Aiko bassist and founder finds freedom in live performances
Jam band plays Rockwell and Canyons this weekend
Park City resident Ben Anderson — bassist, vocalist and co-founder of the jam band Aiko — is ready for his band to play in front of a live audience on July 30 at O.P. Rockwell.
“I’ve been thinking about that first down beat that myself and my bandmates will bring back to the world Friday night, and I know there is some magical connection that happens from the stage to the audience and back that is indescribable,” he said.
The Rockwell show, which will start at 9 p.m., will be the first gig Aiko has played in Park City since COVID-19 concerns shut bars and venues down last year, and true to form, the show will feature a load of songs that include Aiko’s trademark takes on Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers jams, Anderson said.
“There is no better feeling in the world (than) to have that music resonate through your body, so to have that taken away has been eerie, odd and unnatural,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back to the frequency.”
In addition, Aiko is poised to play a free concert for all ages starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 at Canyons Village.
“It’s truly an iconic venue,” Anderson said about the venue that has hosted such bands as the Grateful Dead, Ben Harper and Van Halen from its days as ParkWest and Wolf Mountain. “We’re honored to step into that sacred spot in the universe. Park City is such a great music town, and we have an Aiko family here. So to know this is the first place we will be playing live, and it’s like coming home to us. We will play a nice power punch of love, music and connection.”
During the pandemic break, Anderson found himself filling his time putting together the upcoming Park City Song Summit, which will be held in various venues in Park City from Sept. 8 to 12.
When he was building times and schedules for musicians to come to play and speak in Park City, Anderson knew there would be a time for him to start playing again.
“I made sure Brian Richards at Mountain Town Music, Dave March at Canyons and Scott ‘Scooter’ Thomson and Xania V. Woodman at O.P. Rockwell kept us on their list, because we wanted our band to play in town,” he said.
Aiko came together in Nashville 37 years ago with its “core four” — Anderson, lead guitarist and vocalist Steve Ballenger, drummer Ross Mason and guitarist-vocalist Ted Pattison.
While Anderson came from a Neil Young-songwriting type of background, Ted had a Bob Dylan and Beatles background, according to Anderson.
“Ross had a (Neil Peart from) Rush feel to his playing, and Steven had a Grateful Dead, bluegrass and roots music background, but when you put us all together, the common ground we kept finding was the Dead, Allmans and Dylan,” he said.
The band cut its teeth as the house band at the now iconic music venue, 12th and Porter.
“We had a musical connection with our audience, and when we would play the free-flowing jams during songs by the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers, it was like catching the fragrance of one flower in an entire field of that style of music,” Anderson said. “It was this blend of jazz, psychedelic rock and the poetic voicing from our instruments. So it hit us and hit the audiences, and it became something we wanted to be able to do for a long time. There was that freedom of not being confined in a four-measure lead.”
In the late 1980s, Aiko’s lineup grew with the addition of additional lead guitarist and singer Steve Krafft and a second drummer, Lance Deal. In turn that line up added keyboardist Scott Fernandez and two vocalists — Jessie Krafft and Michelle Yahn, Steve Krafft’s niece and wife, respectively.
“While Ted doesn’t play with us much any more, the trio was the last missing piece,” Anderson said. “We are a musical family, and while we play only one style of music from a patchwork of musical styles, we love being in that musical lane, because it never gets old to us, and are always bringing something a little different for those who have followed us for 37 years.”
Music caught a hold of Anderson in 1964.
“I started playing live music and singing to audiences when I was 6, and then I began performing and playing in bands when I was 12,” he said. “I’ve been performing ever since, and never once did I have something that came up in my life that said, ‘You can’t perform live music to a bunch of screaming, dancing fans for an undefined period of time.’ So, COVID-19 left this hole in my soul. And I can’t wait to be able to get back up on stage and see people dancing, connecting and singing with us. That fills and nourishes the very soul in my body.”
When: 9:15 p.m. Friday, July 30
Where: O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St.
Ages: 21 and older
Cost: $28 and up
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 31
Where: Canyons Village
Web: mountaintownmusic.org and.facebook.com/aikoband
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