Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boss tunes shuffle to MusicFest

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have been barnstorming the region this summer, playing two nights at Fenway Park and one at Gillette Stadium this month. Maybe you were there and want more Boss. Maybe you missed out, and are itching for some live “Jungleland” and the like.

Either way, E Street Shuffle will have you covered at Wachusett Mountain’s  MusicFest happening Sept. 9. The festival starts at noon and also features Little Texas, Orleans, Andy Cummings, and James Keyes.

A popular Springsteen tribute since 2008, E Street Shuffle works so well because its members are dedicated Bruce scholars as well as talented musicians. Singer Sean Loughlin doesn’t just understand the fanaticism; he lives it. He collects the innumerable Springsteen concert bootlegs, stays atop the artist’s history, and sees his own life experiences through the filter of Springsteen’s lyrics.

And he learned that people seeing E Street Shuffle are just like the people seeing a real Springsteen concert, and want to have the band dig deeply. And Loughlin has yet to be stumped by a request.

“I’ll know the song, but the band may not necessarily be ready to play some obscure tune that pops up once or twice on a demo recoding. But we learned pretty quickly that Bruce fans want to hear more than the hits. When we started, people, shouted out for ‘Thundercrack’ all the time” says Loughlin, referring to one of Springsteen’s long story songs that just circulated among bootleg traders before finally appearing on the “Tracks” box set.

E Street Shuffle balances the what with the how, meaning it doesn’t just play Bruce songs, it plays them the way the real E Street Band does in concert, going beyond the recorded versions from studio albums. Loughlin points out how some songs, like “Promised Land” have 15 different arrangements as Springsteen performed it over the years.

“What we’ll do is borrow a little something from all of the versions,” Loughlin said. “We want to give people a taste of why Springsteen has such a fanatical following and why his shows are so legendary.”  

Loughlin entered the fandom early. It started when he was 9 years old and his dad routinely played Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” album. As he got older, Loughlin developed his own appetite for the music.

After spending 10 years playing his own music in an original band, Loughlin formed E Street Shuffle with his brother Ryan and the lineup now includes two keyboards, sax and rhythm section.

Since starting this project, Loughlin says he has even more admiration for Springsteen

“I have even greater appreciation of him as a vocalist. When you put on a full show of this music, it’s a lot of work,” he says. “I don’t have the natural rasp that he has. When we started, I blew my voice out the third night of our first run. And there’s the sheer amount of lyrics he puts into a song. If  this were a Pink Floyd tribute, the band could play ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond' for 25 minutes and give the singer a break.”

E Street Shuffle comes from the Boss’ own home state of New Jersey, and is anchored along the Jersey shore, just like Springsteen himself.

“It’s always a little different when we play outside of New Jersey,” Loughlin says. “They are fascinated that we are from New Jersey and playing this music. When we play in Monmouth County where Bruce lives, it’s a little different. There’s a little more pressure at home to do it right.”

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