From 1996 to 1999, LunaGroova laid down some funky grooves upon the Lexington Music Scene. Since that time, the guys went their various ways and did a variety of things. Though short in duration, it was a hell of a ride. This site was created to document and make available to anyone interested the LunaGroova story.
In the summer of 1996, a group of guys in Lexington, Kentucky formed a funk/rap/rock ensemble called House of Funk. The group enjoyed modest sucess, playing in Lexington and Richmond. In October 1996, House of Funk opened for RUN DMC at the House of Heresy, followed by a show at the legendary Wrockledge. After a few short months, however, tensions between the singer and the band escalated, the singer was ejected, and the four remaining musicians formed a new group.
After struggling to find a new band name, LunaGroova was chosen. The name reflected the concept of Moon Groovers, or more concretely, a group of foks who came out late at night to make funky music. The name stuck. Kevin Ramsey, Ron Smith, John Roberts, and John Kirkland were LunaGroova.
Rolling The first show played under the new name was at the House of Heresy in Downtown Lexington for a crowd of ten people. Despite the lull, by the spring of 1997, the band was playing shows around town. The Arena and Lynagh's were staples, along with House of Heresy (and their astute sound tech, Tootie, to whom homage was paid in the song "Sound Man").
Connections were made with other bands in the area, including a Cincinnati act called Fixer. This opened doors to the Cincy scene, allowing LunaGroova to play at Susdsy Malone's occasionally. On July 4th, the band headed to Never on Sunday, a bar that was known in the '80s as a heavy metal joint frequented by some notable names in metal. The directions to the place, however, weren't all too clear. Trying to find the right road, the band took a wrong turn, and spent two hours lost in the Over the Rhine neighborhood. A colorful area by nature, the area was especially lively for the Fourth of July. It was a real challenge to find the way to the club that night. At about 11 PM, the guys rolled into the lot of Never on Sunday. Being two hours late, they immediately loaded in, set up on stage, and began playing without a sound check. Two guitar strings broke in the first five minutes, and needless to say, the sound was horrible. After careening through an abreviated set, the guys loaded out and took off. It was a bad night on the road, for certain.
Things were looking up, otherwise. The legendary Lynagh's music club in Lexington began booking the band more frequently, once setting LunaGroova to open for Johnny Socko. It was a great show, musically, and began to expose the guys to a greater audience. House parties were also exposing the group to large crowds, and demonstrating the ability to really improvise and jam. In August that year, however, drummer Ron Smith needed a change in life, and moved south to the Gulf Coast.
The guys needed a bit of a break, at that point. Several weeks later, the group came together to play a party on Maxwell Street. Ron was still away, so Aaron Joel sat in on drums, trading with Kevin Ramsey. At this point in time, other musicians were starting to jam with the group as well. On the night of the party, a DJ was also present. There was no prepared setlist, or songs necessarily, but the show went on. Two hours of insane, entrancing, undulating music came out of that house that night. The music never stopped--all one song, two hours. A neighbor came over in his nightrobe to complain about the noise, and stood in the middle of the living room, transfixed by the music. Two police officers showed up--walkedin the door, and they too, were entranced. This was probably the single deepest public performance by the band, litterally hypnotizing everyone within earshot. As a local musical entity, LunaGroova was never quite the same again.
In October, Ron came home. The group returned to the practice schedule there had been all along. About five nights a week, the guys would gather in the space (in a storage shed in Nicholasville) at about 10 PM, then play until 3 or 4 AM. This intense practice schedule allowed the group to tighten up their improvisational skills as well as develop tight control over the twists and turns that made up the music of LunaGroova. This constant practice also allowed a growing group of friends and other musicians to collect in one spot nightly. Great connections and friendships were made with other bands inhabiting the same storage park.
About this time, guitarist Charlie Hockensmith joined the group. He added a depth of technical skill and musicality. Soon, Chris Woodall joined on keyboards. Over the winter, Paul Ward joined as singer and dancer extraordinaire. Steve Basham began to sit in on percussion. Horn players sat in regularly, and Aaron Joel came by on occasion. Dozens of others attended frequently, and the late night jam sessions were a happening place to be.
Over the winter, shows were played at The Spectrum (Former House of Heresy), and the club next door called Millenium (the space now occupied by The Dame). A club called the Firehouse in Richmond opened near the Eastern Kentucky University campus, and became a regular stop for the band. About this time, a little band called Pontius Co-Pilot played their first show opening for LunaGroova at the Millenium (Pontius went on to enjoy a very respectable career, becoming a well-known act in underground indie circles).
In early 1998, LunaGroova played at A1A with Mulch. Things were starting to warm up; regular gigs at Lynagh's were now happening, the media published articles about the band, and a growing following came to shows. Things were sticky with some members of the band, however. Paul Ward had already moved on to other things (he went on to form Dreadnaut and What Happened When), and Charlie Hockensmith was no longer with the group. The group now held six-John Roberts, John Kirkland, Ron Smith, Kevin Ramsey, Chris Woodall, and Steve Basham.
Summer of 1998 was a busy time for LunaGroova. Besides several shows played in clubs around the area, the group played a show at what would come to be known as "The Funny Farm". Mark Faulk, a musician with Echo Network and other acts in the area, had the use of his father's farm in Casey County. LunaGroova set up in an old barn, and played a show using a generator. About 200 people were on the farm that night, and the party didn't stop for days. A fire burned in a circle, and folks with drums played all night long. The Funny Farm was a very special place for the guys in the band, as well as for so many others.
Express Your Highways In July and August, LunaGroova set up shop at Wakefire Studios. Richard Easterling recorded, mixed, and mastered their debut CD project, Express Your Highways. A clean, digital recording had eluded the group up to that point. Nine tracks were selected to be on the disc, ranging from early works like "Monkey" and "Ouse", to more recent pieces like "Lesson/Autonom". It would be some time before the project would be released, however. Soon after the recording was finished, LunaGroova was featured on a live radio broadcast called "Local Live". The hour-long show ran on WKQQ in Lexington, and became the basis of the live CD later released as Grooves of the Moon .
Using the internet to swap songs and communicate via HTML was becoming more common and accessible around this time. LunaGroova had established a web presence, and was beginning to offer audio samples and band info online. This opened up a whole new world for the band.
Other bands and individuals all over were now able to find LunaGroova. This capability led to exchanges with out of town acts from all over. Blakrayn was a group based in Charlotte, NC. They played a show at the Millenium with LunaGroova, and in return the band played at a festival in October 1998 at Fat City in Charlotte. Another band called Similar Nature made a connection via the web. This led to LunaGroova playing at the Southgate House later that year.
Late that year, Express Your Highways was released via the then embryonic MP3.com. Thousands of downloads and many CDs were sold--all over the planet. Copies sent to radio stations around the world were played. Requests for information and CDs came from places as far away as Russia, Japan, and Mexico. The CD actually charted in Bryansk, Russia, selling several copies and substantial airplay on regional radio.
Other media outlets were showing interest, as well. A cable network called Burly Bear, which aired on college campuses nationwide, contacted the band with an offer to perform. The office was based in New York City, and the project was headed up by Lorne Michaels, of Saturday Night Live. The opportunities were large--and the band was very busy.
Playing several shows a month, on top of practicing almost every night was a tiring pace. By late 1998, LunaGroova was playing almost weekly, and sometimes more often. Response from the public was good. A regular series of shows at Lynagh's generally would start around 9 PM with a jazz groove session, take a break at 10, friends of the band would set up on stage and play drums and digereedoo, and sometimes an electric sitar. Members of the group would file on and off the stage, playing with this ad hoc act for awhile, then retreating. The audience would grow, and people were captivated by the psychedelic and dischordant jams that evolved. Around 11:30, the band would come back on and take off where the guests left off. Around midnight, the guys would shift into what was referred to the "hour of power"; and would drive home the night with high energy songs and jams. By the end, folks were drunk and wild and crazed--the set would usually end with "Sound Man", "Sickness" or some other deranged tune like "Shadow". It was always a marathon affair.
From the outside, everything seemed to be coming together for the band. By January 1999, though, things internally were swerving off track. The constant schedule had worn holes in the lives of the band members. Chris Woodall was no longer playing keys with the group, and there was tension among the other members. Shows at Boomerangs, the Millenium, and Lynagh's ran almost back to back. Attendance declined, a result of overexposure. There wasn't enough money to get to New York, where television and "the next level" awaited. Also, the members of he band had grown up. Much had happened since the beginning--babies were born, friends had died, people were married and divorced. Families, spouses, and girlfriends were being ignored, jobs that actually paid the bills were being sidelined, and life outside the band was decreasing steadily. On January 19th, 1999, LunaGroova played what would be its last show together, at Lynagh's. The next day, the guys came together to talk about ending it. It had been a hell of a ride, but the rest of life and the world beyond waited. The end was meant to be.
The CD continued to sell online, and folks still hit the web page. Over 6,000 downloads had been served, and a live CD, Grooves of the Moon was released on MP3.com. It was unfortunate, but inevitable--LunaGroova was no longer on the scene.
LunaGroova at Sudsy Malones in Cincinnati, 1997
Fear, Lust, Insanity Video. From the album Express Your Highways.
Octangular Prism: 1997 live recording used as a demo, on cassette.
Quantum Foam: 1997 live recording, on cassette; features the "Quantum Foam" sequence--a jam where space and time were ripped apart. The recording cuts out at this moment, coming back on several minutes later. From a cosmological perspective, though, we may still be there.
Express Your Highways: 1998 studio album, released on CD and via MP3.com, on John Kirkland's Hypothetic Music label. Download Express Your Highways here.
Grooves of the Moon: 1998 live CD, recorded from a radio show the band performed on that summer. Released via CD and MP3.com on Hypothetic Music.
After January of 1999, the members of LunaGroova went on to other musical and personal pursuits. Through the years, the guys occasionally joined together in different groupings and under different band names. Some of the bands that featured former members of LunaGroova include: Astrolite (and Astrolyte), Green Theory, Filth Porn, Dreadknot, What Happened When, Groovnotic, Tryptamine Arkestra, The Middle Fork, and probably many others.
The story of what happened afterward is still being written. People move away, come home, marry, divorce, struggle with demons, and celebrate victories. LunaGroova was a group of average people who set out on an unusual path. Along the way, they participated in some incredible happenings, played some incredible music, reached out across the globe, and sometimes suffered dark moments. And though they never reached the mythical fame or fortune, the story is a great one that continues even today. Add your stories, recollections, and revisions to the LunaGroova story--send an email to info @lunagroova.com with your name and comments, or click on the guest book link on the home page.
Groovnotic-John Kirkland's band; funky rock and roll
The Middle Fork-Ron Smith tears across a progressive, sometimes hard-edged, sometimes psychedelic landscape
Tryptamine Arkestra-Kevin Ramsey played with this group; Mark Faulk (a la The Funny Farm) plays percussion
Green Theory-Ron Smith played with this group for a while; Very cool, extremely tight