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Story last updated at 2/4/2009 - 11:44 am
Not too many groups can say they have all three branches of government working for them. The recently formed musical trio Tidewater consists of three members employed by the judicial legislative, and executive branches.
Dan Pollak, Heather Parker and Leta Simons found each other last fall through Craigslist, an online classified Web site. Pollak had just moved to Juneau and was the first of the three to post an ad looking for local musicians who were interested in forming a band. Around the same time, Simons posted a similar ad, then was surprised to find that Pollak had already beat her to the punch. The two contacted each other and began playing together.
Parker, who plays fiddle in the group, was browsing Craigslist for apartments when she moved from Indiana in November. She noticed an ad that Pollak and Simons had posted in search of a lead instrument. They had already talked with a few other fiddle players, but the chemistry hadn't been right until they found Parker.
Tidewater could be described as bluegrass, country, folk, or a variety of other styles. They play covers by a variety of artists from Hank Williams to Bob Dylan.
"I guess, for lack of a better label, I'd basically use the Americana label to encompass all of those different genres," Pollak said.
Pollak plays upright bass in the group. His commitment to the instrument was solidified during his move from northern California to Juneau last August. He designated over half of his car as bass space for the drive. His first instrument was saxophone, which he played throughout school and college, primarily as a jazz player. He described his musical history as "a long checkered background of playing different kinds of music and different instruments."
"At some point I discovered there were other kinds of music besides jazz," Pollak said.
At that time, he picked up the guitar and started getting into more popular music and bluegrass. However, he felt that there were too many guitar players in the world, so he eventually came to playing string bass as "the solution to that problem."
"It's a good conversation starter," Pollak said. "I have a wheel on it so I can wheel it down the street. People see me and sort of smile at me, like when you're walking a cute dog."
Simons is the guitarist in the group. She has been active in Juneau's music scene before, playing in the Folk Festival every year that she has lived here. She previously lived in Homer where she played at local events and participated in musical theatre. She has also played in bands in a variety of styles from country to Dixieland.
Parker grew up taking fiddle lessons and has played in orchestras for several years. She is currently playing in the Juneau Symphony.
Upon forming, the group's first order of business was to get a catalog of songs together, which wasn't a problem considering Simons' large repertoire. She said they are simply tunes she knows "from years gone by." Pollak expressed his amazement at the shear number of songs Simons has under her belt. Simons also writes original songs, but so far only one of them has made it onto the band's set list.
All three members enjoy singing and they spend lots of time practicing their three-part harmonies - not an easy skill to master.
"It does require that everybody has at least a pretty good ear," Pollack said. "It also takes some level of getting along because you often have to stop and say 'Hey, you're singing my part.' I've found in other bands ... that some people get really annoyed. It can be very painstaking and tedious to go through the chorus of a song fifteen times in a row trying different parts until it actually is a harmony. It seems that we all like doing that."
The group also attributed their musical success to the fact that they aren't too busy.
"We have time for each other," Simons said. "We're not all tied to other things."
However, time may be short for Tidewater. Pollack has plans to "probably" leave this fall. Simons said she hopes that his "probably" will turn into "probably not." Parker is also considering leaving at the end of the legislative session, although she said she isn't sure.
Fear not, Juneau. There is still time to hear Tidewater perform. They plan on playing at Gold Street Music on March 7, at Folk Festival and as many other places as they can before the band possibly disbands.
Whether the talent is genetically derived, stimulant-induced, or simply an act of self-medication during winter months, there's no question that Southeast's musicians have soul - but often go unnoticed. If you know of a shredder who should be heard, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org