Sound Check: Influential 1970s rockers Poobah to perform at Sadie Rene’s

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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On Friday night, the venerable live music venue Sadie Rene’s in Jackson Township will welcome long-running, Youngstown-bred, West Virginia-based psyche-rock band Poobah for a CD release party celebrating the reissue of the band’s 1976 sophomore album U.S. Rock.

The remastered album features four bonus tracks and comes in a blue vinyl edition and downloads.

Poobah, which tours about 45 weeks a year, is led by singer/guitarist/songwriter Jim Gustafson — the band’s only original member — along with singer/percussionist Lori Powers, drummer/singer Mike Fortino and bassist Eric Wright.

Its profile has been raised in the past couple of years. Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke named the 2010 reissue of the band’s 1972 debut album Let Me In as one of the top 10 reissues of that year and it also was feted in the record collector’s bible Goldmine Magazine. Also, Monster Magnet singer Dave Wyndorf mentioned Poobah as an inspiration for his band’s popular crossover 1988 single Space Lord in the January issue of Guitar World Magazine.

“I can’t believe it was in a nationwide magazine,” Gustafson, 60, said from his West Virginia home.

Recently, Poobah signed with independent Southern California label Ripple Music and the label has begun reissuing all 13 of Poobah’s albums, many on vinyl. So far, Poobah’s reissues have been the label’s top sellers with the upcoming U.S. Rock garnering the largest amount of pre-orders in the label’s history.

Longtime radio listeners may recall that WKDD-FM played songs from the album back in the day.

Many of Poobah’s songs spring from a heavy musical bouillabaisse of late ’60s/early ’70s hard rock with some bottom-heavy metal and psyche-rock flourishes, Gustafson’s solid tenor singing and, of course, squealing, extended guitar solos.

Out on the road, Gustafson said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of fans who bring worn copies of Poobah albums for him to sign and that several stoner rock bands have listed Poobah as an influence.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was a little kid and I keep practicing,” Gustafson said, noting he released his first record, a 7 inch of his song What Can I Do with his teenage band Daze Endz at the age of 14. His second release was another 7 inch called Look Inside Yourself with Biggy Rat, which was produced by former Jimi Hendrix bassist and Gustafson’s longtime friend Billy Cox.

“I keep morphing into different styles all the time,” he said. “I’ve really tried hard to have my own sound so I don’t sound like everybody else. When you heard a song on the radio by the Beatles, you knew it was them.”

In addition to the stream of reissues, Poobah has a new album in the pipeline tentatively titled Cosmic Rock that should be released shortly after U.S. Rock. Gustafson is also readying an acoustic album he hopes to get out this year.

For the CD release show, Poobah will perform songs from its entire 40-year, 13-album career.

“We really like Ohio, because Ohio really likes rock ’n’ roll. It’s a great place for rock ’n’ roll,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson said that when fans come to Sadie Rene’s, they should get a beverage or two and settle in for a lengthy set.

“We also do our reworkings of classic-rock hits, take some songs and rewrite them and make them our own. We’re going to play for hours,” he said chuckling. “We’re usually one of those bands that has to be told to stop. We love to play; that’s the difference between us and a lot of bands. Some bands are always looking for their next break; we’re looking to see how long we can play.”

Open M Benefit Concert

Also on Friday night will be the fourth annual A Concert for Open M, the nonprofit South Akron organization whose mission is “to build bridges out of poverty by fostering health, wellness and nutrition for the body, education for the mind, and hope, joy and spiritual growth for the soul.”

That’s quite a mission, and to help Open M fund its free clinic, which logged more than 3,800 visits in 2012, a bunch of local bands will perform at Musica.

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. with acoustic music from Scott and Hallie, singer/guitarist Brian Lisik and Akron string band Brick Road Ramblers. Part two of the evening will feature slightly louder music provided by Freez-R-Burn and the House Popes. The show will be the final performance of the House Popes, which is calling it a day after 14 years of gigs and records.

Tickets are $10 for folks with employer-sponsored health insurance and $6 for folks without or who pay for their own insurance. No, no one is going to do a background check to verify whether you have employer-provided insurance or not. But c’mon, people, it’s $10 to help your fellow Akronites survive and hopefully thrive.

So, don’t be a jerk.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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