A Special Acoustic Evening with the Box Set Duo
Greetings, music lovers! The Box Set Duo (Jeff Pehrson and Jim Brunberg) bring their soaring harmonies and intricate guitar interplay back to the Black Bart Theater in Murphys Friday, August 22. We're pleased to welcome them back to the foothills!
Here are the nuts and bolts. Then scroll down for an illuminating interview with Jim and Jeff.
What: A special acoustic evening with the Box Set Duo
Where: The Black Bart Theater, 580 S. Algiers in Murphys, California
When: Friday, August 22 at 8:00 p.m. (Doors at 7:30)
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Advance tickets available in Murphys at Sustenance, in Sonora at the Mountain Bookshop, in Angels Camp at Aeolian Harp, as well as online at highsierratickets.com.
Questions? The theater company that manages the Black Bart spends the summer performing outdoors at Bryce Station Winery. They don't answer the phone, so don't attempt to contact the theater! If you have questions, email me (Pride) at email@example.com.
The Box Set Duo, Act Three
The High Sierra Music Festival spent four memorable summers in Bear Valley from 1994 to ’97, attracting jam band A-listers like Widespread Panic, Leftover Salmon, the Radiators, and Medeski Martin and Wood. An energetic young Bay Area band called Box Set featuring singer/songwriters Jim Brunberg and Jeff Pehrson played High Sierra all four of those years, cultivating a following in the foothills and beyond with tasty harmonies and imaginative guitar interplay.
Box Set had a great run, touring nearly non-stop for better than a decade. But in spite of their success, Box Set was always really a rootsy acoustic duo embedded in a groove, their jam persona to some extent a concession to the prevailing preferences of the festival circuit.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the High Sierra Music Festival, Roy (Carter) and Rebecca (Sparks) especially, for helping launch our career,” says Brunberg. “They got us our first record deal, exposed us to thousands of people, and really believed in us as a band. I do have some mixed feelings because High Sierra launched us into that certain jam band set of expectations which I never felt comfortable with. We were more or less happily kidnapped by that genre and it's surrounds.”
Brunberg and Pehrson also toured concurrently as the Box Set Duo, the band’s acoustic alter ego. The pared down format created space for those signature harmonies, and also showcased the duo’s remarkable onstage chemistry. The two released a pair of highly successful live acoustic CDs. Sales of the first, the self produced “Live Duo”, exceeded the sales of all Box Set’s full band CDs, including those released by record labels.
Both incarnations of Box Set began to wind down in 2002 when Brunberg moved to Portland to pursue a law degree. He subsequently opened Mississippi Studios, a combination recording studio and performance space that is now one of the top live music venues in Portland. Pehrson went on to become a member of Furthur, the post-Dead project of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
Both have had considerable post-Box Set success. And yet after years apart, Pehrson says they were “jonesing to work together again.” Not just to perform together, but to perhaps take their now 25 year collaboration to another level.
“I just think in retrospect, Jeff and I should've focused more on the songwriting and, well, we’re doing that now,” says Brunberg. “Fortunately it's never too late for that.”
Box Set fans may be surprised to find out that while Brunberg and Pehrson are each lauded for their songwriting, they are only now writing together for the very first time.
“Believe it or not it’s a new thing for us,” says Pehrson. “And it's been extremely satisfying, even joyful.”
“it's amazing that we never truly wrote together until now,” adds Brunberg.
“In the past we wrote individually and then added harmonies and guitar parts to each other’s songs after they were complete,” explains Pehrson. “The experiences we’ve had working on other projects is what opened us up to trying this kind of process. When we first started Box Set, we were young and too involved with our own writing to allow any input from each other. After getting away from Box Set, getting a glimpse of how other artists do things---a more mature outlook if you will---we were both able to let go of the old egos and work collaboratively. Frankly, I regret not trying it years ago.”
“We’ve been sending each other seeds for songs, working on them, sending half finished songs back and forth, and finally finishing them in the van right before the gig. It's a fun and invigorating process,” Brunberg added. “Our first time ever writing a lyric together was just the other day before our gig in Seattle, and it felt great.”
“I couldn't be happier with the new material, and it's been very well received at our live shows,” says Pehrson. “I've gotten so many emails and messages on our Facebook pages telling me how much they love the new songs. It's gratifying. We're planning to record the first Box Set album in eleven years this fall. The plan is to make a truly acoustic album. No added instrumentation, just two voices and two acoustic guitars.”
So after 14 years fronting a jam band followed by a decade or so working apart, Pehrson and Brunberg are back to their bread and butter: catchy, genre-defying songs, blistering guitar work, soaring harmonies, and hilarious between song banter. It makes for a great night of entertainment. The duo are relishing their first actual tour in years.
“Performing with Jeff is an absolute joy,” says Brunberg. “I always loved the uneasy, hilarious, edgy chemistry we have on stage. We joke around as if we’re sitting on our couch in the living room, only it's amped up because of the energy of the audience. It's just a laugh riot for us one minute, and an incredibly moving musical experience the next. We love it.”