Courtesy of Kitty Kindbud
The Kind Buds are part of Killington Resort’s annual Dazed and Defrosted concert being held Saturday, April 23.
This Saturday, April 23 is the 2nd Annual Dazed and Defrosted concert at Killington Resort—and it’s a must do for music lovers and good times. This year the concert kicks off at 11 a.m. with DJ Dave (myself) followed by Dirty Boost, Sonic Malfunktion, the Kind Buds and the Mark Mercier Band featuring Mark and Bill Carbone from the legendary Max Creek. It’s a free concert that is held at the bottom of the Superstar trail at the K1 area.
The Kind Buds, from Randolph, are an acoustic guitar jam duo made up of Bud Johnson and Budd Johnson. They express themselves in music in unique and different ways. I got a chance to speak with Bud Johnson and he said there is a sweetness in their music, and they appeal to everyone from kids to the elderly. “Acoustic music is such a basic simple sweet sound and that sweetness blends into our performance. We offer something in that way even though it’s an old art form. We stuck true to that and people really appreciate it.” They don’t call themselves a “Dead” cover band. “We’re really not. We play a lot of Jerry [Garcia] and we play some Bobby [Weir] tunes, too. We play a lot of that era; but we also like to push our originals.”
The Kind Buds have had quite a year. Last summer they played at the Hyatt in Chicago July 3-5 for the pre-show of the 50th Anniversary Grateful Dead concert tour. This past February, they had some legendary shows out in California. The tour kicked off Feb. 21 with a Grateful Dead marathon on KPFA 94.1FM with David Gans who does the nationally syndicated radio show “The Grateful Dead Hour.” Gans is like a historian for the Dead and knows more about them than most people. The next night they played a double bill with Gans. Two days later was their big show, playing at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, Calif., a place owned by Bob Weir (founding member/vocalist/guitarist of the Grateful Dead). That show was also with Gans. It was quite the trip; quite the tour. They played two more shows that week before heading back to Vermont.
In 2004, Bud and Budd were part of a guitar circle called “the Pickers Circle.” It was a group of guys that would bring a guitar and a six-pack and share a song and maybe learn a song, too. His friend Jerry was the organizer of it. Bud told him that if he wanted to do this, he would come almost all the time because he loved to play guitar. “Sometimes there was a bunch of people and sometimes there were three of us.” The other Johnson, Budd, was one of the people who would frequent this; sometimes would host it. This went on for three years and Bud and Budd were just casual acquaintances, but since it was small town they got to know each other well. Jerry was friends with a Sandy Troy who wrote the book “Captain Trips” about Jerry Garcia back in 1993, a few years before Garcia died. Consequently when he died, Troy was able to sell more copies. People wanted to get their hands on the “Jerry book.” Troy has been trying to make a film documentary about the Dead and back in 2004 he organized a party with Stanley Mouse, the Dead’s artist and Tom Constanten, the Dead’s first piano player. Jerry picked Bud and Budd out of the guitar circle and asked then to come out to California in two weeks and play some Grateful Dead tunes. Bud thought he was kidding.
“We… laughed about it and said ‘ya right, we’re just going to go to California’ and he kept insisting and wanted us to stay at his house; and Mouse and Constanten would be staying there too. You just gotta join the party, so we did.”
It was then that they became the Kind Buds. “We thought it was funny. We’re both named Bud and we’re from Vermont—kind of like the whole ‘Daryl and Daryl’ thing. So out to Cali we went.”
When they came back, people wanted to hear their stories and hear them play together. “We kept the duo thing going. We had both dabbled in bands in our lives, with electric guitar and stuff like that. But when the two of us play together, there is definitely a chemistry there. Something kicks in between the two of us and we communicate musically really well together. As a guitar player, I’ve played with a lot of people, but when you play with someone like this you really sense it. We sensed that we had something kind of special. We’re guitar players in a jam band-world. We’re really unique because we’ve never gone to the full band.”
And they’ve stayed true to that acoustic duo thing, which you don’t really see anymore. The Kind Buds like every show to be unrehearsed. Unless they’re doing a live radio show, they never write a set list. “Eighty to 90 percent of the time we just stand up there and feel it out. It’s always different. We always end with different sets.” That’s one of the reasons people see them often because they don’t do the same songs, like the Grateful Dead never did the same shows. “It’s fun for us that way too, just stand up there and play a night where you never had anything in mind… Knowing where to go once you get in the middle of it is kind of fun, to let the music dictate the evening. We like when the crowd calls out some of their favorites. Someone might shout, ‘Althea’ and I’ll go right into it and Budd will jump in.”
While they know a lot of Dead tunes, they don’t know them all. Bud has a double-sided three-column song list that he’s adding “new old stuff” to all the time. Besides the Dead, they cover Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and songs from that era. Bud’s biggest musical influences are Jerry and the Dead but his others are all over the map. His earliest influence was BB King. “ I really tuned into him playing expressively with feeling. I remember that when I was nine. To me I was feeling the music, not just hearing it. I felt him grabbing me musically and taking me somewhere with it.” After that he focused on guitar players like Eric Clapton and the blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn. In high school, it was bands like the Who and Pink Floyd. Bob Dylan got him into the artist aspect of music and the song writing. The Beatles were also in the mix.
Here are some fun facts about the duo. Amazingly, both Bud and Budd started out playing the trumpet. Bud’s dad was a barbershop singer and Budd’s dad was a choir director. They both had family as an influence and then both switched over to guitar in their college days. When they first got together 10 years ago, they taught each other songs that each had written. Shortly after they started writing songs together. They have four CDs, one of which is all original, and two are live sets. Their first CD is mostly Dead covers. In total, they’ve written 40 songs together.
Bud says his perfect performance is when he’s not thinking about what he’s doing. “I like when the crowd is on the same ride as I’m on. There’s a transfer of energy constantly back and forth between me and the people out there. I’m kind of entranced in this music that takes over me. Sometimes I’m tired and not sure how I’ll get through the gig but this energy just takes over me. When Budd and I are really on, we’re not thinking about what we’re doing. We’re hearing each other but our eyes are closed. We’re on this musical journey together. We just enjoy it so much.”
BB King once said, “I want to play until I die,” and he did just that. The Kind Buds enjoy what they’re doing so much that they hope to ride this out just like BB King. “It’s a privilege that we get to share this experience with fans and friends,” Bud said.