.
"That was fun," Gibbs says, "but I'm looking forward to doing this tour more. This is an older audience and our songs are geared toward that since they're a bit more introspective. A lot of my stuff is singer-songwriter oriented, and this album has a lot more 'traditional' songs than what I've written in the past; some have a little twang."
29 Over Me runs the gamut from Q101-FM-ready alternative rock ("Cut My Spirit Dry") to big rock arrangements with horns and a touch of Pink Floyd pomp.
"I'm more of a songwriter than a vocalist," Gibbs says. "I conform my voice to what kind of song I'm writing regardless of whether my voice is appropriate. If it calls for a girl singing in parts — like "Animals Criminals" — well, in the studio anything's possible!"
The disc is filled with songs about the usual difficult relationship issues, and reflects Gibbs' own anxiously roving personality — both in relationships and living arrangements.
"I'm pretty restless," he admits. "If I have to, I'll live in my van for a while."
That's just one of the pitfalls of the business, he says.
"I ain't complaining — as long as I don't gotta wait tables."
He says he and the band are excited to be touring with Mellencamp.
"He's like the 'ubiquitous' rock guy," he says and grins. "We were singing his songs in the van the other night and we turn on the radio and there's a Mellencamp song. Then we pull into a Motel 3 — not a 6 or a 9 — and there's a "VH-1 Storytellers" episode featuring him. He's everywhere."
Gibbs also notes that the tour has given him a certain amount of prestige back home.
"When you tell your family that you're opening for Everclear, well, they don't know what you're talking about. You tell your mom you're opening for Mellencamp (never mind that it's a side stage), well, then they're like — that's all right, you've made it!"
Music Reviews Index