Local band Farmdog had big plans for their Friday, April 3, show at Reef. They were going to record the show and put out a full-length CD.
"We were going to put out a real CD," bassist Jon Engelund said. Other than a fairly raw 2006 release titled Live Dog, Vol. 1—recorded at a show at the Big Easy (now the Knitting Factory)—the band, which has been together in one form or another since 2000, had never put out an actual CD. But something changed. Sometime during the last several weeks, the seven-member group came to a consensus: The Reef show will be Farmdog's last.
In the band's official press release, dated Friday, March 27, they state: "After some deliberation and careful thought, we believe it's time to lay the dog to rest. We have decided to go our separate ways and move on to other projects. This is not to say this band will never, ever perform again, but just not in a full-time capacity as we currently are. We believe there is always a possibility of a reunion down the road. But we feel as of now we are at an impasse, and we'd like to follow some of our other aspirations in our lives."
Farmdog's Engelund, Luke Anderson, Bryan Carrier, Larry Kiser, Shawn Palmer, Rick Shodeen, and Christine Thomas have often followed other musical aspirations. They hail from groups like The Tourists, The Peaches, The Ramblers, Buckskin Bible Revue, The David Andrews Band and more. Together, they created a band that pulled from such influences as Phish, The Grateful Dead and The String Cheese Incident and, like those bands, additionally looked to psychedelia, country and rock to hone their sound. Ten-minute tunes with guitar solos long enough for the singer to get a drink from the bar are not unheard of and, like most jam bands, are the norm for Farmdog. In the early years, Farmdog not only borrowed ideas from their jamming musical heroes, they borrowed songs.
"When we started, we played about 90 percent covers and about 10 percent originals," said Engelund. By the time they played the annual Hyde Park Street Fair last fall, those numbers had switched. And that show, in which they played only two covers during their 90-minute set, was their best ever, Engelund said.
"We rehearsed for Hyde Park [which happens in September] for four months," Engelund said. "Afterward, Carl Scheider [host of Boise State radio show Private Idaho] came up to me, shook my hand and said, 'You guys kicked ass.'" Engelund recalled the moment with a modicum of pride but a mote of wistfulness as well. It was as though right then, Engelund realized the opportunities to hear praise after a Farmdog show are quickly coming to a close.
So why does a band that's been together longer than many married couples, made up of seasoned musicians, coming into their own in terms of original material and adored by their fans call it quits? The reasons aren't titillating. No infighting, no shakeups. It's a simple matter of responsibilities and issues that most adults shoulder: the economy, kids, jobs, mortgages, other projects.
At their show at O'Michael's last Saturday, fans lined up in front of the band, arms swinging, hips swaying. Most of them looked to be in the 30- to 40-year-old demographic, but danced like 21-year-olds spending their first legal night in a bar. If the band had announced their demise, much of the crowd was apparently getting the most of one of Farmdog's last shows. Overhearing someone say she heard one of the band members mention the breakup may not be as imminent as, say, a press release stating the band is breaking up would suggest, singer Christine Thomas put that rumor to rest. Like Engelund, her statement was laced with melancholy.
"No, we are breaking up," she said. "We all have other projects we want to work on, and some of us will be working on projects together. But this is hard. I love playing with these guys. They're my family."
Engelund clearly feels the same. In a post-interview e-mail, Engelund wrote that the members of Farmdog have a great deal of respect for each other that goes beyond a professional level.
"We are brothers and sisters who have bonded as family over many years of performing together ... We leave each other with nothing but love and respect for one another and all those who were involved in this project over the years; holding our heads high, knowing we made many people smile, including least of all, ourselves. We just feel it's time to move on and put the family pet to rest."