Jeff Buckley remembrance gathers fans and the inspired

By Jerrin Zumberg

Beginning at 7:00 p.m. and extending through the next four hours, 22 artists from across the U.S. and Europe delivered their musical birthday gift to the late Jeff Buckley. Sponsored by Goose Island beer and benefiting the Musician’s Assistance Program (MAP), Uncommon Ground celebrated its fifth anniversary of the Jeff Buckley Tribute.

What started five years ago as a simple idea has turned into a much larger production. Held each year on Jeff Buckley’s birthday, Chicago’s Uncommon Ground coffeehouse packs its back room with a throng of patrons to hear talented musicians play Buckley covers and inspired original songs. In light of five successful years, the tribute was duplicated for the Metro on the following night.

A diverse mix of Buckley followers and the Buckley-inspired was fully represented—coming from places like Italy, Michigan, and Atlanta, Georgia. Commitment to an assortment of performers was clear, and keeping it local was important as well: 10 of the artists were from Chicago. Each performer was limited to two songs, but considering the talent shown by the performers, this was often too few. The most notable performers—worthy of MP3 look-up—were David Caggiari of London, Dylan Rice of Chicago, and Shara Worden of NYC.

The Uncommon Ground/Jeff Buckley connection dates back to 1994, when Buckley mesmerized a group of listeners by playing an unannounced performance. This was not uncommon for him, considering an entire tour of his was comprised of gigs performed either under pseudonyms or unplanned circumstances.

A product of the 1990’s avant-garde music scene in Manhattan, Buckley’s “home” was always Sin-E in the East Village. A talented student of acoustic and electric guitar, sitar, and various other instruments, Buckley’s sound was unique. Following eerily in the footsteps of his father, Tim Buckley, his mixture of passion and eclectic musical artistry puts father and son in categories of their own.

This year’s tribute, attended by his mother, was unique because it was the first time MAP has received proceeds from the event. The organization is committed to paying for and assisting members in the music industry in need of treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. A victim himself of drug and alcohol abuse, Buckley and his unfortunate example have made organizations like MAP more committed to their goals.

Overall, the evening ranged from acoustic laments to punk-like versions of Buckley songs. A great deal of the artists aimed to replicate his style and many sounded frighteningly like him, while others spun new angles into their delivery. The intimate coffee shop setting successfully united fans for the fifth time and for one evening of mutual admiration.