Bucky Virginia and Your Daily Bread and the absurd

Tacoma band blends alternative rock and blues with freakouts

By Sean Contris on May 21, 2013

How does one describe the enjoyment derived from a jam band to people who don't like jam bands? The answer is not easy. Jam bands, known for long, improvisational, almost jazz-inspired sets that baffle some and amaze others, have divided music fans for decades since Pink Floyd and Phish began playing shows in the '60s and '80s.

Comprised of Levi Gosteli, Cody Kissner (of SHEBEAR fame), Josh Celli and Clay Snell, Bucky Virginia and Your Daily Bread is a jam band for people who don't like jam bands. When I asked fellow musician and friend of the band Eli Moore to describe the band's constantly improving sound, he simply looked at me with a raised eyebrow and snarky grin and said, "They're getting kind of Phishy."

Bucky Virginia and Your Daily Bread can loosely be described as alternative rock and blues, but in reality the band creates a totally original synthesis of blues, funk, rock, rockabilly and jazz. The band is primarily known for its long improvisational sets that shift from long and exhilarating jam pieces to loosely composed songs that offer a wide range of opportunity to experiment midset.

Known for its surreal performances, Bucky Virginia has a taste for the absurd. Actions undertaken by the band while performing include: keeping at a complete standstill to allow someone to speak into the microphone in honor of his birthday, eating out of a tub of mayo for Cinco de Mayo and even parodying fellow local star Oberhoffer.  

In addition to the core four-piece band, Bucky Virginia is joined by various musicians and friends playing brass and wind instruments such as the trombone, saxophone and trumpet. The band enjoys toying with time signatures, which gives it a more jazz-influenced sound. Live, the band is extraordinarily energetic, and the off-kilter rhythm of each song creates a unique reaction in the audience, often causing them to create bizarre sporadic dance moves that look more like twitching freakouts than coordinated movements. Though the group does tend to stray into jam land and create long sets of an entirely improvised nature, it never strays into self-indulgence or pretention and instead opts for creating a constant thrilling experience for those taking the time to listen.

Bucky Virginia is tied down by its incredible rhythm section. Kissner remains the band's sole drummer. Kissner is by and by a rock drummer with a jazz sensibility, at once rhythmic and abrasive, which creates a unique groundwork for the band to build songs on. Though the band exchanges instruments midset or even midsong, it is bassist Celli who steals the show. Celli's style of play has become legendary around The Tacoma School of the Arts and in the local rock scene. His technique combines jazz, funk and rock into an effortless, soulful blend that represents the most jaw-dropping aspect of this already jaw-dropping band. It's Celli's extraordinarily effortless gift for creating rhythm and technique combined with Kissner's rock background and jazz influence that forms the very heart of Bucky Virginia's music. Chelli and Kissner, when on, are simply the best duo working in the local music scene today.

With the exception of Kissner, members of the band take their turn on the microphone to sing. Primary frontman duty is split between the calm and primary guitar player, Snell, and the red-haired Gosteli, who is in possession of a unique and identifiable off-pitch southern yelp. Gosteli's ability to scream dominates what is likely the band's most well-known and intense composition to date, "I Wanna Be An Arsonist," in which he, along with the entire audience, pushes his voice to the limit with his voice cracking, "I wanna be an arsonist! But I'm afraid of fire!"

Snell represents the most conventional of the three singers with a simple, straightforward nasally voice that compliments the bands funky sound and allows the audience to enjoy an identifiable frontman amid the band's chaos. Celli, however, is perhaps the one with the most interesting vocal styling. His voice is as unconventional as they come - it is incredibly organic and feels like a living, breathing organism in and of itself. To use a poorly constructed metaphor, Celli's voice is the embodiment of a passionately angry teenager. It bounces through pitches, escalates and falls, creates its own identity and is better described as a textured instrument rather than just a vocal. It was a shock to see this kind of vocal performance delivered from Celli - typically quiet and shy - for the first time. I myself have taken notice of his ability and desire to scat during improvised sets, a technique that only further reinstates his undeniable jazz influence.

Gosteli and Snell take up duties as the primary guitarists of the band, and together they create complex melodies out of detuned and heavy but twangy guitar riffs that rarely stay in one spot for more than two minutes. The range of influence that covers the band's sound is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of its performance. Its set list generally includes classics that have become Bucky Virginia show staples and are mainly controlled and dominated by utterly unpredictable jam sessions with styles that range from rock to blues to jazz to funk. This would not be possible if Bucky Virginia was not tight as a unit. Thankfully, it is. It is rare to see a group of musicians of this talent (and young age) so effortlessly complement each other, yet they do it with style and grace. During shows, the musicians resemble less of people, but more of a well-oiled machine in complete control of itself.

Bucky Virginia and Your Daily Bread is one of the most interesting rock bands in the local scene today, and its live shows are simply something of a joyous experience not to be missed. Catch them live on May 25 at 8 p.m. at Metronome Coffee on Sixth Avenue with an opening spot by Evan Main. Band buttons will be available.

BUCKY VIRGINIA AND YOUR DAILY BREAD, w/Evan Main, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 25, Metronome Coffee, 3518 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.301.2375