In a groove :: Big Metal Rooster celebrates 100th show


Scott McClurg /

Big Metal Rooster, from left, Tom Fleming, Matt Miner, Luke Henry and Derek Hein, just played at the Wakarusa Festival and will perform two nights at the Jazzhaus to celebratie their 100th show together.

Nobody seems sure exactly how to describe the sound of local act Big Metal Rooster -- and that's just fine with the members.

"Everyone wants to call it a 'jam band,'" says drummer Matt Miner. "I guess, to a certain extent, that fits."

The quartet, comprised of Miner, guitarists Tom Fleming and Luke Henry and bassist Derek Hein, will bring a sound that has been characterized as a fusion of jazz, classic rock and bluegrass to The Jazzhaus as they celebrate their 100th show together.

"It fits under the 'jam band' heading, but everything underneath that label is so diverse," Hein adds. "The really great thing about this genre is that we can have a Latin song or a blues song or a rock song and still have the ability to improvise on it."

With influences ranging from Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to Phish and The Grateful Dead, the Lawrence outfit's music is teeming with a variety of different styles.

"It's rock, but it's got all those other influences mixed in," Fleming says. "People can call us whatever they want, but if they like good music then they'll like us.

Past Event

Big Metal Rooster

  • Friday, July 2, 2004, 10 p.m.
  • Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $4


Dark side
Hein and Fleming first started the collective that would become Big Metal Rooster -- a name inspired by a quirky housewarming gift -- as a couple of teens in Topeka.

"We started writing songs early on and played with various musicians and high school friends," Fleming remembers. "There was this old cable warehouse where we were able to store our equipment and practice because my dad worked for the cable company.

"Some nights we'd be there from 11 p.m. until 4 in the morning, just jamming," Hein adds.

After cycling through several drummers and guitarists, as well as enduring a house-fire that consumed most of their equipment, they came in contact with Henry, a 2004 KU graduate, by random chance.

"I met Derek while he was walking his dog over by his old apartment," says Henry. "I mentioned that I played guitar, and he invited me to come see them play a show at a friend's house."

Henry was soon integrated into the group, which continued to perform at whatever venue it could find. This included local Italian eatery Bambino's, which is where Miner first watched the ensemble play in the fall of 2002.

"I'd done some jam work with my previous band, Einstein Electric," Miner recalls. "We were playing one night at Bambino's when Tom came up to me. I joined up with the band, played a couple of shows, and that was it. I was on."

The addition of Miner brought extra experience and focus to the act.

"He put our concentration more on the vocals and the technical aspects, so we weren't just four guys up there jamming anymore," Hein says.

That newfound professionalism and desire manifested itself in a stretch of 27 shows over a period of seven months, during which the band was able to come together as a cohesive unit and record its debut record.

The members describe the self-titled album as being similar to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," in that it feels almost like one extended track.

"We went through the first three songs and weren't too happy with how they sounded. So we started over, relaxed and just played," Fleming says. "You can fit 74 minutes on a CD, and we played 73 minutes and 53 seconds.

Miner says, "Basically, it was a miracle that we were able to get through it."

Bigger stages
For Big Metal Rooster, all of the hard work culminated during an appearance at last month's Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival.

"I was able to talk with and just be among some of my favorite musicians," Miner says. "We played the biggest stage we've ever played on, in front of more people than we've ever played for, with better gear and a better sound."

Still, they insist the highlight of the show wasn't being on the giant stage but rather jamming inside a packed tent that had been erected by the Central Plains Jam Band Society.

"Everybody that we could see right up front were people that had seen our shows before," Hein recalls. "But then all these other people around them were really digging us as well."

It's that love of the smaller venue, of being close to the crowd, which Big Metal Rooster will bring to the stage this weekend.

Hein says, "Whether we're playing Wakarusa or The Jazzhaus, they're gonna get the best that we can play."


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