RAQ, A Guilty Pleasure?

You know that feeling you get when you really dig something, but are ashamed to admit to it because you fear the ridicule of your peers? Well, that’s the way thousands of music fans react when they are confronted in a public forum about whether or not they are fans of Burlington’s own, Raq. In 2001, guitarist Chris Michetti, bassist Jay Burwick, drummer Greg Stukey, and keyboardist Marc Scortino formed Shadraq. In a little over a year, the foursome gained a respectable following, but were consistently chastised for there near resemblance too the other Burlington foursome, Phish. Not only did Chris Michetti’s tone and style mimic that of Phish’s Trey Anistasio, but the type of songs that the band produced were unmistakably very Phish-like. A big factor in the song writing process at the time was keyboard player Marc Scortino, who wrote “Donkey Show,” “Dirty Sanchez,” and “Wax.” Although great songs in their own right, they were very unoriginal in style and composition. Realizing their problem of unoriginality, in conjunction with some inner struggles within the band, Marc Scortino departed, taking his heavily rock influenced songs with him. So, after the departure, they changed their name to Raq, and were on the hunt for a new keyboardist. Enter the eclectic, electric, and talented key-master Todd Stoops. Another local boy, Stoops was just the answer that Michetti and the rest of Raq were looking for. Stoops brought with him everything that Scortino lacked: different musical tastes and influences. Penning the new songs “Clamslide,” “Loose,” “Shirley,”and the completely raging tune “Carbohydrates are the Enemy,” Stoops brought a whole new flavor to Raq. Stoops also provided more room for the extremely gifted Michetti to explore new guitar techniques and sounds to find his own, unique voice. Now, this hard working, and very young band is selling out place like the Fox Theater in Boulder and The Knitting Factory in NYC. Their new material has a different and ballsier direction then their older tunes. Instead of straightforward rock, the band is now playing with a much heavier influence on jazz with hints of electronica, creating a style that is all their own. It seems that Michetti, Stoops, Burwick, and Stukey are on their way to finding their improvisational language, which translates into forceful and exciting music. They are slowly, but surely moving away form the heavy influence on guitar driven jam rock, and quieting the nay-sayers. RAQ will be performing this Saturday during Springfest and at Slade Hall.