Down Lo

by Mike Huberty
September 2008

Twin Citie's Down Lo on the cover of Maximum Ink September 2008 - Artwork by Cory Harrison

Twin Citie's Down Lo on the cover of Maximum Ink September 2008 - Artwork by Cory Harrison

Funky, melodic, and heartfelt, DOWN LO from The Twin Cities is combining traditional (and not so traditional) jam band music with hip-hop and traveling all around the country with their latest record, In Our World. Guitarist and vocalist, Mark Grundhoefer, describes it as “a blend of a number of different genres. Passion’s the name of the game. Bluegrass to reggae, jazz, funk, we try to throw a little bit of everything that influences us in there. Plus, we do a lot of improvisation with jams where each musician steps up to take his role, so we try to keep it interesting that way.”

DOWN LO came to life in 2000, but Grundhoefer and Ryan Nielsen (DOWN LO’s bassist) grew up in Northfield, MN, and performed together when they were 16. According to Grundhoefer, they always “felt a telepathic connection.”  One of their biggest influences is reggae and Grundhoefer speaks of it with a lot of excitement, “It was in my soul, in my heart and soul, it was the kind music that speaks to me. It’s always inspired me, it moves you and I’ve always been captivated by that. I got my first Bob Marley record and I went crazy, I loved it.” When Nielsen returned from college in 2000, they got back together and jammed in Grundhoefer’s grandfather’s old art studio that he converted into a musician’s space.  After working with different members for a couple of years, they settled on this lineup in 2002.

Touring constantly at over 200 shows a year, it’s remarkable that they even had time to record an album. “We’re always doing runs and staying active on the road,” Grundhoefer says, “and then In Our World came out in December and we’re really excited about it. It’s collaboration with an emcee from L.A. named Deploi. He actually came out here and we spent a few months touring together and when we had time off we recorded the album. We met through mutual friends down there. We’ve always had a great time playing with him. It’s live funk and live jam meets hip-hop.” As far as his favorite songs off the record, he says, “‘First Night’ or ‘Party Joint’, maybe are good first ones to listen to. But it’s all over the map, depending on what you’re into. We do some country and bluegrass as well.” As for inspiration, Grundhoefer says, “I brought in a lot of current stuff, like our song, ‘World War’. In Our World is about what we do, running from show to show and playing music all the time. ‘Wasted’ is about people that were close to me that went down from alcohol and drugs and there’s other songs that are straight up party tunes.”

And of course, with all that touring, they’re bound to run into some vehicle issues. Grundhoefer remembers one of his favorite roadside stories, “Last April we were driving from Duluth over to Fargo and we’re about halfway there and our tire blows out so we’re stranded in the middle of northern Minnesota. So we call in to the tow truck and we get the van on the back and then hook the trailer up to it. We get the tow to pull us all the way to Fargo and it’s about 180 miles. Finally, we’re about three miles from the gig and the tow truck’s engine blows up. So we’re sitting at the side of the road and the truck is smoking, double breakdown style. So we had some friends pick us up and we still made the gig with fifteen minutes to spare!” And the van even has its own name: Doris! Grundhoefer says,“The old lady that used to own the van before we got it, that was her name, so the van kept it after we got it.”

With upcoming shows in Madison (Cardinal Bar 9/9), Milwaukee (Miramar Theater 9/10), Neenah (Cranky Pat’s 9/11), Eau Claire (House Of Rock), and Minneapolis (Cabooze 9/17) before heading into the West for a few dates, Wisconsin and Minnesota jam band lovers will get plenty of chances to see Down Lo. Grundhoefer describes the live show, “It’s so fun, a high-energy danceable good time. Come have fun, have a drink, get down, come dance. It’s a blast, but it’s also got a lot of soul.”

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Down Lo
CD: In Our World Record Label: Down Lo and Deploi
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