From the first blistering riffs of Led Zeppelin to the cascading drums and percussion of Rush to the anthemic songs from Bon Jovi, the members of the band Jambox were shaped by a time when music seemed more complete.
The central Indiana band molded their own sounds after the raucous rock of the late 1970s and early ’80s. That’s the music that they love, and their excitement bleeds through every painstakingly coordinated jam.
“We’re basically a tribute to the rock icons of yesteryear,” said drummer Rusty Scutt. “When you come to see us, you actually come to see Boston and Kansas and Rush and Bon Jovi and Zeppelin. You’re seeing these bands through us.”
Jambox’s enthusiasm has earned it a loyal following throughout the region, both among longtime fans of the music they play and a new generation discovering the songs for the first time.
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Their passion will take center stage Friday when the band headlines the Daily Journal Franklin Fest.
“Great music is great music, and you can’t hold back great music,” Scutt said.
Scutt, who owns his own sound equipment company, as well as a tool-and-die business in Brownsburg, has been playing music for more than 30 years. Half of that time has been touring with various musicians throughout North America.
He has been part of a rotation of successful Indianapolis bands such as Schoolboy Crush and the Big Time.
But Jambox is something special.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and this band has it. It’s a culmination of a lot of things that came together at the right place at the right time,” Scutt said.
Jambox was born two years ago, formed out of players in a number of existing central Indiana bands.
Scutt and keyboardist Dave Lucid, who is a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy, started a group doing rock and pop covers. The pair had been playing music together since they were teenagers.
From that base, pieces started falling into place. Scutt discovered Eric Rozens, the lead singer, during a friend’s party where he was playing. The friend kept telling Scutt that Rozens was a talented singer, and witnessing the performance, Scutt agreed.
“I just went up to him before I left, and said I’d love to jam with you,” he said.
Eventually, Scutt, Rozens and Lucid had recruited guitarist Ritchie Wilkison and bassist Jeff Ellison to come noodle around together.
In the span of one afternoon session, something seemed to click.
“We just all kind of showed up and knew enough songs, and knowing that we’re all in different bands, we thought we could put something together on the side,” Scutt said. “A couple more rehearsals, and we realized this was something cool.”
Scutt isn’t subtle when he describes Jambox’s talent.
“The musicianship is second-to-none. Every musician in the band is at the top tier of players,” he said. “Because of the musicianship, we’re able to play some special music, some very special, great music.”
Jambox’s sound is a throwback to an era when rock musicianship was more powerful and complete than modern music, where so much emphasis is on the lead singer.
The band’s repertoire includes Boston’s bombastic jamout “Foreplay/Long Time,” Rush’s prog-rock masterpiece “Tom Sawyer” and Van Halen’s “Jump.” Their approach is to learn the songs as closely to the originals as they can, so that its more of a stage show, not just playing music.
“It was an era where some of the best music was written and recorded and performed,” Scutt said. “When I grew up, there were bands. It wasn’t just the one guy, but everyone was so talented. That’s where we hit a nerve. There’s a void in the music.”
During the past two years, Jambox has earned a glowing reputation throughout the area.
The band has taken part in Indianapolis Colts fan appreciate events, wine and barbecue festivals and played at one of the area’s most prestigious events, the Indianapolis Zoo’s annual Zoobilation fundraiser.
They recently have started performing at Triple Play BBQ in Franklin. Later this summer, Jambox will take its unique sound to Woody’s Country Music Jamboree, a massive festival conducted yearly in southern Indiana.
The festival was the first gig the band ever did, Scutt said.
“From that moment on, we’ve been continuing to grow our song list and play these special songs that we all grew up loving,” he said. “It seems as though, for the people who come to these shows, it’s a trip down memory lane.”
Daily Journal Franklin Fest
What: The Daily Journal invites the community to celebrate the summer season with the paper’s third annual street party, featuring food vendors, beer and live music.
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday; headlining band Jambox starts at 7.
Where: East Court and Monroe streets, downtown Franklin, in front of the newspaper’s office.