Story: Jeff Royer
Published: November 2008
Great Big House is less a band than a gigantic, fraternal organization of freewheeling, instrument-swapping musicians whose loose-limbed, jam-centric tunes are more eclectic than the brotherhood of Lambda Lambda Lambda.
At last count, the band included a whopping eight members, making it quite literally the biggest band in Lancaster – and arguably the biggest logistical nightmare in music since The Polyphonic Spree. “We rely on Yahoo mail a ton,” says saxophonist/guitarist Keith Kehr. “We try to be as democratic as possible. Everyone gets a vote and everyone’s ideas are valued. “Also, having eight members means that we can be very adaptive with our lineup,” he adds. “If one member can’t make it to a show, there’s usually someone else in the band who can cover that part for a night.”
Comprised of Millersville University music department alumnae, Great Big House has been phishing for phans since 2002. Influenced by the likes of Dave Matthews Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Grateful Dead, the band serves up funk-heavy originals and covers (Beatles, Bob Marley, DMB) that, more akin to jazz than rock, develop and deviate from musical themes, rather than plod along in a verse-chorus-bridge format. “Those are the bands that have set the standards for our musical philosophies, especially when performing live,” Kehr says of GBH’s forefathers, “different sets each night, different jams, spontaneous ideas, all of the things we hold true to.”
But while GBH places an emphasis on jamming and musical exploration, it does not, guitarist Chris Hurdle explains, come at the expense of the song – or the listener, for that matter. “We try to have a direction for any of the improvising that we do so that there’s still a chance for all of us to experiment and try new things, but it’s also still enjoyable for the listener,” he explains.
While there are several live bootlegs floating around the Internet, Great Big House has no official studio recording, although a debut album is slated for a spring/summer ’09 release. To this point, the band has been able to float along on the strength of its live show and the GBH phaithful, who continue to multiply, as jam fans usually do.
“We’ve always tried to build a following from the ground up and it’s nice to know that every fan we have we got through playing live music,” says saxophonist/guitarist Pat Dougherty.
“The secret behind our band is that we all really love playing music and it’s very obvious to the crowd that we’re having a great time,” adds drummer Fred Warner. “It’s infectious.”