Absolutely Crucial is a local band comprised of family and friends who work at Arizona Music Pro and run Sleeping Lion Martial Arts. Originally a band of four, they have doubled to eight in their time playing. They played in Flagstaff at Firecreek Coffee Company Saturday.
The Saturday show started with an opening from Random Impulse Taiko, who gave a brief overview of the history of taiko drumming, in its ceremonial, practical and artistic forms. Unlike traditional concert openers, Random Impulse Taiko was joined on stage by Absolutely Crucial to perform some improv at the tail end of their set. Together, the two groups made a confluence that produced very spacey and meditative tunes.
As the main attraction of the event, Absolutely Crucial started their segment with one of their new songs from their album "Oxygen." During their performance, T-shirts and CD's of the album were given away.
All living beings have aspects of their life that are utterly important, entirely necessary, wholly critical, etc. Neil Wilson and his family said music is Absolutely Crucial.
Neil is on vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, his wife Nina Wilson on alternative percussion and backup vocals, and his children, Avery Wilson who plays bass and guitar and Aspen Wilson who plays the drums. Their family friends Tony Chavez, John Whooten, Mandy Melback and Jack Van Haverbeck are also involved with the band. Chavez plays rhythm guitar, does both lead and backup vocals, alternative percussion and harmonica. Van Haverbeck primarily plays keyboard but does play bass as well. Whooten plays guitar and Melback plays mandolin.
Absolutely Crucial’s origins start with Neil and Chavez, both of whom did solo acts until they got involved with each other.
“Tony and I both had solo acts that we’d combine and then we played some shows together and kind of got momentum with [Avery and Aspen] who play the bass and the drums," Neil said. "It’s been about a year now and then my wife Nina wanted to be more involved with the performance.”
When the band comes up with the title for an album, they try to work the theme of it into their name. Their first album, "Carabiner," features a mountain climber as its cover in reference to the clip that keeps climbers safe and secure. Likewise, their most recent album "Oxygen," is absolutely crucial to living organisms.
The band also gives away a guitar at each show they perform. Neil has access to guitars that are being thrown away because of the convenience of working at Arizona Music Pro.
“Two of us fix guitars so we’re able to get guitars that are being disposed of and make them playable again," Neil said. "There’s kind of an honorable thing about that, keeping the instrument alive and then we give the instrument away, which is like spreading the music. There’s this thing as a band where we’re doing this for the experience and to spread the music."
When the guitar is restored to playable condition, all of the band members sign it before giving it away at their show.
Absolutely Crucial had been looking forward to their latest performance at Firecreek Coffee Company for some time as they have been working up to the point where they felt confident in their sound and continuity.
"I remember being little and my dad would play some of the songs that we're going to play," Aspen said.
The band played at the Firecreek Coffee Company once before, but the timing was set so that a lot of students were out of town, resulting in a slightly smaller audience. Firecreek bar manager Wynn Locke has seen many groups come to perform at the venue.
“We usually have a show every weekend, although it depends on when the students are around. We have poetry slams every Wednesday and an open mic once a month,” Locke said. “I’ve worked [at Firecreek] a long time and have seen a lot of groups play here. Everything from epic fantasy metal to hip-hop and what you’re seeing tonight. It’s all very eclectic.”
Absolutely Crucial is a multigenerational local band that shares music through performance and provides audience members with free guitars. Their latest album, "Oxygen" was released July 19, and can be found online.