This Bum's for you

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I can be kind of a snob sometimes, so I approached Bum Wealthy with a healthy amount of skepticism. As someone who subsists on a diet of mostly indie rock and Top-40 pop, I'm wary of anything that reeks of jam music. And like most acts on the Ohio outdoor festival circuit, this seven-man crew is known to embark on extended expressions of instrumental prowess.

Don't expect me to smash my Pavement albums anytime soon, but Bum Wealthy is helping to expand my Pitchfork-tainted mind.

The group's first full-length, Bumper Crop, is solid, and not in an "I'll-be-polite-for-the-purposes- of-this-article-but-really- it's-not-that-memorable" way. Recorded in just two days at Central City Recording, it pares a six-year career of more than 100 songs down to the best 46 minutes of blues-funk-jazz-reggae-rock party music you're likely to hear this year.

Bum Wealthy succeeds where many similar acts fail: They build on the foundation of solid songwriting, and they show some restraint.

"It was a reigning-it-in process," saxophonist Gregg Cook said. "The reason we did it so well in two days is because we had the songs locked down."

These guys have skills, but they understand being a great band means more than just mastering your instrument, or even getting on the same wavelength as the other players. They prize their ability to craft airtight arrangements, memorable melodies and thoughtful lyrics - not qualities I would expect from a group that once released a CD-R called Clusterfunkasaurus Rex.

"It's important to get your point across with as little words as possible. That's the goal. And the same applies with music," singer-guitarist Steven Roumeliote said. "We had enough material to release an album after the first year ... We wanted to wait until the timing was right and the chemistry was perfect. I liken it to [cooking with] a Crock Pot as opposed to microwaving your food."

The economical approach extends to the stage. At Friday's album release show, Bum Wealthy intends to fit 13 songs into an hour, preferring to show off their impressive catalog rather than engage in endless noodling.

The concert, which also features Ekoostik Hookah and The Ark Band, is a benefit for global recycling program the G.R.O.W. Project ( Bum Wealthy gravitates toward such events. Given how tough it is to make a living as a seven-piece band, they figure they might as well make money for a good cause. Even their name is a nod to the idea that just getting a few free beers on the night can sometimes be payment enough.

With that in mind, they're giving away 100 copies of Bumper Crop Friday. After another show Saturday at Skully's, the group is only playing sporadically for the rest of the fall, so catch them while you can. Maybe you'll be converted, too.