Orono guitarist Mike Curtis posted an ad on Craigslist looking for musicians to form a band, something that happens multiple times daily, across the world. It’s a crap shoot — you never know what you might come up with. It could be amazing, but has a high probability of disappointment. A guitarist said he would come jam with him, and he would bring along a singer, and Curtis set up an audition of sorts.
“We sat around jamming, and the singer just sat in the chair, not doing anything,” said Curtis, a Seattle, Washington native who has lived and performed in the Bangor area for 20 years. “I gave him a mike and just told him to please start singing. He started singing Tracy Chapman, and my jaw was just swinging. I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.”
The singer was Baileyville native Jason Simpson, and his big, brash, rock star tenor had Curtis sold from the get-go. Two years later, the Blast Addicts are — at least in this reporter’s opinion — one of the best live bands in eastern Maine. Curtis and Simpson, along with bassist Athion Lewey and drummer Ron Douglass, play high octane, utterly fearless covers of everything from AC/DC to Lady Gaga, and starting in December, they’re getting ready to record their first, all-original album. For now, though, they’re set to play at Chummies in Ellsworth on Friday, Nov. 11, and at Ipanema in Bangor on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Simpson’s charismatic onstage presence with the Blast Addicts is not unlike the pop/glam rock stylings of Adam Lambert, mixed with the joyful snarl of Bon Scott or Brian Johnson — but his off-stage personality is decidedly more low key. If he’s a kitten in daily life, he’s a lion in front of the mic.
“I never did chorus or choir in high school or anything like that,” said Simpson, 28. “I just always knew I could sing. I’m a pretty humble person. I’m soft spoken. But you hear me at a show, and I don’t think people expect to hear my voice come out of me. It’s an outlet. It gets my blood flowing.”
The band has collective knowledge of hundreds of songs, thanks to the diversity of ages in the group — Curtis is in his 50s, and bassist Lewey is just 20. Classic rock like Queen, Heart, early Aerosmith and yes, AC/DC mix in with Pink, Cee-Lo Green and, yes, Lady Gaga. They also learn songs to fit the occasion; when they played a Ken and Barbie-themed party at the M Room in Newport, they learned the 1990s cheese-pop song “Barbie Girl.”
“Anything that makes people dance and be happy, we’ll play,” said Curtis. “We can put a Blast Addicts spin on just about anything.”
Not to say that the band only does covers. They’re taking most of December off, in fact, to record the songs they’ve written over the past year, with a debut album slated to be released in the spring or summer of 2012.
“We’ve gotten really positive feedback from all of our originals,” said Simpson. “We slip one into the set, and I’ve had people come up to us afterwards and tell us they liked the originals as much as the covers. That makes me think we’re doing something right.”
The Blast Addicts can’t stay out of the spotlight for too long, however — on Dec. 31, they’re headlining the Downtown Bangor Countdown, playing in West Market Square from 11 p.m. to midnight for the estimated 3,000-plus people who will attend this year’s event.
“I think there’s a really good thing going on around town right now, as far as music goes,” said Curtis. “I see the camaraderie between bands and the amount of original stuff that’s going around, and it makes me think of what I saw in Seattle at the beginning of the grunge era. Why can’t there be a movement like that in Bangor? We deserve it.”
For information on the Blast Addicts, visit the Reverb Nation website.