Local band Blue Trick making itself at home

North Carolina rockers find enlightenment in the Gorge

For a band to define its identity, it must first find a place it can call home.

Some bands gravitate toward the glitz and glamour of New York or L.A. Others like the smoky downtown clubs of Chicago, New Orleans or Seattle.

But another group of musicians — like Hood River’s “Blue Trick” — needs a little something more. They crave a certain energy to help them reach their creative peak.

And, according to the members of Blue Trick, you’ll know when you find it.

“We feel really lucky to have found this place,” said Charlene Brinster, the band’s bassist and primary vocalist, who is married to lead guitarist Mike Brinster.

“I’m almost overwhelmed by the feeling of the Gorge. It’s the first time since I lived at my parents’ house that I truly feel at home,” she said.

Charlene, Mike and drummer Susan Franklin agree that there is something special — even magical — about the Hood River music community, and the local support has been “tremendous.”

“People drop in all the time and want to play music,” Charlene said. “Our house has earned the name ‘The Commune’ because our friends seem to congregate here on a regular basis. We also go out and listen to each other play, which is always fun.”

The band has developed close ties with fellow local musicians such as Jon Cyparski (Syncline), Scot Bergeron, Luke McKern (Grand Simple), Geno Michaels (Hood River Inn), Phil Maddux and the members of All Night Station.

“We want to be good, but becoming superstars is not our goal,” said Mike, who met Susan through his cousin, and became Blue Trick’s guitarist in 1999.

“Ultimately, sharing the fun of music is our goal,” Susan said. “It’s less about living the rockstar lifestyle right now. We just want to support ourselves and find someone to carry all of our heavy equipment.”

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Originally from Raleigh, N.C., Susan, Charlene and Mike make up the three-piece band which defines its style as “gritty American pop.” Tracing their influences back to R&B (Charlene), rock (Mike) and pop (Susan), Blue Trick offers an eclectic variety of rhythms that defy traditional genres.

“Debate No. 63 is ‘what is our genre?’” said Charlene, who used to play with Susan an all-girl band called “Born-Again Blonde.”

“We have a lot of different influences, and then we collectively brought in the twang from our days in North Carolina,” she said.

The trio began in 1999 and moved to Hood River in the fall of 2001 after visiting on a four-month road trip that summer. The “Fantasy Tour” took them across the United States and helped them decide that it was time to relocate to the Northwest.

After a short stint in Portland during the winter of 2001, Charlene, Mike and Susan packed up their instruments and headed to Hood River in search of a different kind of tune.

“If we hadn’t done that tour, we would have never realized what was out here,” said Susan, a former corporate software developer who handles most of Blue Trick’s promotional and scheduling tasks.

“We were ready for something new,” added Charlene. “So we just quit our high-tech jobs and went after it.”

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“Going after it” is exactly what the band has done since it moved to Hood River.

Blue Trick is currently in the midst of a two-month tour of the Midwest and East Coast, playing in historic venues such as Poor David’s Pub in Dallas, Texas, where the Dixie Chicks strutted their stuff before making it to music’s biggest stage.

They have already played gigs in Boise, Idaho, Provo, Utah, Lincoln, Neb., Buffalo, N.Y., and Rochester, N.Y., on the current tour, and will continue on through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and New Mexico, before the grand finale May 23 at Savino’s Lounge in Hood River.

“We’re hoping there’s some karma in these places,” Susan said. “A lot of the venues have a tradition of showcasing up-and-coming talent, and this is the best way to get our name out there.”

Blue Trick booked a total of 15 gigs on its current tour, and hopes to continue playing through the summer in clubs like Portland’s Green Room and Boise’s Blue Bouquet and Tom Grainey’s.

But, despite the busy schedule and all the time spent together, not one of the three band members is hinting at any signs of burnout.

“We realize that with a competitive music scene developing here in the Northwest, we need to get out and play if we want to make it,” Mike said. “We want to make the Northwest our territory, and that’s not likely to happen if we only play in Hood River.

“It would be nice to take the country by storm, but we also consider the tour a chance to visit our friends and family across the country,” he said.

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You can track Blue Trick’s 2003 spring tour on their website: www.bluetrick.com. Information can also be obtained through Julee Wasserman, owner of Julee’s Gorge Tours. Wasserman has been one of the band’s biggest supporters, helping them draw crowds to various Portland venues. She also helped the band book a New Year’s Eve show at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, which earned them some much-needed exposure.

“We wouldn’t have had those kind of audiences without Julee,” Susan said. “She has brought us a lot of attention and there is now a shared excitement with her friends and clients. “It’s a great partnership that has really benefited both parties.”

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