Neil Young is not the first name you might guess for a tribute show, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes: Iconic sound, based in looseness and loudness, it makes a perfect combination for a one-off performance from a rock band who might enjoy the liberties available from a punk-attitude catalog.
The Indianapolis trio Three to One brings the Neil Young influence into their music. Adding one of Indy's most talented guitar players, John Byrne, for a March 8 show at the Mousetrap, the foursome will dive into a night of Neil Young and Crazy Horse music. All Neil, all the time.
"We're not trying to do historical recreation here," Randy "Ranch" Wuertz, the band's bass player and singer says. "We want to celebrate this music with the audience, and there's bound to be some pretty far-out moments."
For the intense, one-note, old-school rock and roll shredding guitar solo, Neil Young is unequaled. He wrestles sounds out of his "Old Black" Gretsch that are uniquely Neil Young.
And with his on-and-off backing band Crazy horse, those notes and sounds get louder and grittier. The romantic highlight of his musical arc has been his time with The Horse. From Rust Never Sleeps to a new tour and album, the Crazy Horse version of Neil's band has created career highlights ("Down By The River", "Powderfinger") and survives. Indy will get to hear a local band's take on his journey.
NUVO: Tell me how the idea for this came about?
RANCH: It was a pretty organic development. We invited John (Byrne) to come sit in with us on a few gigs around town, and we noticed exceptional response from those audiences when we covered Neil Young tunes, and specifically tunes from the Crazy Horse albums. It was like,"Hey, ya know what might be kinda cool?",
TOM "TK" KIEFABER (guitar): We were already covering a few Neil tunes. John brought a couple more into the fold and we jokingly talked about doing a Neil tribute band
JOE O'CONNELL (drums): Funny thing is, we were all three reading Neil's autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace" simultaneously last year, which we didn't realize until one of us brought up the book. We all just laughed; that was a sign to me that we should finally do the tribute we'd been talking about doing.
NUVO: Who are the big Neil Young fans in the band?
RANCH: We're all fans, but and John are probably the most dedicated fans involved.
JOE: We all enjoy Neil, but Tom and John are both huge fans.
TOM: I think I'm the biggest Neil fan in the band. In high school we had a friend that could get beer and we use to hang out at his house, stay up all night playing cards and listening to Neil, Floyd and Zep just like everyone else. But Neil stuck out because he was a mix of all of the elements of rock music that I liked... I've probably been to ten shows or so.
JOHN BYRNE (guitar): I do have to admit that none of the other guys loved Neil so much as to get in a heated debate with him while just 17 years old and holding on to a somewhat overly-analytical review they'd written (about) one of his records, like a certain short, mouthy would-be high school journalist/guitar player did on September 15. 1983. So, if that happens to be the standard of measure, then I'd have to say I love Neil the most.
NUVO: And how does Neil with Crazy Horse differ from his other music? What makes it magical?
JOE: What makes Crazy Horse so special is the raw energy of the band and the way they draw on their muse for live performances.
RANCH: I think the magic of The Horse is that it takes on a life all its own and is never the same. Familiar and comforting, yet still kinda brutal and unpredictable.
NUVO: How did John Byrne get involved with the project? What does he bring to the proceedings?
RANCH: We've always liked to invite various players out to sit in with us, which is one of the cool things about being a trio When you add folks in, the music takes different directions. John and I ran into one another on a gig a couple years back and hit it off instantly, so the initial collaboration was a no-brainer. John plays a pretty mean steel guitar.
JOHN: Tom realized that none of his electric guitars, had Bigsby vibratos on them. Most of mine do and, as everybody knows, you can't play Neil Young songs without a Bigsby. Or five.
TOM: John's an all-arounder when it comes to string things with us. As well as bringing his lovely voice into the mix, h also has an obsession with great sounding vintage gear. You have to have those sounds if you want to play Crazy Horse music.
NUVO: What can we expect to hear from the Neil Young catalog?
RANCH: There are tunes in that I have never heard covered by anyone, and there are also songs in the set that will be instantly familiar. We didn't think that a note-for-note "Greatest Hits" set would be the way to go. There will be representation of various periods in hs career, done in that Crazy Horse spirit; just a little more raw, a little more gritty, maybe.
NUVO: Have you done a show like this before, or anything similar?
JOHN: Well, I've found myself in both Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac tribute bands in Louisville over the past couple of years. I have to say that playing shows made up of only wildly popular A-list material in front of audiences who came because they're fans of that specific band is about as much fun as I've ever had playing music onstage. And while I love those songs quite a bit, they don't mean anywhere near as much to me as Neil's music, so I would say I'm having the time of my life just having the rehearsals with these boys and can't imagine how great the show will be.
RANCH: The closest we've been to this was a 90 minute Jerry Garcia Tribute set we did for the Jerry Birthday Bash at The Mousetrap last summer. That worked out pretty well; in fact, it' one of my favorite show recordings of the band so far.