Jam-Banders Max Creek Celebrate 40 Years Strong (nd Counting)

ChemistryArts and CultureArtSimsburyBars and ClubsDining and DrinkingPhish (music group)

Max Creek’s 40th-anniversary show

21+, $20, April 28, 9 p.m., The Old Well Tavern, 20 Tariffville Road, Simsbury, (860) 658-0050, oldwelltavern.com

There are a few rock bands who can claim they’ve been writing, recording and performing music for 40 years. England’s the Rolling Stones certainly top the list. And Canada’s Rush comes to mind. One thinks of the Grateful Dead, in one embodiment or another; that little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top; the bad boys from Boston, Aerosmith. And, of course, we all think of Connecticut’s own improvisational pioneers, Max Creek, don’t we?

Max Creek (Scott Murawski on guitars/vocals, John Rider on bass/vocals, Mark Mercier on keyboards/vocals, Scott Allshouse on drums/vocals and Greg Vasso on drums) will celebrate its 40-year history at its longtime hometown venue, currently known as The Old Well Tavern, in Simsbury, Thursday night.

“The Simsbury show in particular is going to be interesting. There’s going to be a lot of the Max Creek alumni there, including old band members and old crew members,” says Murawski, calling on his way home from his fulltime job as a computer scientist. “That’s going to be the most like a family reunion show, and we’re going to get everybody that’s ever been in the band up on stage to play with us. With the alumni there, we’re going to be digging through the older material that we haven’t played in, you know, a hundred years.”

The band, originally formed in 1971 by guitarist Dave Reed, bassist John Rider — both Hartt School of Music students — and drummer Bob Gosselin, was initially a ’50s/country band. After tutoring Murawski on trumpet, Reed eventually heard him play guitar and asked him to play with Creek in ’72. Murawski was 15 at the time. Mercier joined the band in ’73, while Reed left in ’74 to follow his acoustic muse, as Max Creek delved into an electric, psychedelic rock sound.

Creek, as the band has become known, went into the studio in ’76 to record its eponymous debut, Murawski remembers. “I remember I had written one song that made it onto the album,” he says, “and I remember thinking when we got done with those sessions that I wasn’t going to be limited to one song. It just really lit a fire under me as far as writing and that’s when I started writing a lot of material.”

In ’79, percussionist Rob Fried joined the band as they toured nationwide and paved the road that subsequent bands, such as Phish, Blues Traveler, and moe., would follow to widespread popularity. Though Gosselin left in ’85, Murawski attributes the band’s longevity to simple chemistry.

“I was so young I didn’t even realize what chemistry was until …” he pauses to choose his words. “When I got older and started to play with other people and being involved with other bands and realizing, you know, being in situations where there wasn’t chemistry. So there is a certain chemistry there, that we have between us as far as how we play together and how the ESP between us has developed all these years.”

In 2004, the affable, ebullient Rob Fried left the band, and in 2006 succumbed to cancer. Murawski describes his passing as a tragic loss of a great friend. But, he says, Fried left a mark on the Creek community that will last.

“It’s funny, because when we play the songs we’ve been playing all these years, I can still hear his parts. Even though they’re not there, I can still hear where he was,” says Murawski. “His creative energy has been imprinted on everybody that’s been involved in the band, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon.”

In the latter years, Creek has slowed its rigorous schedule, choosing to remain closer to home and families, while maintaining fulltime jobs. That doesn’t mean the band has been dormant; the band continues to perform at several regular haunts and maintains a festival presence. And while Murawski has gone on to achieve critical acclaim playing alongside the Grateful Dead’s former drummer Bill Kreutzmann, as well as Phish bassist Mike Gordon in Gordon’s solo band, he’ll always feel most comfortable playing with Creek.

“This is just part of life for us. I couldn’t disown anybody in Max Creek anymore than I could disown my own parents,” he says. “They’re just part of this family thing. Not only that, you know, I go out and play with Kreutzmann and with Mike Gordon and do all these outside projects, and [when] I come back to Max Creek it’s definitely home. It feels home, and I think the other guys feel the same way; that once we’re up there playing the music, there’s just nothing like it. I mean, having played together for 40 years, it’s like, I can close my eyes. There is no place I am more relaxed, comfortable, at ease and happy playing music. That’s just home to me.”

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