When: Sun., July 9, 8 p.m. 2017
Crystal Garden occupies an unconventional place in the rock universe. On one hand, you'd be hard-pressed to find another new band whose sound feels as organically grown as that of this trio. But on the other, Crystal Garden came together not in the time-tested manner of most bands—i.e., meeting up in school and slogging it out together through nowhere gigs and grimy rehearsal rooms—but in a way that's simultaneously more unusual and oddly old-school. Singer and guitarist Mycle Wastman, bassist Charlie Csontos, and drummer Matt Frewen were brought together by a producer/Svengali figure, much as bands like The Monkees were half a century ago. But the crucial difference is that said Svengali is not some crass, unmusical money man, but Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley.
Tinsley, who has been a key part of the DMB sound from the beginning, brought the boys together out of a desire to form a band, but not necessarily be an actual member of it. After a period of searching, he found Wastman, Csontos, and Frewen; following his intuition, he put them together with the mission of making music with the kind of honest, expressionistic aesthetic characteristic of material from the sixties and seventies. And while the resulting Crystal Garden debut album, the Tinsley-produced Let the Rocks Cry Out, sounds anything but retro, it undoubtedly achieved that goal.
Though the association with Tinsley, who frequently guests with the band and is also their manager, Crystal Garden has obviously enjoyed a bit of a leg up. The band's actual music should dispel any fears of mere opportunism. These guys make thoughtful, nuanced sounds together. Subtlety is a watchword—the trio isn't out to beat anyone over the head, but instead to charm and hypnotize with their sophisticated textures. Wastman's airy vocals and breezy guitar work bring to mind the likes of David Crosby, while Csontos and Frewen toss in touches of jazz and funk at will.
And when Tinsley joins in, as he's doing through the band's current tour, they inevitably start to seem like the inheritors of the DMB mantle—unerringly song-oriented but perennially eclectic, and not afraid to jam. And they know how to throw down live; among other things they've been known to toss off a fiercely funky cover of "Superstition." —Jim Allen