Kurt Burkhart reveals exciting, surprising and largely secret projects.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Local music enthusiasts probably think of Kurt Burkhart as that guy who sits on a stool in bars like Britannia Arms and does well-received cover songs by artists like the Beatles and Jack Johnson. They’d be right– but they’d be missing the bigger picture.
Burkhart, who performed in the acoustic duo The Openers with percussionist Michael English for a decade and has recently been doing solo gigs, has been living a secret life. Make that several secret lives.
A Monterey resident since 1995, Burkhart spends his daylight hours as a physical therapist with a practice on Monterey’s Hartnell Street. He also became a partner in a Los Angeles-based recording studio called Pulahaole Productions in 2002. But it’s his music endeavors, not his business ventures, that will interest fans of his rhythmic acoustic takes on pop-rock nuggets.
Back in 2001, Burkhart began writing songs and collaborating with his future Pulahaole Productions co-owners, Michael Agostinelli and Deric Morin, on an original music project called Burkhart. The trio put out a 12-song CD titled in 2007 that includes the well-polished pop rock nugget “Stone” and “Evelyne,” which sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel fronting a pop rock-funk band.
A radio promoter heard the finished project and decided to promote the CD with a small-market radio campaign. “Stone” ended up getting airplay on radio stations in middle-of-the-country locales like Madison, Wis., and Page, Ariz., following the publicity push.
Burkhart also started to sneak his new original material into his sets at local gigs and was pleased with the results. “A lot of times, the dance floor would continue to flow,” Burkhart says. “I thought that was a good sign.”
Burkhart is now gearing up to debut his original works at Britannia Arms this Friday night with his rock band, which now includes new member Markhughscaggs. He has already unveiled the band to Southern California audiences at Canter’s Deli’s Kibitz Room and the Malibu Inn. The musician says Monterey fans of his acoustic shows can expect something different when he plays in the Brit with his electric band. “It’s a lot more hard hitting than people are used to,” he says.
Burkhart, the band, also has completed a new EP titled that they will release on July 20. The four-song CD includes the sparkling pop rock number “Think of Me” and “Here We Are,” which sounds like a slowed-down take on the Stone Temple Pilot’s muscular rock. Meanwhile, “Bare Yourself” rides along on a funky rock riff, and “Work It Out” has an ’80s sound.
Fronting a new rock band would seem to be enough to consume his already limited spare time, but the musician also has embarked on an ongoing collaboration with choreographer Fran Spector Atkins of Marina-based professional dance outfit SpectorDance.
The unlikely project between Burkhart and Atkins began two years ago when the choreographer was visiting Burkhart’s practice as a patient. She overheard that Burkhart was a musician and then asked to hear one of his CDs. Atkins loved what she heard and decided to choreograph four songs off of . The result was SpectorDance’s 2006 production “Rock Ballet, “which featured five dancers performing while the four-piece rock band played the songs live.
Since then, Burkhart and Atkins have been meeting once a week and working on a collaboration titled the “Myth Project,” a multimedia production featuring ballet dancers, a film made by William Roden and new music by Burkhart created specifically for the work. While the entire “Myth Project” will not be unveiled until Aug. 16 at a performance in Big Sur’s Spirit Garden, a section titled “Maize: The Golden Thread” will be debuted this Saturday at Marina’s SpectorDance Studio as a part of SpectorDance’s Spring Performance.
The pieces Burkhart has created for the “Myth Project” are a far stretch from his material for his rock outfit. “Prayer” is a moody acoustic guitar composition with samples of sitar and tabla along with Native American-like chanting over the top. “The Ancients” is an instrumental track featuring icicle percussion and ghostly violin. The closest to his rock material is “Festival,” which has Peter Gabriel-esque vocals over flute, acoustic guitar and an electronic drumbeat.
Atkins is very pleased with the songs her collaboration with Burkhart has yielded. “I would say there is a mysterious quality to these pieces,” she says. “I think he has gone way out in exploring instruments.”
Burkhart says that working with Atkins has allowed him to develop new skills as a songwriter and musician. “When I write music for Burkhart, I pretty much do whatever I feel,” he says. “When I write music for the ‘Myth Project,’ it’s more cinematic, more thematic. It’s more challenging to write with a specific thematic element.”
THE OPENERS and BURKHART play 9:30pm Friday, June 20, at Britannia Arms, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. No cover. 656-9543. Burkhart also plays at Spector Dance’s Spring Performance 2pm and 7pm Saturday, June 21, at SpectorDance Studio, 3343 Paul Davis Dr., Marina. $20/adult; $15/seniors and children under 12. 384-1050.