It's all in the name, the saying goes, and no other medium brings the points home more strongly than rock music. In a field constantly inundated with new acts, old ones have a tendency to cling to traditions that no longer have anything to do with their present status.
A new band called Sierra is playing at the Cellar Door this weekend and, one hopes, breaking out of its confining past.
In August, Sierra played the very same Cellar Door - except that then the group was called The Flying Burrito Brothers. Tonight's Sierra personnel will line up in the same formation as August's Burrito Brothers: "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow on pedal steel; Gib Gilbeau, fiddle and guitar; Bobby Cochran, guitar; Thad Maxwell, bass; and Mickey McGee, drums. Only the name will be changed to protect the innocent.
Last time around, the band performed a lot of songs associated with the original Flying Burrito in the bunch. This weekend, Sierra is expected to play tunes from its won new album ("Sierra," Mercury SRM-1-1179), "Six Days on the Road" or some other FBB standard gets thrown into the mix for old times' sake.
It's interesting what rock groups perform for old times' sake, and even more interesting what the public expects from a "name" act. The most important facet of a band's performing capabilities is its structural makeup in regard to personal influences. For example, Jethro Tull, which will be in town later this month, has managed to keep the same basic sound since its inception, even though it has undergone several revampings. The reason is that leader Ian Anderson is still around and Jethro Tull is primarily Anderson's band.
His supporting players are not nearly as critical as his own contributions are. Fleetwood Mac, on the other hand, changed its style completely when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the troupe. The two took Fleetwood Mac away from its blues-based roots and toward a more commercially acceptable delivery.
Sierra is Sierra and not the Flying Burrito Brothers because its members apparently felt that people's minds are too firmly made up when they see a "name" band. Thus, Sierra seems to have sacrificed a solid recognition factor for more musical freedom.
The ads for Sierra were originally tagged with a second line explaining that the boys were "formerly the Flying Burrito Brothers." Now even that bond has been loosened: The edited tag reads "includes former Burritos." This weekend many customers may request the old songs, but at least the band is trying to start fresh.
As for the audience, it appears that often the illusion of memories is preferable to the reality of the situation. At a McDonough Arena concert last month, Sea Level which boasts two former Allman Brothers Band members - received its loudest ovation for a version of "Statesboro Blues," even though neither Chuck Leavell nor Lamar Williams (not to mention the non-Brothers in Sea Level) was with the Allmans when the time was first recorded.
It just shows that, in rock, many times what you think you see is what you get.