Acoustic Eels drummer Dave Percival (second from left, shown here with members Wallter Holland, Bruce Glazer, and Greg Shaw) says their name is ironic because the band is “highly electric”. Photo by Patty Percival
On the beat with local drummer Dave Percival
Percussionist Dave Percival
(of The Acoustic Eels, Doesn’t Matter, and more).
Photo by Patty Percival
by Cynthia McCoy, This Side of Berthoud
Everyone has, and is, a story; and it is a blessing to have so much character in the small, vibrant Grand County community.
When asked what bands he’s performed with, local drummer Dave Percival and I discovered that this “could be an entire article in itself!”
Percival’s been playing “semi-professionally” (“meaning earning a little money doing it”) since 1980. Top 10 band highlights include Joker (his band in high school, in Denver, 1980-‘82), Generic Eric and the White Labels (Denver, 1984-‘85), Civil Defense Fallout Shelter Nightclub quartet (with Mike Turner, Fraser Valley, 1987), Grand County’s famous long-lived (1988-present) No Name Band (with a “cast of dozens” who put on an annual reunion show with whoever shows up, at the Daven Haven in Grand Lake around Labor Day weekend); Left on Probation (with Walter Holland, Sterling Powell, Charlie Yunker and “various others” in Grand County 1989-’91); Triangle (with Steve Herbst, Donnie Thompson, Yvonne Kennedy, Powell and Holland, Fraser Valley 1989-’90); modern band Piss Test – “or if that name proved too controversial: Hot UA” (with Paul Kovacic and Joseph Cooper, Fraser Valley 1992-’93); The BS Band (Bruce and Sam, but the name is “left for interpretation”), (with Bruce Glazer, Louisville and Lafayette, 1995-’97); and the Acoustic Eels (with Holland, Glazer, Cooper, Greg Shaw and more; Grand County and Front Range 2012-2015). Note: Almost all members of the Acoustic Eels perform this weekend.
He recalls fondly some “crazy good times” with the No Name Band at the old Corner Cupboard in Grand Lake. The building no longer graces the famous boardwalk, but those memories and many more like it live on.
Most recently, Percival’s been performing with band Doesn’t Matter (with Steve DiSciullo, Holland, Dave Anderson, and Joe Djelidi). They play rock, blues, funk, soul — “whatever, doesn’t matter.”
The Denver native made his home in Tabernash 1986-’94, working in the kitchen at Deno’s, “but more so to ski and fly fish.” Between now and then, a new job took him and his family back down to the Front Range. Twenty years later, with the kids all grown, he and his wife Patty returned to Grand County, “the most beautiful place on earth,” last March.
In the 1940s, Percival’s mom was a singer in a Denver-based big band; the drummers were two of her brothers. “So I guess it was always in my DNA,” he said. He started playing snare drum in fourth-grade band and continued to play percussion instruments “in every available band class” throughout school. He admits it might have been the only thing that kept him in school.
Musical influences include John Bonham early-on, and guys like Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, Billy Cobham, Naranda Michael Walden, “and of course, Dave Grohl,” who continues to inspire Percival. He’s learned a great deal from them, and more about how to be a musician from the guys which he’s performed with on stage during the last 30 years (among the extensive list he mentioned Powell, Yunker, Shaw, Glazer, Eddie Phillips, Steve Cormey, Warren Ward, Tim Connelly, Mark Tate, and the members of Doesn’t Matter).
“It’s one thing to learn how to play an instrument and become proficient at it, but it is entirely a different thing to be able to integrate that skill into an ensemble where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” he said. “The joy that occurs when everyone is on the same page and the music just seems to sort-of flow out of you — that’s pure unadulterated magic” and is what keeps Percival playing.
As a musician, he is moved by many things — the power and complexity of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” the lyrics of the Beatles’ “In My Life”, and the use of modulation in The Who’s “Free & Easy” (he admits to playing air guitar to it every time he hears it). And he could go on and on. “I guess you could say that I am significantly moved by music in general,” he said.
As a “bit of a free agent,” Percival’s been working with the ACME Band and Martin & Taylor out of Grand Lake, with Turner and band Red Dirt Hill, and with Tony Rosacci of band Tone and the Vibe, and Eagle Wind Sound recording studio (currently under construction in Winter Park). The studio work, he said, “is just as fun and interesting for me as are the live gigs. In fact, it’s a bit more demanding, which I like.”
He advises budding musicians to “Keep at it.” Even with natural talent, he said, “it takes a lot of practice to master a craft.” He suggests playing with other musicians when the opportunities arise, learn from them, and listen.
Percival’s also been learning how to play bass guitar (he’s had an acoustic for a while). “I’ll pretty much try anything,” he said. “I’m inspired by the gift of life itself and all of the beautiful things around me.” Playing music is the purest form of expression for him; “when playing music with others who feel likewise and are skilled enough to just let go, it is possible to reach an almost transcendental state where it doesn’t require much thought. It just happens.”
He hopes audience members have a good time, and that he and his fellow musicians play music they can not only dance to, but also relate to. “Most of all, I hope we have made them as happy as they have made us.”
Percival, Holland and Glazer (of the Acoustic Eels), and international bass player Andy Irvine are the highlight for the after-Springtopia and after-Splash bashes Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23 at the Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser. The free shows start at 8 p.m.
Freelance journalist Cynthia McCoy
Local journalist Cynthia McCoy inspires to cover any and all art forms in Grand County (culinary, performance, media, and musical). She grew up in Hot Sulphur Springs and worked for Grand County Publishing (Sky-Hi News, Winter Park Manifest, Middle Park Times, and daily tribunes) for almost a decade. Her current passions flow freely into This Side of Berthoud, a division of Slopeside Productions. There is a calendar updated daily on its FaceBook page, and the company is currently putting together a third compilation CD.