Under the Idaho Sun

milkdriveBluegrass string quartet, MilkDrive, pluck their way to Santa Cruz
In the distant past, under the red-hot Idaho summer sun, three burgeoning boys unknowingly awaited their destiny. Following an afternoon garage jam session, guitarist Noah Jeffries, mandolin player Dennis Ludiker and fiddler Brian Beken stood on a dusty street corner, just down the road from a dairy. The only shade from the unrelenting rays was a lowly street sign, aptly titled: Milk Drive.

Fast forward to the present, where Beken fondly remembers those good ol’ summer days, before he and his friends formed the old-timey alt-folk band stopping by Don Quixote’s Sunday. “It’s always been that unspoken bond we’ve had,” says Beken. “We all knew one day we would be in a band together, not only because of the way we play together, but how we hang out together. Once the opportunity arose, it was a no-brainer.”

Now those youngsters are all grown up, and their dreams of taking their progressive acoustics across the country are coming true. They’ve since added bassist Matt Mefford to their line-up—Ludiker and Beken met him in Austin—and formed MilkDrive: a four-piece traveling string band with bittersweet harmonies and an arsenal of quick-plucking fingers.

Like most musical troupes, the band hates the thought of being lumped into a predetermined genre, so Beken finds it fortunate that MilkDrive is largely identified by its string instruments. They’re “just the kind of instruments we learned on. We took those instruments and all our influences, and decided to play anything we liked, on what happened to be bluegrass instruments.”

milkdrive2Sure, they listen to Bela Fleck—one of the greatest banjo pickers to walk the earth—but the guys are just as happy jamming to Mars Volta and Nine Inch Nails on their strings.

That profound respect for traditional Americana, paired with new-age flavor, is the beauty of MilkDrive: every member understands each string instrument, like a fiddle knows a bow, and together, they form one reverberating sound. “Once you learn one instrument, it just connects to the other one,” says Beken, of being in sync with his band mates. “You just fill in the blanks.”

INFO: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 3. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. $10. 335-2800.


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