After about two and a half years of separation, one of the city’s most beloved bands is back and ready to pick up where it left off.
The Woodbox Gang, Carbondale’s self-labeled “Trashcan Americana” band, will play a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Shryock Auditorium. This will be the band’s first live show since 2009, and it has been a long work in progress, banjo and guitar player Dan Goett said.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Hugh DeNeal was imprisoned Oct. 27, 2009, after a mail fraud conviction, and Goett said his absence put the band on hold until his release last year.
Every band member has been in numerous other acts throughout the years and continued to play locally, Goett said, even after the band went on a break.
Alex Kirt, Woodbox’s assorted instrumentalist, said he joined bands such as the Giant City Slickers, the Mudsills and the Django Billies around town during the band’s hiatus.
Although he traveled less, Kirt said he was able to grow as a musician in his time with other bands.
“I never took a break personally,” he said. “I just stayed closer to home and I’ve learned a great deal from the great musicians I’ve been lucky enough to play with.”
Goett said much like Kirt, he joined the Giant City Slickers, Rural Kings, Soul Glo, Django Billies, Mudsills and Boondock Billies when Woodbox wasn’t together.
Curtis Conley, Woodbox’s event promoter, said DeNeal wrote lyrics when he was in prison and sent the lyrics to Kirt so he could write music along with it.
DeNeal was placed on house arrest after his prison release, which is when Goett said the band took the time to get back together, practice and work on its new album. He said the band didn’t feel comfortable playing a show as soon as DeNeal was taken off of house arrest because the group needed to feel confident in itself and have new material to present to its fans.
“This comeback can really be a big deal for a lot of people,” Goett said. “We took our time and really put a lot of thought into making everything happen as opposed to playing a gig right after Hugh got off of home confinement.”
Goett said the Shryock show will be for all the fans who eagerly awaited the band’s revival.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with people where they’d say, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and the next question was always, ‘When’s the band getting back together?’” Goett said.
“Glorious Scars,” the band’s newest album to release Saturday, is the most diverse recording the band has done, he said, and each song is different.
“Because the band has gone through different phases and … different band members, and (because) Hugh’s writing style changes throughout the years, they all sound a little bit different,” Goett said. “There’s one song that I think sounds like a Black Sabbath track, and the next track has got a banjo and a mandolin on it.”
Kirt said Woodbox was fortunate to get a skilled drummer for the album because he blends well with its sound.
“We were lucky enough to hire Jim Beers to play drums on nearly every song,” Kirt said. “He is a very talented percussionist, and his style works quite well with our sound. I think he stole the show on these recordings.”
Conley said even though the band members have all played multiple shows with numerous bands, they seem anxious to play at a venue as large as Shryock.
“They have some positive anxiety, as Hugh puts it,” Conley said. “For them to be nervous is a rarity, but they’ve been waiting for this for so long.”
Kirt said he expects to see many familiar faces Saturday, and he welcomes the opportunity to play for people who have followed them from the beginning.
“It’ll be great to see everyone under one roof again,” he said. “The so-called local fans are mostly our friends and family, so we have a very different relationship with the home audience as compared to an audience in a distant location where we are mostly anonymous.”
Goett said the show will be an experience fans will keep with them forever after all the work and time spent getting back together.
“From the bizarre story of our band to the bizarre music that we play, to have the whole prison thing happen and to come back and have the event at a really beautiful theater like Shryock … it’s just got so much significance,” Goett said. “I think that anybody who goes won’t forget this concert.”