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`Morningwood' has reggae, punk hybrid

We all know what "morning wood" is, but not everyone knows exactly who Morningwood is.

"It was really hard to come across, but one day it just sort of popped up," says Shea Longi, bassist of the band Morningwood, of the band's name.

The band, including drummer JP "Lucky" Gant III, vocalist and guitarist Chris Hotchkiss, vocalist and guitarist Casey Mraz and trumpeter Peter Smith, was preparing for rehearsal when I met up with them at the ultra-lax pad where they make their magic.

The majority of the members met in high school, with original members Mraz, Gant III and Longi birthing some of their primitive music, while about a year later, Hotchkiss was invited to add some of his personal zest. And only about three months ago, newest member Smith joined the band to make it an orgasmic five-some.

If you can imagine a cross between modern, mellow reggae and the pulsating rhythms of punk, you'll end up with a hybrid that, in essence, is Morningwood's music. Songs like "Cherry," "The Chick Song" and "4th and 17" put these guys in a class of their own. Another song, "Ganjafied" is a prime example of this band's creative ability. With a harmonious mixture of illustrated instrumentals and liberal lyrics, the song infuses a groove into a crowd. When Hotchkiss sings "Oh I wannabe ganjafied/ Pass the duchie to the left hand side/ It'll give me somethin' that will clear up my mind/ So I wannabe ganjafied," the whole band is unified to advocate a single substance. I'm sure you can figure it out.

The song "Cherry" - the unanimous favorite of the band in terms of performance - is an awesome correlation of each member's individual styles. The song, which is exclusively an instrumental and contains no lyrics, is relatively new and is the first to include the timely tunes of Pete's trumpet. With its variations between string and drum accents, hypersonic and leisurely tempos, and solid yet malleable harmonies, it's no wonder why words have not been added to this song. A fine sample of funky reggae, this song gives rise to mad drum and bass emphasis combined with the rhythmical stresses of punk guitar.

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So, just how do they compose these musical masterpieces? While Casey invented much of their earliest strains, they say that they all contribute to their current melodies. Influenced by the legendary Jimmy Hendrix, along with popular contemporaries like Sublime, NOFX, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band has a natural ear for good sound.

The band is currently working on the release of a full-length, sixteen-song CD, which members hope to be completed in the next 2-4 months. Morningwood will perform at a Breast Cancer benefit tonight at the Launchpad, 618 Central Ave SW. There is an $8.00 cover and doors open at 7:00 p.m. For more information, call 764-8887.

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