- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Sometimes a band reaches the professional top by piling one small success on another. Other times all it takes is one event. For Particle, performing Saturday at the State Theater in Falls Church, that event may have come in June, with its five-hour set at this year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

The show began at 3 a.m. Sunday, June 15, and finished 5 hours 15 minutes later at 8:15 a.m. “It started with about 20,000 people, and half of them were still standing at the end,” says Particle drummer Darren Pujalet.

It’s not surprising that Particle drew such a crowd. Though no one expected the five-hour show, Particle has built a reputation on being the band that plays the late night sets after everyone else is done.

“When you get to that time of night, people seem to be a little bit more relaxed and let their hair down a little bit more,” says Mr. Pujalet. “We really like it because it gives you an extra level of freedom.”

Freedom has been important to this band from the start.

“A really big emphasis was trying to cater to more of a dance-type audience but have the improvisational freedom of jazz and jam band music,” says Mr. Pujalet.

In just a couple of years, this band has created a nationwide following playing big clubs and festivals. The music is an eclectic mix of jazz, funk, electronic dance music, and maybe a bit of progressive rock. This tight band of keyboard, bass, drums, and guitar, list their influences as James Brown, Miles Davis, and electronic dance music DJ/producers Kruder and Dorfmeister.

“You’ll hear a lot of different references in our music, but I think it really kind of comes together as a collage of its own,” continues Mr. Pujalet. “I think that it’s about as far away from the jam band scene within the jam band scene as it can be.”

Their music’s drive and energy, combined with a funky back beat, is unique in the jam band world, but the same audiences that follow Wide Spread Panic and Phish are flocking to Particle shows. They have reached the top rungs of the ladder without even having produced a full album. Their first one will be released sometime this fall.

Meanwhile they will continue to build their reputation with hot, danceable shows. Their commitment to the music and the audience is obvious.

“I think the most important thing about music and your responsibility as a performer,” Mr. Pujalet says, “is to try to take people away from their daily lives and give them a couple hours or five minutes, whatever it should be, of time to be with where they don’t have to think about the responsibilities of everyday life.

• • •

Country singer and guitarist Travis Tritt, appearing tonight at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, has been recording country hits for more than 13 years. Over that time, he’s built a reputation for being honest, outspoken, independent, and some might say a bit stubborn.

He puts it this way: “I have to answer to me and I just could never lay down and sleep at night, if I knew I had sold out any of my principles or my beliefs on what kind of music I should be making and how I should carry myself as an entertainer.”

Though he has not always endeared himself to Nashville recording execs, his approach certainly has worked. Mr. Tritt has sold more than 10 million albums and has had more than a dozen top 10 hits, including five No. 1s. His singing ranges from touching, soulful ballads, like his first top-seller, “Help Me Hold On,” to those that rock the house with rowdy honky-tonk country, like the Grammy-winning “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.”

In 1998, he showed just how independent he could be. With his first child born in February 1998 and his wife pregnant again, he decided to take almost two years off.

“Staying home being a daddy, getting to know my new family, getting to spend time at home with them,” were his goals, says Mr. Tritt. He also took that time to negotiate a buy-out on his recording contract and to find a new recording label. His old label had lost interest in supporting his releases and was willing to make a settlement on unfinished obligations.

Many Nashville insiders wrote off Mr. Tritt as a washed-up star. That just fueled his desire to succeed. “I think that one way to get me inspired to do anything, and always has been, is to tell me that I can’t do something. That’s just my personality,” chuckles Mr. Tritt. The release of his album “Down the Road I Go” showed he was anything but washed-up. It soon became his sixth platinum-selling album with several top-10 hits.

• • •

While not selling in the U.S. like Travis Tritt, the Irish rock band the Saw Doctors, playing tomorrow at the Birchmere, have quietly built their own solid reputation for upbeat, entertaining, and sometimes humorous rootsy-rock music. In their 13-year existence, the Saw Doctors have had several albums hit the British pop charts and reach the top of the Irish charts.

If Bruce Springsteen or Southside Johnny had been born in Ireland instead of New Jersey, they probably would sound like the Saw Doctors.

“We would pride ourselves on being from the West of Ireland and writing about our local town and local characters,” says Saw Doctors co-founder, the singer-songwriter Davy Carton. “Our subject matter and our style of singing is West of Ireland. So, it’s Irish….We’re happy to embrace that, but equally we’re happy to embrace the Ramones.”

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