Local Jam Trio Vibe & Direct Cuts First LP, Brings Third Festival to Beachland

On the right night and in the right state of mind, if you wander deep enough into the woods surrounding the quarry at Nelson Ledges, you’ll stumble on the guys in Vibe & Direct and Wanyama throwing down a 3 a.m. heater for those who aren’t yet done for the night and those who simply can’t find where they pitched their tent. However you end up there, it’s a testament to the community that surrounds a long-active music scene in Northeast Ohio, and Vibe is riding the main nerve right now.

With a big show at Beachland set for this weekend, guitarist Michael Miller spoke with Scene about the exciting crossroads the band is at these days. The show, which serves as the band’s third Vibe In Color festival, will act as the official release for their first full-length album, Chrysanthemum. Originally, this was just going to be an EP. But there’s an insatiability to the guys in Vibe, and they forged onward as a self-imposed production deadline loomed.

“In the last two months we went on a writing binge and wrote three new songs together,” Miller says, “which, in my opinion are the best three on the album.” Those tunes would be “Wishing Well,” “Queens and Kings” and kaleidoscopic album opener “Bull and the Minx.” They fit in well with the album, and each brings yet another element to the band’s array of influences and moods.

For “Bull,” drummer Danny Giannetto came up with chord progression. It’s a free-wheeling ride across a number of danceable melodies and more open-ended “jam-friendly” landscapes. When Miller says that the band takes a great deal of time to meticulously arrange these songs for the stage, it’s clear that the band is intent on preserving its studio structure while allowing room to insert a healthy amount of improvisation.

“Wishing Well,” meanwhile, was shepherded by bassist Doug Rab, and “Queens and Kings” was led into reality by Miller. “You get the hues of all of our personalities in those songs,” he says.

The challenge of arranging those tunes for the live setting is something that the band has enjoyed. That’s because the band’s main goal has been to “marry electronic music with live instrumentation” — employing a near-infinite spectrum of sounds in a very immediate and intimate setting like the stage at your local club or tucked into a Portage County forest.

“On this one, we did a way better job of mixing those two philosophies together,” Miller says. “Every once in a while we’ll get lucky and we’ll take an improv section that we made up on stage and say, ‘Yeah, we gotta make that into a song.’” More often than not, though, the band sets its sights clearly on that goal of blending the two worlds, and ends up “working the crap out of these songs.”

Giannetto and Miller have been playing music together since their early teens; they formed Vibe & Direct about four years ago. Miller says it’s sort of an extension of an earlier alt-rock band that they had, but that it took a few revelations for them to move in this funk-laden, jam-friendly direction.

Between bands, he stumbled across Ohio natives Papadosio. “It was the first nerve that struck me musically in years,” he says. Soon thereafter, he convinced Giannetto to return to Cleveland after a brief move out of state.

For a while the band included singer Marty Calkins, but these days the trio splits vocal duties.

Early on, Vibe worked sort of as a Rebelution-style reggae band. Then came frequent trips to Nelson Ledges and a heavier lean on bands like Lotus and STS9 (and, of course, Papadosio), and that natural evolution brought Vibe to bassist Doug Rab. (“He ended up being the missing piece for us to solidify that smooth jazz electronica sound,” Miller says.)

Now, Vibe keeps a prolific presence in a very active scene here in Northeast Ohio. Whether it’s opening for the tiers of jam bands that roll through town or heating up the sand at Nelson Ledges, the band’s enlivened the symbiotic relationship between listeners and performers here.

“From the get-go, it’s really cool in Cleveland — as long as you’re decent and genuine, people will come out and see you,” Miller says. “It’s supportive both ways; the bands support the community as much as the community supports the band.” (Miller’s father, to be clear, is Jim Miller of The JiMiller Band renown.)

And with the summer looming, Vibe’s gearing up for a number of excellent festival bills. (Keep your eyes peeled; it’s still a bit too early for us to spill the beans on all that.)

But more immediately, Vibe & Direct is looking ahead to its third Vibe In Color festival, held next Saturday at Beachland Ballroom. “It’s a show that’s just as much about the artists as it is about the people that are there and the musicians onstage,” Miller says. He promises a few special surprises in the setlist, including the live debut of those three newest tunes on the LP.

“It’s a party for everybody,” Miller says.

Vibe In Color 3
Featuring Vibe & Direct, Electric Love Machine, lespecial, Broken Keys AkAfunk
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $12 ADV, $15 DOS, beachlandballroom.com

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
Scroll to read more Music News articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.