“If you want to see what’s new in the San Francisco Bay area, come check us out,” says guitarist Roger McNamee of Doobie Decibel System. “It’s a really cool thing we have going on and Midnight North will be opening for us; that’s Graham Lesh, Phil’s son’s band.”
Havana in New Hope, PA is the scene tonight for Roger and his band mates as they take the stage at 8 p.m. in an intoxicating evening of jam bands. “Yeah, the tour thus far has been unbelievable,” said a confident sounding McNamee. “We’re doing more shows here in the Northeast than in the bay area; it’s crazy. I love playing in the east though, Jason is in New York and I lived in Swarthmore, PA for 20 years so it’s always great to get back there.”
Doobie Decibel System is comprised of some of the finest musicians not only from the jam band culture but in rock music in general. “We began as a duo,” explained McNamee as he recounted the band’s beginning and current lineup. “Jason Crosby and I started performing together. Jason plays with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir and has played with Susan Tedeschi and a whole lot of others. Well the band I was with, we somehow found ourselves booked at “Sweetwater,” which Weir is or was involved with and Jason was there one night and he approached me after our set and told me he really liked what we were doing; I thought he was just being polite. The next month he showed again and this time he jammed with us and then he and I started playing together and we kept getting invited back. Eventually we morphed into a band and added Leebo of ELO, Jay Lane and Pete Sears who played keyboards on the first two Rod Stewart albums and Jeff Pehrson who has performed with Hot Tuna and when we go out on the road it’s a lot of fun.”
The Band’s name is interesting in itself; a play on an outdated library system and one that has drawn the ire in the past of another group with a similar sounding name. “It really is a funny story,” said Roger with a slight chuckle. “Jason, as I said before, is in New York and he is in like nine bands or something like that; he jams with everybody. So one night after a recording session or a gig, someone asked him how he keeps track of all of the bands that he’s in and he responded, “I need a system, I need the Dewey Decibel System; no, I need the Doobie Decibel System and of course there’s usually lots of weed involved so it kind of fit. Jason comes back and tells me this story and I started laughing and said, “Buddy! That is a great name for the band” and that’s how we arrived at that!”
Ah but with a name like that, there’s bound to be aroused suspicion and or difficulties; right? “Yeah,” says Roger as he relayed a rough ordeal from another band’s manager who demanded that they cease using the word, “Doobie” in their name. “So we’re riding in the tour bus, now you have to realize, up to this point the Doobie Decibel System wasn’t gigging a lot; as a matter a fact we were on the road with my other band called Moonalice. My cell rings and this nice gentlemen calls and immediately begins screaming at me that we’re, “Ruining 35 years of work,” and that we need to stop immediately. I literally had the phone feet from my ear like in a cartoon because this guy was yelling so loud. Turns out it was the manager of The Doobie Brothers and he insisted that using the word, “Doobie,” somehow infringed on their copyright. Now us being easy going kind of guys, we asked him to give us a week and we’d have our people look into the legalities of using the word “Doobie.” “Sure enough we found Doobie Brother tribute bands using the word and other uses for the word and they were not being asked to do the same. So a week later we speak with him again and he insists that we drop the name. We agreed to another two week period where we would try and reach an agreement and the Friday before the Monday we were due to speak; we get hit with a lawsuit over the use of the name. Well, we put it out on our site on Saturday, by Sunday it was all over Facebook and by Wednesday it somehow got picked up by Howard Stern and he rips into the Doobie Brothers and their management. OK, as luck would have it, Moonalice was playing one of the largest jam band festivals in the nation in Virginia and we are scheduled to go on right before the Doobie Brothers. Our set up backstage was such that the bands were all in close quarters with each other and Tom Johnston, who has got to be one of the nicest men on the planet, approached us and heard about what had happened with their management. He wanted us to know that the band had nothing to do with it and apologized. I guess being ridiculed by Howard Stern helped but regardless it was very nice of him to come over to us. So I get an idea to have Jason take a picture of both bands together, handshakes and the works and we blast it all over the internet showing that the rift is healed and all was well. So, essentially, the name which came from a card catalog became much bigger than that.”
Tonight’s show at Havana and the ensuing tour, including Brighten Music Hall in Allston, MA on July 22, Jerry Jam in Bath, NH on July 23, Iron Works in Buffalo, NY on July 26, The Westcott Theatre in Syracuse, NY on July 27, Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs, NY on July 28 and Brooklyn Bowl, NY on July 29, 2016. Then out to California before returning east are just part if their schedule. The band loves to perform and does so as often as possible and looks very much forward to the show tonight and all shows in the future. To discover more about Doobie Decibel System, please go to www.ddsband.com. To find out about Midnight North, please visit www.midnightnorth.com.
Havan is located on Main Street in New Hope, PA and tickets are priced at just $15.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)