About two years ago, Saratoga Springs guitarist Tom Lindsay and Cambridge bassist Jeff Ravreby decided to strip their rock band, The Blackouts, down to a duo.
The band had already been gigging out for about eight years at that point, usually as a three- or four-piece with various drummers and second guitarists anchoring the core duo. But Lindsay and Ravreby were finding that the bars and clubs they were playing in Saratoga Springs wanted to hire duos or solo acts, not full bands.
“I think it was mainly facilitated by the fact that we just found a lot of places that we were inquiring about playing would say they really had a need for a two-piece — they didn’t have room for a full band,” Ravreby said. “It was more a function of fitting into a broader range of venues.”
Where: Bailey’s Cafe, 37 Phila St. #5, Saratoga Springs
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
How Much: Free
More Info: 583-6060, www.baileyscafe.com
Finding new niche
For a duo steeped in classic rock such as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and jam bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish, the transition wasn’t necessarily ideal. However, the two have found a new niche in the crowded bar scene, utilizing a drum machine to fill out the sound and allow for some epic-length jams on occasion.
“I would prefer to play with a live drummer and another guitarist, and it’s the same thing with Tom — that would be our preference,” Ravreby said. “But we’ve sort of found a niche in this particular lineup. We’ve even played — we played a gig in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, with a drummer and the drum machine.”
At 52, Ravreby and Lindsay have no grand schemes of making it big — they’re happy playing cover gigs, such as their next performance at Bailey’s Cafe on Saturday night, whenever they have time in between juggling careers and families. The band’s humorous attitude comes into play in their cut-up fliers for gigs and on their Facebook page, which features fake quotes from prestigious magazines such as Rolling Stone and AARP Magazine.
“We try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Ravreby said. “When I do gig posters, it’s kind of reflective of our tongue-in-cheek approach to being 52-year-old rock ’n’ rollers, you know.”
The duo both graduated in 1983 from Skidmore College, where they played in numerous rock groups — although surprisingly, never together. They were reintroduced to each other by a mutual drummer friend, and soon were playing together a few times a month, strictly for fun.
“It was a way to kind of jam and just release, or just enjoy playing music together whether it was improvisation or structured songs,” Ravreby said. “We both enjoy live music, both listening and playing, and then we both really enjoyed playing out in clubs. . . . We get a kick out of interacting with the crowd, having fun, being more than just background music.”
The drum machine approach certainly turns a few heads on the bar scene in Saratoga. They’ve been known to tackle everything from Phish to Pink Floyd, to more modern fare like the Black Keys and Oasis.
In addition, the duo uses looping and other effects, and Ravreby can trigger drum fills on the machine using pedals. The two will also often switch instruments and vocal duties, varying the sound even more.
“In this day and age, with the technology, we have a good drum machine and good vocal processing, and other effects that we utilize,” Ravreby said. “It’s not uncommon for people to turn around and say, ‘Holy [crap], we didn’t realize it was just two guys; it sounds like a full band.’ ”
Focus on classics
The duo will also occasionally throw in an original song by Lindsay, though the majority of their sets are covers. With their focus on classic rock, the duo has found an appreciative audience with the college-aged crowd, as well as the older crowd.
“We do four or five Oasis songs, and it happens a lot where we’ll get a sing-along going,” Ravreby said. “We gotta throw in the requisite ‘Mustang Sally’ here and there. But I find that classic rock is really classic rock — whether you’re 21 or 41 years old, it appeals to everyone.”