Smile Politely

Meet Big Daddy Pride and the East Side 5

Dave Pride started playing drums in cover bands at the White Horse Inn on campus in 2001. Since then, he’s played with dozens of bands, including Elsinore, The Fights, Cole Bridges and the Overpass, and Colonel James Presents, cementing him as a force in the Champaign-Urbana music scene.

20 years later, Pride is now recording his first lead project as Big Daddy Pride and the East Side 5. Pride has stepped out from behind his drumkit and into the spotlight, taking on lead vocals and piano in this outfit. The result is the forthcoming debut, Snake Jazz: a melodic, soulful album hard to categorize. It has a New Orleans feel with nods to 60’s rock and 90’s alternative country. Album producer Mark Peaslee calls the sound “of a band from a far away place of an indeterminate age or era.”

The project started organically and out of necessity. Throughout the pandemic, live music came to a screeching halt. Pride’s normal projects were no longer active. He found himself putting down his drumsticks and focusing on the piano.

Throughout the patio season last year, he was a mainstay in the Rose Bowl Tavern’s parking lot, sitting in on dozens of bands playing several different instruments. Lineups for shows were made in haste sometimes, as several local bands remained inactive, yet musicians cited “the need to play.” Live music in Urbana became a local hodgepodge of who could safely play with who, where, and when.

To emphasize the point above: Hobnob String Band at the Rose Bowl featuring, L to R, Holly Curia (vocals), Charlie Harris (bass), Dave Pride (drums), Falbo (guitar), Sam Payne (guitar). Photo by Gabriel Solis.

This catapulted Pride into working on original, solo material. “It was my chance to play.” Pride says. “I had been working on the keys for awhile. Just as something to do. And when I ran out of people to play with, I had no excuse not to just go out and do it.”

When Pride formed his backing band The East Side 5 from the afforementioned hodgepodge of players, he created a stellar lineup of musicians: Bassist Sarah Cramer, Walt Falbo of The Falbonauts, as well as Matt Wade and Theo Long, both members of Neoga Blacksmith. The 5th member is producer Peaslee, who critiques and guides, offering advice to “take it from the Muppets to the Stones.”

Snake Jazz is being recorded at Rose Bowl as it sits empty and temporarily closed. The idea to record there was intended to set the mood for a live show. Pride enlisted Matt Wenzel of Shangri-Nah Studio, bringing his recording equipment with him from the studio to the venue. The concept continues as the album is mixed in real time, offering a live sound, both raw and polished.

Just as the project was formed out of the changing times, so is the release of the album. “Do you own a CD player?” Pride asked. “I’m a musician who actively plays music and I don’t own a CD player. They have been phased out. And as someone who is creating the content, what do you even do with it anymore?”

Pictured from L to R, Sara Cramer (bass), Matt Wade (guitar), Dave Pride (keyboard, foreground), Walt Falbo (guitar, background), Theo Long (drums). Photo by Alex Bragg.

Pride has come up with a different approach. “We just recorded and Matt [Wenzel] is going to mix that together” he said. “We had people come out here and work video cameras. They’re editing it and my friend Chris knows how to do all the fancy stuff, hopefully in the way of Yellow Submarine or something. We want to make the album a live visual YouTube album. Is that weird? Saying it out loud makes it sound weird” jokes Pride. He will also be posting music from the album on Bandcamp.

You can watch Big Daddy Pride and the East Side 5 perform songs from Snake Jazz on Friday, January 29th at 8 p.m. by way of their live stream at Rose Bowl Tavern via RBTV. The release of the album is expected later in February.

Top image by Alex Bragg.

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