If you've ever been driving around Fort Wayne
and noticed a large white van that has a flashing
light on top and a sign that reads "pull us over," then chances are you've encountered the Brown Bottle Band. Having been pulled over around eight times already, Dan Smith, Damian Miller, Rick Weilbaker and "Rooster" are pretty sure that local law enforcement takes their sign quite literally.
The guys have come a long way from playing as psychedelic blues band (Soul Kitchen) in high school to becoming a Fort Wayne sensation. But before they made a name for themselves, they were playing outside of Columbia Street, panhandling for money and whatever else came their way. Those who caught their act as they were coming and going started to refer to them as the Brown Bottle Band, a name they liked so much that they decided to keep it.
Before the dawning of BBB, Smith, Miller and Rooster ventured to New York City to record a demo and went on to play one show in the Big Apple. While living in a one-room apartment, they spent their time playing music in Central Park and caring for "Belvedere," their imaginary dog who had a habit of stealing their cigarettes.
After a year of this, Smith and Miller came back to Fort Wayne and "Rooster" moved on to Chicago. Shortly thereafter, the group joined up once again in Indiana and the Brown Bottle Band was set in motion.
They made their debut in July of 2003 at a concert of their own invention known as Soulstock, held in Wolflake. Operating under such influences as Mick Jagger, David Lee Roth, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix, the boys were known as a southern 70's rock band that performed cover songs of artists ranging from the Eagles to Lynyrd Skynyrd. They "practiced to perfection"
because they wanted their songs to sound as close to the original as possible.
"You want to hear something that you heard riding in your parents' car, growing up," says
Miller. "It's in your subconscious." Rooster adds, "[Our shows] are like going to a $5 Eagles concert." After the concert, they got a gig at Columbia Street and they are currently planning another Soulstock for this July.
They participated in the Bob Dylan and Beatles tribute concerts at Columbia Street and will be a part of the Rolling Stones tribute at the end of May (also at Columbia Street), but they don't want to always be a cover band. They're in the process of creating their first original album, which will be finished this coming fall. Their first single, "Move Me," will be released in
about a month: "Move me, Move me like a party / You gotta gotta soothe me / I love the way you're talkin'
Smith is the lead singer and rhythm guitar player, Weilbaker is the drummer and, according to bandmate Miller, "the best drummer I've ever seen." Miller delivers a rich, smooth bass and provides back up vocals, while Rooster plays lead
guitar and also supplies back up vocals.
What is impressive and commendable about these young men is that they truly get along and work well together. They all agree that they couldn't imagine playing with anyone else, and that sense of camaraderie really shines through in their performances. They're just having a freakin' blast up there, which in turn excites the audience - a good thing, since one of their goals is to get the concert-goers up on their feet and dancing. They really want people to have fun and take a break from "bitch and moan" style music, which they feel doesn't have the same appeal as
The most important thing to all of them is making their music. They don't care about money, they don't care about fame; the music is what drives their ambition.
"[We want to] take this as far as it can possibly go," Smith comments. "We don't want to be a cover band forever."
I had the privilege of seeing them perform at Ernie's Hideaway on April 24. They were pumped about the performance, and I
was able to snap some photographs of them before they took the stage. They started out with some CCR and finished their first set with Santana's "Black Magic Woman," a rendition that was so powerful I almost gave birth to my son right there at the table. The second set blew me away with Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and Skynyrd's "Give Me Three Steps."
In between sets, I noticed how each band member "worked the room," so to speak, taking the time to stop and chat with fans. It was clear that the guys have an enormous amount of support from both their fans and families, as I spotted Smith's dad rocking out two tables away.
And it's no wonder, really. They're fun, friendly and talented, and they give their audience a hell of a good time. Don't be
surprised if you find yourself one of the people who "knew them when" when they hit the big time.
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