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March 22, 2017

Rockin’ the region with Bloomer

Bloomer returns to Killington this weekend and you can see his duo with Stuart Slocum Friday and Saturday, 8:30 p.m. at Outback Pizza. Bloomer also will be playing solo at The Foundry Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Bloomer plays acoustic guitar and Slocum plays drums and percussion. I last spoke to Bloomer, a.k.a. Brian Blumenthal, back in November 2015. A lot has changed since then, and a lot has stayed the same. I asked him what has changed in two years and he laughingly said, “I wish I could say a lot more.” Honestly, though, he said that the musical landscape has changed for him and the new addition to his family. He and his wife Christine welcomed Grant to the world 11 months ago. Blumenthal said he’s an inspiration for music.
The back story on Blumenthal is that he first started playing here in 2003 with his younger brother, Alan, and they played apres-ski for three seasons at the Wobbly Barn. He has been performing for 19 years now. He and Slocum hail from Connecticut, and his brother Alan now plays music down in Nashville. Bloomer is a singer/guitarist and his role changes depending on what format he does. When he performs solo, like at The Foundry, he plays with a looping station that allows him to add percussion, bass lines and backing vocals. It makes him like a one-man band, but he wants to point out—it is not karaoke, so please don’t confuse that. Bloomer reiterated, “Looping is not karaoke. First of all, it takes a lot of time to do looping and I’m doing all this with just an acoustic guitar. I’m adding all those layers and all those different instruments with just really an acoustic guitar. Karaoke is singing over a pre-recorded track, which is a big difference. When you’re looping, it has to be done in a short amount of time. It can’t really be noticed by the people in the audience and if they do notice it, they’re usually thinking how the hell did he do that or they think it was recorded. Yes, I recorded it, but just then, not at home. I get that all the time.”
His forte is entertaining the crowd and playing music that people enjoy. Looping is all the rage right now for guitarists, but Bloomer has been doing his loop show for about nine years. It allows him to change the arrangement of the song as he sees fit and he likes making his own versions of songs. He said, “It makes it so much more entertaining for me as a musician as opposed to just playing a stripped down acoustic song. This allows me to add layers to the song which makes it more exciting.” The regular version of a song is fine, and he can still do that, but this adds more dynamic to a song. “You can bring the listener right along with you and compose the song right in front of them.”
The music he plays is acoustic arrangements of popular tunes that span six decades. He said, “You’re trying to play songs that are relevant to the people you’re going to play for. You tend to follow the trends of what’s popular so they can recognize what you’re doing. It keeps it fresh, especially from a performance perspective.” He knows he’s just a cover guy, but so is everyone else in the world. He explained: “What do you think all those famous people that you’re listening to on the radio do? They’re not writing 100 percent of their songs. They might be part of the creative process but really they’re covering a song that was written by somebody else for them or not necessarily for them. Being a cover musician and being a singer/songwriter are different but I mean how many singer/songwriters are people really listening to? I feel that, as a performer, I’m able to take from that popular music and the things that I find intriguing. The repertoire of music I’m playing now is really fun.”
At the Outback, Bloomer will still be looping, just not percussion since he has Slocum. He said,”I might do a whole bass track with Stu [Slocum]. What I’m trying to do when I’m playing as a duo as opposed to solo is fill in the space that a human can’t fill in. He can’t fill in a bass line or a keyboard part. The hardest parts to build in a loop are the percussion parts.” Having Slocum made that easier for him. Looping has come a long way and nowadays technology has assisted quite a bit. Bloomer talked about a pedal called “The Beat Buddy.” The technology plays along with you, but Bloomer said that having a human being to interact with makes it a lot more fun. “It sure lends itself to getting into more creative spaces inside of a cover and changing the arrangement on the fly.” Bloomer does not want to just be a looping guy. He utilizes looping as a tool and it’s just one of the tools in his bag. He doesn’t want it to be his whole show and still wants the songs to sound authentic.
Two years ago he was big into Foster The People—still is—and said, “Oh yeah, they’re awesome.” I asked if there were any other new bands he was digging and he said, laughing, “Steve Winwood.” The younger generation may have to Google him and find out he’s not new at all. Bloomer said, “I guess lately I’m listening to older recordings. After years of playing cover gigs, you get sick of playing that one hit song by an artist. Then you realize that artist has two or three other hits, the songs that I missed that other people totally remember.” For example, he was always playing the Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones,” and now he plays “The Rain King.” Back then, a favorite song he liked to play is “For What it’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, which he still plays, but now it’s “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran, which he said is not too slow or too fast, but gets them moving side to side.
Bloomer said he has got really good at reading a crowd. “I know at happy hour at The Foundry what songs are happy hour songs. They’re the ones that make you move side to side and sing along, not necessarily make you jump up and dance. At night time when you’re eating dinner at the Outback, you want to hear some of those same type of songs but rock out a little bit and maybe even get up and dance. I can play the same song but change them from a happy hour format to a dance format, because that’s real fun,” Bloomer explained.
I know Slocum back from his days playing drums in the band Tenet who used to play at the Wobbly about 15 years ago. Bloomer met him then as well, and years after Tenet dissolved, they started playing together. They created his drum kit to fit what Bloomer was doing. Bloomer said, “It’s a pretty cool set up, called a cocktail kit. It gives a really rich sound and lends itself to a lot of different songs. It really fills in a lot of percussion space with both drumming and hand percussion. You can take a sensual song and put some excitement in it so it doesn’t fall flat. He creates a lot of positive energy.”
At a Bloomer show, feel free to request a song or two. Bloomer said, “It’s pretty straight forward. Requests are free—I take all requests. I take every single request. I don’t play them all, but guess what? It’s only $5 to stop a song, just $5. That’s a bargain. A couple of weeks ago a bouncer came up and handed me $10 to never play a particular song again. Everybody got so fired up. It was sweet. I said it from the very beginning. So, I played another song from that same artist [laughing].”
Bloomer is a big fan of Killington. “Killington is such a great vibe, the people are always so happy. The positive vibe there is great,” he said. He also is a big fan of performing as a musician. “I love the energy I get from people who are into the music I’m playing. I would barely play for more than 15 minutes if I played at my house. I truly enjoy performing for people—the more people, the better … I get totally energized from it. It’s addictive and I love it,” he said.

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