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It’s a violin revolution

April E. ClarkGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. In Bobby Yang’s world, rock and classical music collide.The result is a rhythmic violin taking the place of a lead singer – and unexpected reactions from a range of audiences.”We (Yang and his band, the Unrivaled Players) recently played a concert with full orchestral backing. The audience was there to see symphony music,” said Yang, by phone from Aspen. “There were a lot of 55-, 60-year-olds in the audience. I played “Kashmir” (by Led Zeppelin) and “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (by The Verve). There were screams and yelps I never thought would come from such a mature audience.”The classically trained musician and former Colorado Mountain College artist in residence crafts a sound not often associated with the violin.And that’s just the way he likes it.”I have people tell me after shows, ‘I’ve never heard the violin do that,'” he said. “Or, ‘I’ve never heard anyone interpret Led Zeppelin songs like that.’ I’ve been studying live bootlegs of Led Zeppelin and I’ve learned that they were as much of a jam band as the Grateful Dead.”Sure, Yang knows all the classical music standards – he spent his summers as a violin prodigy playing at the Aspen Music Festival. But it’s the transformation of his stringed instrument into a progressive rock ‘n’ roll tool that makes the 31-year-old musician tick.”Traditional music is technical, but this is more on the fly. Your arsenal is only as good as your training,” said the University of Michigan alumnus. “It’s directly proportional to how hard you can rock.”

If asked to categorize his music, Yang says, first and foremost, it’s rock. Second, the music is an acoustic jam band sound he likens to String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic. The upright bass, classical guitar, and a full drum set accompany Yang’s acoustic – not electric – violin.”There’s not many other people playing with this intensity, the passion, the knowledge and the earnest,” Yang said. “We bring down the house.”Yang’s earliest memories of music are as a toddler playing “Chopsticks” on the pots and pans. It didn’t take long for Yang, and his parents, to recognize his natural talent.”At 7 or 8 years old, I realized I had perfect pitch. I could play music by ear, playing songs I heard on TV, eventually reading music,” he said. “I knew when I was a young, young kid dancing on my parents bed that it would always be rock music for me.”Growing up in Houghton, Mich., Yang and his three sisters were trained in the traditional stylings of violin and piano. Yang said his parents, who emigrated from Taiwan, never anticipated their son would someday pursue a rock ‘n’ roll career.”Being from a traditional Asian household … My parents expected us to be doctors and engineers – something more practical,” he said. “I’ve slowly gained their mutual support. My mom’s always been behind it, and my dad recently invited me to come perform at one of his events for the company he’s president of.”Today, Yang lives in Atlanta, a city he chose because of increased opportunities to progress in the music industry. He’s met several producers there, and as a result, has recorded with pop star Avril Lavigne and rock band Collective Soul. He also met singer Pink after one of his shows.”She watched me play with her producer, Butch Walker, and she said, ‘Bobby, the same feeling you must feel when you play, I have. We have the same ping inside,'” he said. “It’s been kind of fun.”

Yang described the concert he and the Unrivaled Players performed with the symphony orchestra as a breakthrough.”This is truly rock, not just reading music. We’re like shredding, and we go off. No two notes and bars are the same,” he said. “I think it’s OK to play dirty – lazy with the rhythm but done with impeccable, good taste.”Yang and the Unrivaled Players perform at 7:30 p.m. today at the New Space Theater on CMC’s Spring Valley campus. Sunday, they play an aprés ski show at 3 p.m. at the base of Aspen Highlands.And that’s just how he likes it.”Ideally, I’d like to play a major rock venue Friday night and play classical venues the rest of the weekend,” he said. “I like to play where people don’t expect a violin. My music tastes are all over the place. My dream is to become the world’s most sought-after utility player. And, at the same time, have my own project.”Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601aclark@postindependent.com



Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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