Roseland Hunters at Alex's
Burnt out on touring, fronting bands and the music business in general, Michael Quinby quit. He settled into a normal-person job in Portland, where he's worked contentedly for nearly a decade, until now.
Quinby only recently got back in the game, but this time without any of his former music ambitions. He's in it just to play, a new concept for a guitarist who, in the '90s, toured with Joe Louis Walker, recorded with The Neville Brothers and played with Bay Area blues icons such as Johnny Nitro and Tommy Castro.
Quinby's new band, Roseland Hunters, borrows from bluesman Curtis Salgado's lineup, including drummer Brian Foxworth, keyboardist Craig Stevenson, bassist Damian Erskine and drummer Reinhardt Melz, along with bassist John Mazzocco.
Quinby and the Hunters, except for Erskine and Melz who are touring with another project, will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. Karen Lovely, Quinby's dad, Jim Quinby, and Paul Schmeling will sit in with the band for some songs. The cover charge is $5.
Born in Rhode Island, Quinby grew up in Southern Oregon. He attended Lincoln Elementary School and Ashland middle and high schools. After graduation, he moved directly to San Francisco, specifically the North Beach neighborhood, "where all the blues clubs are."
"I was living the life and having a great time, playing a lot, even playing three, four and five times a week, but only making about $60 a gig, which isn't much in someplace like San Francisco," he says.
Eventually, the lifestyle wore on Quinby, and he left San Francisco. He spent a few weeks in North Africa and then three years in Boston, where he felt lost among all the Berklee College of Music graduates who play the city. Eventually, he found his way back to the Northwest and Portland, where he works as a national sales representative.
For about 10 years, Quinby played only once or twice a year, typically with Melz and Erskine, "basically acknowledged as the best rhythm section in Portland." Then last year, a devastating breakup and a "one-time" performance with Salgado's band thrust him headlong into the Portland music scene.
"I've had six gigs and eight rehearsals in the last eight days," Quinby says, adding that his job is flexible.
For now, Roseland Hunters is only taking Pacific Northwest gigs and has set its sights on Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival in July.
"When I was a younger guy, I worked really hard to promote myself. But this last episode, we play, and people respond," he says. "It's merit-based; what a concept."
Quinby bills his music as "big, bad New Orleans funk," and the Hunters splits its set between Quinby's originals and songs by New Orleans-based bands, including The Meters, Anders Osborne, Eric Wendell and Jon Cleary.
"When I was touring with Joe Louis Walker, we played the opening party for the Louisiana Lottery at the Superdome, that was us with Huey Lewis and the News, The Neville Brothers, Gladys Knight and Fats Domino, and in my time off, I got to go play around New Orleans and see (its) amazing heritage," Quinby recalls. "That trip really blew my mind."
This April, members of Dumpstaphunk, a band of second-generation Nevilles, is coming to Portland to perform on the Hunters' debut album. Quinby says the album will be "really funky with lots of good players" but also "kind of nasty and rough."
"I'm a blues player. If you lay Stevie Ray Vaughan over a Meters' groove, you have my band," Quinby says. "I can't help but being a blues boy. It's burned into me, and I always will be."