The Hot Seats – Richmond VA
“Richmond’s beloved absurdist stringband” – Style Weekly
The Hot Seats are Special Ed & The Shortbus; they were Special Ed And The Shortbus, now they are the Hot Seats. The seemingly self evident motives behind this change – to shed an offensive name, make more fans, gain more respect – were not primary in the band’s decision making. Six years ago (January of 2002), the Hot Seats (nee Special Ed . . .) were formed in Richmond, VA as a good-time band between new friends, many of whom were exploring a genre unknown to them on equally novel instruments. It started with weekly gig, rapidly followed by trips out of town, festival appearances, longer tours, new music, new influences, competition-winning performances (both individually and as an ensemble), a loss of three members, a critically acclaimed trip to the UK, and four albums.
With each year and step forward, the band has moved further from scatological humor and stunts for shock-value and more towards a concentration on musical complexity, a focus on the traditions from which it draws, and a tongue-in-cheek irony more comparable to Jonathan Swift than to South Park. The band, while retaining the irreverence and fun loving character of its inception, does not resemble much the ragtag ensemble of the summer of 2002. For these reasons, they are the Hot Seats, a name that connotes the frenetic frenzy this band can whip up, and one they feel better represents their current and future musical intentions, as well as their desire to share this music with a larger audience.
These intentions are to keep the role of traditional musician as entertainer and commentator alive and kicking. Homer and Jethro, The Skillet Likkers, George Formby, Harry Reser, Woodie Guthrie, Gus Cannon, Phil Ochs, Tommy Jarrell, Arthur Smith, Uncle Dave Macon, Frank Zappa – these are pools from which The Hot Seats draw. Their original music is simultaneously hard to classify and instantly identifiable, combining the virtuosic soloing and tightness of bluegrass, the band-driven rhythm of old time, the jerky bounce of ragtime, and the swagger of good old rock and roll. Add some eastern melodies, a few modernist ideals, and an uncanny feel for comic timing, and you begin to approach this sound. While striving to push tradition forward, the band takes great pride in their ability to play within a tradition style as well as without. Ultimately, the Hot Seats are most concerned with making the music that they want to hear and playing in the manner that is most entertaining to themselves; the fact that audiences and critics alike have embraced it is almost a wonderful coincidence.
The band has toured throughout the majority of the eastern and midwestern United States, and this past year took their first trip overseas. The upcoming year will see them releasing at least one full length album, as well as an album undertheir alter egos, The Zombie Stringband. There will be tours throughout the US, and they will be returning to Scotland in January of 2009 to perform at the prestigious Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, and then again to Europe in September 2009.
Accolades, Awards, and Critical Praise for the Hot Seats!
• 2007 South Eastern Discmakers/Billboard Independent Music World Series Champions
• Galax Fiddle Convention: Bluegrass Fiddle Prizes for Aaron Lewis
o 7th Prize – 2003
o 4th Prize – 2005
o 2nd Prize – 2006
o 1st Prize – 2007
o 6th Prize – 2008
• Maury River Festival 2005
o 2nd Place Clawhammer Banjo – Josh Bearman
o 2nd Place Old Time Fiddle – Aaron Lewis
• 2007 Tazewell Fiddlers Convention
o 4th Place Mandolin – Josh Bearman
• 2008 1st Prize Neo-Traditional Band – Clifftop Appalachian Stringband Festival
• 2008 Best New Composition: Song (“Paper Chase”) -– Clifftop Appalachian Stringband Festival
• 2008 Herald Angel Recipients – 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
“The focus and polish is an interesting counterpoint to the band’s satiric approach to music-making, that absurd aesthetic that now includes short films and tune-filled plays. Anything but the normal stuff.” - Style Weekly, 2008
“Virginian quintet (The Hot Seats) thrive on diversity . . . The action is virtually non-stop, the musicianship superb, with fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitar coalescing with humour and speed and powered by a communally owned and played double-bass, drums and washboard.” - The Glasgow Herald, 2008
“The young five man acoustic band play with verve, vigour and a true feel for the rootsof their chosen idiom. Which stilted critic-speak completely fails to convey the sheer fun and laughter of the show. If you like this sort of music, you must go. Everyone else should go and those who leave without having had a good time are just not the sort of people whom I would want to meet.” - BroadwayBaby.com, 2008
“BLUEGRASS, old-time, skiffle, jug band … stir them up vigorously, throwing in elements of zany vaudeville , add some unpredictable tics, then stand back and watch Special Ed & the Shortbus go.” - The Edinburgh Scotsman, 2008
“Their shows are veritable litmus tests for a crowd's sense of humor. If you've ever answered yes to Frank Zappa's question "Does humor belong in music?" then The Hot Seats are for you. They're straight-up nuts when they pick and sing, and if you can get past the lovely freakishness of their stage act, you'll find some real talent backing up the zaniness." - Haymaker Productions (www.haymaker.com), 2003
"Slightly disturbing dada-esque Va.-based string band that’s one part Beefheart freakout and two parts trad jug-band.” - Connect Savannah, Savannah, GA, 2006
“When you see better-known names pointing their cell phones towards the stage after calling friends and tell them ‘listen to this’ as a band they’ve never encountered before holds a big audience made up mostly of other first-timers spellbound, it’s a sign that something special is in the air. And that’s what happened when the . . . Hot Seats exploded onto the stage . . . One moment, it’s like listening to Spike Jones and his City Slickers, the next, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. And, when they choose to take that turn down a well-trodden bluegrass trail, those in the crowd who recognize the subtleties between good and great, turn and nod at each other ” - Maverick Magazine, 2007