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Published: Thursday, 4/17/2008

Ekoostik Hookah plays an afternoon outdoor show in Bowling Green

Ekoostik Hookah, from left: Steve Sweeney, John Mullins, Eric Lanese, Cliff Starbuck, and Dave Katz. Ekoostik Hookah, from left: Steve Sweeney, John Mullins, Eric Lanese, Cliff Starbuck, and Dave Katz.

Ekoostik Hookah fans those of you who appreciate the band s diverse chops and its ability to swing from Grateful Dead-like improvisational jams to fine-picking bluegrass excursions might want to stop reading.

Dave Katz, the band s guitarist, keyboard player, and one of the founding members of what is generally considered Ohio s jam band, is about to reveal his musical tastes.

You re thinking, Oh, a guy who plays like that has to be into some esoteric stuff. Probably lots of Dead, maybe some Ornette Coleman or Coltrane ...

No. How about Journey, Seals and Crofts, and what he calls cheesy 70s stuff ?

Most of our fans, if they knew what I listened to, they d be like, You ve got to be kidding me, he said in a phone interview from his Cleveland-area home.

I personally almost never listen to what you would call jam bands. I like the Grateful Dead a lot, but it s not to the point where it s all I listen to. I listen to Joni Mitchell, Elton John, James Taylor, and Seals and Crofts.

Then he notes that he likes horn bands like Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears along with Earth Wind and Fire and 70s-era disco.

People are usually a little shocked when they hear that stuff, he said.

Folks who attend Saturday afternoon s outdoor Ekoostik Hookah show at Howard s Club H in Bowling Green don t have to worry about the band cutting loose on a disco medley, though. Katz said the band is perfectly happy in its diverse niche playing free-form rock that traipses into jazz and bluegrass.

Hookah was born in 1991 in Columbus when the band members began jamming during open mic nights. Katz, John Mullins, Steve Sweeney, and Cliff Starbuck formed the initial lineup that was rounded out by drummer Eric Lanese in 1993.

Ekoostik Hookah has been fiercely independent since its inception, something that Katz said was an obvious choice for a group that was interested in calling its own shots creatively and from a business perspective. So while they ve released eight CDs, tour regularly (playing northwest Ohio about three times a year), and host the Hookahville festival in central Ohio, they re never gong to show up on a major label.

We ve always kind of shied away from anything commercial, record companies or stuff like that. It s not really our thing, said Katz, who is married and has two sons.

It s nice to have control over your own life. You can play when you want to play, where you want to play. You don t jump when they say jump. You re able to have a life outside the band, which is important.

The current tour has the band playing dozens of dates as far east as North Carolina and as far west as Missouri. It s a scaled-down version of the 180 or so concerts the band used to play, which Katz said too often found the band playing venues that weren t ideal for its audience or music.

The idea being at this point to make every show a good show, a solid show, make it good sound, good lights, and make it so the people who are paying to see us get the best show possible.

And as far as being a jam band, Katz said Ekoostik Hookah doesn t have a problem with the label, but he has his own definition of the term, which he said more accurately describes the audience than the band:

The jam band moniker to me indicates that the crowd that comes out is somewhere between a hippie crowd and a college-age crowd, but they re willing to travel to go see the shows and goes to the shows and plans on meeting up with friends of theirs that are from far away and meeting up with new friends. They don t just go for the show, but the scene that goes along with the show.

If you go to a jam band concert you know what kinds of fans are going to be there, but you might not know what kind of music you re going to get.

Ekoostik Hookah performs at 4 p.m. Saturday at Howard s Club H, 210 North Main St., Bowling Green. Tickets for the Ekoostik Hookah show are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the outdoor afternoon show.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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