Drive Like Jehu reunited after 19 years

The legendary San Diego rock band will perform Aug. 31 at Balboa Park's Spreckels Organ Pavilion -- with San Diego civic organist Dr. Carol Williams

Drive Like Jehu, one of the most influential San Diego rock acts of the 1990s, is pulling out all the stops for its first concert in 20 years.

The four-man group, which disbanded in 1995 and made a national impact, will perform Aug. 31 at the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Announced Tuesday with little fanfare, their concert will feature the band in a unique collaboration with Dr. Carol Williams, who is both the veteran artistic director of the Spreckels Organ Society and San Diego's Civic Organist.

Williams will open the free, one-hour concert at the 2,400-capacity outdoor venue with several solo selections, including "Phantom of the Opera," on the pavilion's massive, 4,500-pipe organ. For the second half of the 7 p.m. performance, she and Drive Like Jehu will perform five songs together.

It will be a musical first for her and for the band, which was formed in 1990 and has since taken on a near-legendary status far beyond San Diego. In a 2007 U-T San Diego interview, Isaac Brock of the Washington band Modest Mouse said: "I love (Drive Like) Jehu. Jehu is one of my favorite all-time bands actually."

The teaming of Drive Like Jehu and Williams, who in November will perform at the 10th anniversary of Disney Hall in Los Angeles, is as intriguing as it is unlikely.

"I would say it's unprecedented," said Ross Porter, the executive administrator of the Spreckels Organ Society.

Williams and Drive Like Jehu guitarist-singer John Reis readily concurred.

"For me," noted Williams, a native of England, "the point of the concert is to open up the (musical) boundaries, not to be narrow. The organ needs a future and any opportunities like this, I really look forward to."

So does Reis, who on Monday night took his family to the organ pavilion's annual silent movie night performance.

"The appeal for me is, I love the Spreckels pipe organ," said Reis, who is the leader of the San Diego bands Night Marchers, Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt, which last year reunited after an 8-year hiatus.

"I think the pavilion is one of the jewels of San Diego, without a doubt," he continued. "That San Diego has a civic organist on the payroll is pretty great. I just love the sound of that instrument. It captivates me; it's such a great sound! When I was a kid, Organ Power Pizza in Pacific Beach had this pipe organ and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world."

Reis and Porter both credit Dang Nguyen, a recent addition to the Spreckels Organ Society board of directors, for playing a key role in bringing Drive Like Jehu and organist Williams together for the Aug. 31 concert. Nguyen and Reis are co-owners of Bar Pink in North Park. Like Williams, they hope that her concert with Drive Like Jehu will draw new listeners to the organ pavilion.

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