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It’s been three years since Papadosio last appeared in Chattanooga. They played at Rhythm & Brews the night where they tried out a brand-new keyboard player. Now they’re back, with the same keyboard player, a new album and a fusion of styles and philosophies that puts them on the forefront of musical evolution.
I had the opportunity to speak to drummer Mike Healy last week and he outlined some of the guiding principles of the band. It seems the first and most important requisite is a love for the craft itself, which is admirable and certainly recognizable when listening to their music. Clearly all five members do share a love for their craft, but this is a hallmark of any really good band so while it refreshing, it is not entirely unique.
The second principle is a commitment to high-energy performances. Again, this is a good thing and it is a true thing, but if it isn’t exactly a universal aspect of all bands, it is a common feature of skilled performers.
It’s the third principle, a commitment to an uplifting and positive message, that really helps to define who they are as a band and what they are all really about. True enough, many bands operate under the auspices of promoting a positive message. And many succeed, but too often this comes across in the most hackneyed way, with cookie-cutter, greeting-card aphorisms that aren’t particularly uplifting and are anything but thought-provoking. This is not the case with Papadosio. Their lyrics are genuinely thoughtful, encouraging the listener to undertake a number of philosophical sojourns that all ultimately lead to self-discovery, actualization and the realization of personal potential. It raises the question, is Papadosio a band or a philosophy? The answer is...well, both, really.
Perhaps the best way to view the band is as a musical expression of universal philosophical ideals. The message (which is less of a message and more of a series of signposts pointing the way) is delivered via a kind of music that might be electronica, psychedelia, jazz, jam, house, ambient and a whole host of other influences—but here is what separates Papadosio from the pack: Although their musical style and their philosophical leanings have many recognizable elements, they are not merely an amalgam of those elements.
There are clearly some Zen-like influences behind the writing—but it isn’t Zen. There are definitely jam elements in the music—but it isn’t jam music. Papadosio is not a metaphorical mixing pot of various musical styles, nor is it an aimless hodgepodge of borrowed spiritualities bound together with some cheap New Age glue. Their music is the natural extension of the styles that have influenced them, a musical evolution. Their message, for all its recognizable and relatable elements, is a philosophical evolution. The marriage of the two, music and mind, is absolutely a product of evolution, a new kind of thing that combines the best traits of its predecessors into a powerful, adaptable new creature far better equipped to fill its particular niche in the world.
The new album is T.E.T.I.O.S. or To End the Illusion of Separation and it is a sprawling collection of tunes that explore the themes of universal humanity, the rejection of class and caste, disdain for the banalities of materialism and the celebration of life on (and stewardship of) Planet Earth. In the hands of lesser artists, those themes might be crudely wielded, bludgeoning the listener with ham-fisted bumper-sticker slogans, but under the skillful treatment of Papadosio they come across as smooth, sophisticated and intelligent. Even hardened cynics will conclude that maybe peace, love and understanding aren’t so funny after all...maybe there’s more to all of this, and maybe it’s really worth thinking about. Delivering an upbeat and positive message through your music isn’t particularly difficult, but doing so with credibility is a rare thing and the guys in Papadosio are some of the best at it.
They will be performing at Rhythm & Blues on September 14, and if you are a music lover of any stripe, you will find something here to love—and undoubtedly make some connections musically and spiritually with your fellow concert-goers that you might never have discovered otherwise. If you are at all interested in some of the rewarding new places music is headed in the 21st century, Papadosio is going to strike a chord with you you’ve never heard before.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Rhythm & Brews
221 Market St.
(423) 267-4644, rhythm-brews.com