Chris Robinson Brotherhood: A Crowe flies with a new flock at Utah Arts Festival
Music • Chris Robinson Brotherhood, led by Black Crowes’ co-founder, to play Utah Arts Festival and a club show

By Sean P. Means

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: June 26, 2014 09:11AM
Updated: June 26, 2014 04:12PM
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Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Courtesy image.

Chris Robinson has no interest in shaking his money maker.

“I make music that can’t sell iPads,” says Robinson, founder of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, which plays a style of psychedelic folk/blues that’s markedly different from the bluesy rock band that made Robinson famous, The Black Crowes. “My music will not sell you a Prius. I like that.”

Chris Robinson Brotherhood will perform Friday, June 27, at the Utah Arts Festival at Library Square, part of the wide range of attractions starting today that encompasses music, visual art, food, film, literary arts, kids’ activities, workshops and more, and the next night to a capacity crowd at The State Room in Salt Lake City.

“I think you should file our records under ‘Hippie Baroque,’ ” Robinson said in a phone interview from Louisville, Ky., during the band’s current tour.

The Black Crowes, with their hard-rock jam sensibilities, made a big splash with the 1990 debut album “Shake Your Money Maker.” That album went quintuple-platinum and generated the chart-topping singles “Hard to Handle” (a cover of an Otis Redding song) and “She Talks to Angels.”

The band — whose core consists of Robinson and his brother Rich — went on to release eight more studio albums and four live albums. It has been on hiatus since 2010, interrupted only by a tour last year.

“With a band, people go, ‘It’s like a marriage,’ ” Robinson said. “People forget sometimes that we were really very young. Rich was 18, I was 21 when we made the first Black Crowes record. It’s not a marriage. You’re dragging around your high-school girlfriend the rest of your life.”

Robinson’s musical tastes, and how they diverged from the rest of The Black Crowes, were evident to the band’s fans by 2008, when the “Warpaint” album was released.

“My interests have always been a little more on the folkie/roots side, where you could take a bunch of different influences there and make something cosmic out of it,” Robinson said.

It was the pursuit of songwriting, he said, that spurred him to launch the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Writing songs, he said, “has always led me to good things in my life. The songwriting saved me through the dark times, and the songwriting makes it that much sweeter when it’s [good].”

Robinson said he’s been happy with his writing collaboration with CRB’s guitarist, Neal Casal (who played in Ryan Adams’ backup band, The Cardinals). He’s also enjoyed the way the other band members — keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Mark Dutton and drummer George Sluppick — have made contributions to the music.

“This band is a collective embryo,” Robinson said. “I’ve never said a word to anybody about anything. … The music we’ve made is interesting to us. The more you nurture the things that make it special for us — to play together, to compose together, to live on a f---ing bus together — we nurture those things and keep all the negative stuff out. It works for us.”

The music is also very malleable to the performance. With the Utah Arts Festival gig, being a festival, he said, “you don’t want to play too many sad ballads.” For The State Room, he added, the band will play two sets, “so we have more space.”

Touring with the CRB is much more low-key than the high-flying days of The Black Crowes.

“We still set up our own gear, we’re still very humble in pursuit of what this music means to us,” Robinson said. “That’s what the bond is: We’re all very committed to this music, beyond money and egos. That’s a unique place to be, I think.”

CRB has released three albums — the latest, “Phosphorescent Harvest,” came out in April — and none have so far hit the commercial heights The Black Crowes scaled. Robinson is OK with that.

“Anything that has to do with a corporation selling your art or your music or your vibration in the universe is kind of f---ed up, because they are only interested in profit, and they want to tell you what they think they can do to squeeze that out of you,” he said.

“Freedom is a big part of it — the freedom to say, ‘I don’t have to have the accoutrement of fame and success for other people,’ when the real success should always be in pursuit in how authentic your sound is.”

spmeans@sltrib.com

Twitter: @moviecricket

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

P The psychedelic folk/blues band will perform twice in Salt Lake City this weekend.

Tonight • 9:45 at the Amphitheater Stage of the Utah Arts Festival, at Library Square, 200 E. 400 South; festival admission is $12 for adults, $6 for seniors 65 and over, free for children 12 and under.

Saturday • 9 p.m. at The State Room, 638 S. State St. The show is sold out.

Utah Arts Festival

P The 38th annual Utah Arts Festival features music, visual arts, film, literary arts, kids’ activities, food, workshops and more.

When • Through Sunday, noon to 11 p.m. each day

Where • Library Square, 200 East and 400 South, Salt Lake City

Admission • $12 for adults; $6 for people 65 and older; $6 for adults on Friday before 3 p.m. (the “lunchtime special”); free for children 12 and younger; $35 for a four-day pass

Information • Go to uaf.org or download the Utah Arts Festival mobile app