Members of CBB from Left to Right: Michael “Icey” Baird – harmonica, vocals | Lance Fullin – bass | Kevin Medeiros – drums, vocals | Kyle Higley – guitar, vocals | Mike Chandler – guitar | Photo Credit: Taj Chin

The Chandler Blues Band Calls the Vineyard Home

By Nick Macksood

June 2016

For The Chandler Blues Band, a group of islanders and washashores alike, Martha’s Vineyard has been a rare example of a small community being a source of inspiration. The island is where they live, it’s where they work. Their friends are here. And most importantly: a deep and vibrant community of musicians exists on the Vineyard; one that breeds, supports, and attracts artists from around the world.

As far as origin stories go, the Chandler Blues’ is nearly unbelievable. Kyle Higley, Kevin Medeiros, and Lance Fullin (guitar, drums, and bass, respectively) moved in to the same house years ago, each one carrying their instrument inside. This musical meet-cute, a moment of sonic serendipity, gave rise to more than the occasional jam session: before long, they’d formed their first band together, The Electric Highway Experience. Later on, Michael “Icey” Baird, a campfire guitarist, entered the fray on harmonica, an instrument he had never before played. Finally at a potluck jam session, “which happened to be your [Lance’s] birthday”, Chandler adds, Mike Chandler (guitar) found the musical groove he had been looking for.

Since then the group has grown and developed their set from mainly a list of covers into what has become the band’s first full-length album, The Chandler Blues Band. Chandler and Fullin both invoked classic blues based inspirations like Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King, but their knowledge of music history goes much deeper than surface level influences. “When I first started paying attention to bass lines–I remember it was John Paul Jones’ solo on “The Lemon Song”, off Led Zeppelin’s second album–I just thought, ‘Wow. That’s what I want to do’,” Lance tells me, “So you start learning what influenced them, and you find those influences, then you ask what influenced these guys? You end up going down this hole and finding so many different styles of music.”


CBB on stage at the 2nd annual MV Sound Festival in 2015 | Photo Credit: Taj Chin

Thankfully, the mishmash of five competing minds has been channeled into one forceful ball of energy. However, the Chandler Blues’ tone in the studio sounds controlled, even a little reserved compared to their live performances when their trademark energy really comes out. Even so, The Chandler Blues Band is impressive. And there’s something about a group of millennials playing the blues that makes everything seem all right in the world.

Chandler Blues is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s classic rockumentary about The Band’s last concert, The Last Waltz. The film featured almost every major act from the 60s and 70s playing blues, playing folk, playing anything they wanted to because music was what they enjoyed doing. Plugging in on stage was a celebration. Watch the movie; you can see it on their faces. But the film’s greatest takeaway is in the transcendent power of music as community; what should have been a tremendously sad affair was, in fact, an uplifting experience for the viewer.

And whether live or pumping through a stereo, that same revelry exists in the Chandler Blues music. It’s in the sprawling guitar tones of Higley and Chandler; the former a manic, helter-skelter style of guitar that complements Chandler’s more subdued, tonal form of expression. Those two trading licks with each other–while Fullin and Medeiros thump away, a scene in its own right for those who are students of rhythm–and Icey ripping away on the harmonica is a colossal wall of sound that demands to be heard live.

It’s in their lyrics, which–similar to many of those classic rock hits–aren’t confessional expressions of individuality that pervade the airwaves today. When everyone tries to stand out in order to be seen, the Chandler Blues are drawing us in through an old-fashioned tone that many have forgotten how deeply moves us. “Hey woman… you make my heart turn red, ‘cuz your love is all I want to know,” Medeiros growls during “Hey Woman”. Too simple? Rather, unrequited love is often that simple. Elsewhere, “Moonshine Blues” call and response of, “I got the Moonshine Blues” really doesn’t need any garnish added to it. Pain might be best put in its simplest form. Certainly both broad and fine strokes can be successful, but we can all empathize with unrequited love, with bad luck, with boozy nights that have bled into hazy mornings.

CBB Poster Collage

Snap shots of the band members taken from several shows on island || Photo Credit: Taj Chin & Timothy C. Johnson

But mostly, that celebratory nature of the Chandler Blues comes from the group being comfortable in its own skin. The group has grown together watching the likes of Johnny Hoy & the Bluefish, Mike Benjamin, and all the talent that sits in with them on any given night. And their admiration is not a one-way street. When a band has a strong community of musicians who support one another like the Vineyard does, and venues like The Ritz or The Port Hunter, who have regularly scheduled The Chandler Blues Band this summer, it’s easy to see why the decision to divide and conquer just doesn’t make sense. After all, there are more than a few world-class musicians who kick around the Vineyard full time. What’s the shame in becoming the next one?

“A lot of young bands these days, they buy a van and very much go into the red touring around the country because they want to be the next big thing… that’s not something we’ve ever been interested in. There has been ambition among the band in spreading around some, but it’s got to make sense to us as a whole, and above all, it’s got to be fun,” Chandler says.

The day will come when the Chandler Blues Band will ask themselves the same questions that more renowned Vineyard bands like Entrain, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Mike Benjamin and others have entertained once the island starts to feel a little tight. Only the group can define what success means to them. Taking it one step at a time–which sounds like it could very well be a line from one of their songs–is the group’s only concern.

For more information on The Chandler Blues Band (CBB)
check out the following pages:
Facebook: TheChandlerBluesBand
Instagram: thechandlerbluesband
Website: http://www.chandlerbluesband.com/