Local music: Happy Chichester

  • Photos by Jodi Miller
From the November 24, 2011 edition

“Happy hour” is an exceptionally appropriate name for what’s going down this Black Friday at Rumba Cafe. Columbus music fixture Harold “Happy” Chichester will perform three sets to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center.

“It definitely to me is the essence of Thanksgiving and rehabilitating Black Friday from sort of a retail consumer orgy to something that is sort of hands-on help for your neighbors,” Chichester said.

Dubbed “The Three Phases of Happy Chichester,” Friday’s show will build from a quiet acoustic performance into a heavily layered, looped dance party. Selections from across Chichester’s career will be in the mix, including new songs from an album that’s been in the works for years.

His music has shifted shape since he picked up the bass for Royal Crescent Mob in 1985, from that band’s groove-driven party rock to Howlin’ Maggie’s alt-rock to his more intimate solo sounds. Fans accustomed to a quieter Happy might be surprised to hear the material he’s been cooking up in his private North Campus studio.

Chichester discovered new musical frontiers while touring as part of RJD2’s band for much of 2007 and 2010. Witnessing underground hip-hop figures like Busdriver and Pigeon John inspired Chichester to experiment with pads, loops and keyboards. It was a new mode of performance, but it drove him back to his earliest instrument, the drums.

“This one goes sort of full circle back to beat-derived music,” Chichester said, “but finding a new palette.”

If hip-hop inspired him to explore new modes of music, he isn’t buying into rap’s tendency toward constantly releasing material. Don’t expect more than a fraction of the three albums’ worth of songs he has recorded since 2007’s “Lovers Come Back” to see release.

“I curate my stuff. I’ve got tons of stuff. There’s a whole Howlin’ Maggie record that never really came out,” Chichester said. “I guess I could throw everything out there, but that’s not for me.”