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Juggling suns

January 07, 1998

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Juggling Suns

By TERI JOHNSON

Staff Writer

The back cover of Juggling Suns' debut album bears the message "Warning: This music may be mind-expanding."

Listeners can consider that an invitation, said Mark Diomede, the New Jersey-based jam band's lead guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter.

"We want to lift them to a place where they can feel something or relate to something other than their routine," he said.

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The band's music is a mix of genres and influences, including rock, country, folk, blues and jazz, with a splash of reggae, ska and hip-hop.

Fans play an important part in the equation, said Diomede, 39, of Rumson, N.J.

"We like to get up and interact with each other and the audience, to get that spontaneous musical thing going," Diomede said.

Area music lovers can be part of that when Juggling Suns performs Saturday, Jan. 10, at Mansion House in Mercersburg, Pa.

The album "Living on the Edge of Change" was recorded live, which showed the band members' interaction and communication better than a studio project could, Diomede said.

"The chemistry between us is very good," he said. "We're trying to take advantage of that and get everyone involved."

The band also includes Kevin Kopack on bass, Tank Eveleigh on rhythm guitar, Casey LaPerle on drums and Gus Vigo on keyboards.

Juggling Suns originally developed in the fall of 1995 as a side project of the New Jersey band Solar Circus in tribute to the Grateful Dead. Diomede and Kopack were members of Solar Circus, which released five albums over a decade and broke up last year.

The new Juggling Suns formed in April. Within two weeks it was signed by Jon and Marsha Zazula of Crazed Management, the company that made household names of Metallica, Anthrax and Ministry.

Juggling Suns' album was released Nov. 4, and its first single, "Wicked History," is almost seven minutes long. The song is being played on about 40 stations around the country, mainly on specialty music shows because of its length and genre, Diomede said.

He said the Suns give their music a stamp of individuality, a process they call "jugglerizing."

"When the band's performing, we are juggling musical ideas with each other," he said.

The popularity of groups such as Phish, Blues Traveler and Dave Matthews Band shows that roots-type music is catching on, Diomede said.

He said a lot of Grateful Dead followers attend Juggling Suns shows.

Though Diomede never met the late Jerry Garcia, he considers him a mentor.

He first saw Garcia play in Jersey City, N.J., when he was a teenager, seated 20 feet away.

"I thought 'Wow, I want to be where that man is now,' " Diomede said. "That was what I wanted to do with my life: to play music."

The band's performance schedule has been expanded to include March shows in Japan and Europe.

"When you're a jam band, you're constantly on tour," Diomede said.

Ninety-five percent of the band's music is original, and a few cover tunes are added so the audience will hear something familiar, Diomede said.

One is the Madonna song "La Isla Bonita," done in a humorous way.

"Madonna is a far cry from the genre of music we play. We give it a calypso, reggae feel, and put a jam in the middle," he said.

They're also working on a cover of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus."

Diomede is interested in astrology, New Age thinking and spirituality, and he said those things creep into the music now and then.

The celestial influence also is seen in the group's icon, developed by Diomede's wife, artist Doreen Valentine, and pictured on the album cover.

He's not sure what's in the stars for the band, but he said he's happy with the way things have been going.

"It already is wonderful, the fact we're able to play and bring music to people," he said.



 Juggling Suns in concert




When: Saturday, Jan. 10, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Where: Mansion House, 2 S. Main St., Mercersburg, Pa.

Cost: $4 cover charge

For concert information: Call 1-717-328-5090

For more details about the band: Check out the Juggling Suns Web site at http://www.webspan.net/~keyz/

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