Average Joes, with a side of extra passion

These are four ordinary guys. On Jan. 24, the members of U-melt sat waiting to take the stage at Higher Ground. Completely at ease, the boys introduced themselves with bravado: “Man, I just got ripped off by that waitress,” keyboardist Zac Lasher said.Complaining about $10 margaritas as “Anchorman” played on a miniature DVD player in the corner of the room, the group was all laughs explaining the band’s origins before they took the stage. “Well, see, we were all on a plane crash” George Miller, drummer, said. “Then suddenly, we’re stranded on a deserted island,” Miller said. The tale also involved a fifth member – the band’s “sacrifice”- who, “let’s just say, didn’t make it off the island,” Miller said. “Actually, Adam and I met at a Phish music festival in Maine in 2003,” guitarist and lead vocalist Rob Salzer said. “At the time Zac and George were playing in a band in New York City. Their band, Head Monkey, was having some trouble,” Salzer said. At the festival, the two groups melded into “The Ultimate Meltdown,” and hence “U-Melt was born,” Salzer said.Burlington is the third stop on New-York-based jam band U-Melt’s winter ’09 tour. But for the guys, it’s just another night of doing what they love, playing music. While a jam band, their lengthy 12 minute genre-bending songs are actually “80 to 90 percent composed,” Salzer said. “We’re just dicks I guess. We just can’t stop playing.”Harvesting their self-described “organic progressive groove,” U-Melt entranced the audience with a seamless blend of classical instrumentation, funk, reggae and rock ballad. Despite their mastery of the multi-genre song, the band ultimately (and unfortunately) fails at writing lyrics. They overstep their own bounds by trying to be overly deep and poetic. Lyrics like “I make the grass green and sky blue” from their song “Air,” border more on pathetic than prophetic. Best friends and traveling buddies after playing “over 600 shows in five years of touring,” their friendship has grown as progressively as their following, Salzer said. “We’ve played everything from small clubs with only 15 spectators to big festivals like moe.down and 10,000 Lakes festival,” Lasher said. To them, it doesn’t matter whether they’re on stage for seven consecutive hours, “like at the Garden of Eden Festival that time,” Miller said, or “playing a tribute for Michael Jackson’s 50th birthday at moe.down” – just as long as they’re doing what they love. If anything is true about the band, it’s that they live to play. “We don’t do encores,” Salzer said. “Instead, we try to play to the last possible minute, when the lights go on and the janitors are cleaning up.”