It's no secret that rock 'n' roll would be nothing without the blues. All the great rock bands going back to the late '50s must give a nod to the blues; without it, rock would be nothing. The Rolling Stones, Cream and Led Zeppelin on up to the Black Crowes or Big Head Todd are all blues heavy, with a signature guitar sound.
Indigenous, a band that doesn't carry quite the weight of the aforementioned (but it should, stupid music industry) is a guitar-heavy, blues rock band playing tonight at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. The band is led by Mato Nanji, quite the guitar slinger himself. New Mexico blues rock band Plateros will open the show.
Indigenous began as a family band a little more than a decade ago on South Dakota's Yankton Indian Reservation with Nanji, his brother and sister and a cousin.
They toured, released some records, won many Native American music awards, and played high-profile gigs including spots on Conan O'Brien and Austin City Limits, and then split.
In 2006, the musicians went their separate ways, until Nanji put together a new lineup.
The current cast of Indigenous includes Nanji on guitar and vocals, Chris Lager on guitar, Jeremiah Weir on keyboards, Aaron Wright on bass and John Fairchild on drums.
Nanji's guitar playing can be attributed to his father, also a musician.
"I found my dad's guitars and he had never said anything, and I never told him I was interested in playing," Nanji said this week while on tour. "I started to play and he started teaching me. He had a whole record collection of great bands from the '60s and '70s. That's what I grew up on. He encouraged me to listen and take what I could."
Those records happened to be by B.B. King, Santana and many others. The '80s and '90s turned Nanji onto Los Lobos and The Black Crowes, and his guitar playing is likened to the late Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Nanji's come far for starting in a rural part of the country that had almost no music scene.
"There were not bands at all," he said. "We had to travel 100 miles to Sioux Falls to see some of the bands that would come through. There wasn't much besides my dad's band."
In the time that Nanji and the rest of Indigenous have been touring, they've been able to play just about everywhere, and playing just about everywhere is fine with Nanji.
"I think everywhere is great to play" he said. "The fans are supportive, and it inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing. To keep making music."
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.