Government Grown
The Belly-Up Tavern
December 8th 2001

By Charles Basil
©Copyright 2001 Basil

   Solana Beach – The guys from Government Grown slowly migrate into the backstage sitting room at the Belly Up Tavern as I chat with drummer/lead singer Jeremy Moss Saturday night.
    “This is a fun show for us,” says Moss, an Encinitas native who started Government Grown with lead guitarist Tyler Hardwick and bass player Harley Orion seven years ago. They were stationed in Boulder, Co. for a couple years before returning to North County in favor of the warm weather.
    “The road is tough, man,” Moss says as he pulls back his curly fro from his forehead. “And it’s just a lot easier coming back to sunny skies and warmth than it is to cold snow.”
    Government Grown bill their music as West Coast Trance-Rock-Reggae. “It’s Encinita-vative and progressive,” Moss says, struggling to put into words his bands’ creations. “We take the power elements of trance and express it in a more classic-rock way with catchy phrases. Then we add some reggae interludes to that.”
    Currently the band is amidst a turning point in their music. “On New Pieces of Clay we were rehearsing for a national [tour] and we didn’t really have time to differentiate between our album music and live music,” Moss explains. “We’re happy with it, but it’s a little long.”

    The drive to take the band to the next level has Government Grown re-thinking their approach to recording music. “We want to be relevant in the radio market, without compromising what we’re trying to do,” Moss explains with a much more serious tone than the stoned groans that accompanied his previous comments.
    “The group is evolving as a whole,” says Tyler Hardwick. “We’re concentrating on tighter arrangements… getting right to the point.”
    You have to hear and see a band like Government Grown. The jams and improvisations go along with the energy they produce on stage and any casual goer will be pleased.
    They recorded eight live tracks at Sonoma State University, including a cover of Peter Tosh’s Legalize It, that you can pick up at their shows.

    After talking with the guys, I head back out to the floor where swamp-rockers Sunchild, lead by soulsurfer-celebrity Donovan Frankenreiter, are wrapping up a coal-driven rock set that has the audience primed. Occupancy doubles during the break as fans and groupies alike turn out to see the headliners.
Government Grown light up the stage with the opening song, something about Summertime, that includes a techno-sounding vocal loop that built up the dancers and had the audience assured they had made a great decision by coming. The rest of the first set finishes without a hitch, with some neat little jams that sounded more like ska than reggae, and sometimes lacked the ability to stand out.
    The floor thinned out quickly into the second set as this tepid shower began to turn cold. You can tell that Government Grown are on to something at times, and a lot of personnel changes may have them still searching for their personality.
    When they stick to the music they claim to play, they can spark a creativity that produces very original sounds. However a lot of their material comes out sounding like just another jam band plowing through seven minute extensions of uninspired chord progressions.
    Moss pulls off the difficult task of singing while playing drums, however the band might greatly benefit by separating the two endeavors to allow a more complex melody to be sung over the music, while giving Moss more freedom on the kit.
    “We’re not like anything else you’re gonna see around here,” says Hardwick, who studied classical guitar at UC-Santa Cruz. “The songs are built to be different every night. We have kind of a niche of our own in the San Diego scene.
    They showed us some glimpses of their new stuff that sounded promising. Although the band is seven years old, they are still finding their souls and navigating the give-and-take of the industry.
    The bright spots of the set were inspiring and original, and when Government Grown can learn to differentiate those moments from the routine jams, they will have not only hit the target they are aiming for, but struck gold on a new and original frontier.
    Government Grown will be playing New Year’s Eve at the Martini Ranch Encinitas. Tickets are $15, $20 at the door. Details and more information about the band are available at their Web site.