Fever Tree Rising

Forming near the tail end of Houston's prolific psychedelic era, Fever Tree brought a Doors/Jim Morrison brand of dramatic theatricality almost unparalleled by any other Texas band to its songs and shows, primarily on the strength of vocalist Dennis Keller's voice. I was a high school senior when the group reached its zenith in 1968 with "San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)" — Fever Tree was all over the radio, and we all thought they were part of the Haight-Ashbury thing. But according to keyboardist Rob Landes, the band not only never lived in San Francisco, it never even played there. Indifferent management and excessive drug use caused Fever Tree to lose its label deal and eventually disintegrate, but anyone who caught February's debut of Keller's Fever Tree Rising at the Continental knows something extremely special happened that night. Old Fever Tree fans came from up and down the Gulf Coast to see a band missing in action for almost 40 years, and the biggest surprise was that Keller and the band of Austin ringers supporting him absolutely nailed it. In fact, the new band was even tighter and more professional than the original Tree. But Keller, with his amazing pipes and theatrical delivery, remains the centerpiece, and perhaps the rebooted band's "milk and honey days" are actually ahead of it, not behind.

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William Michael Smith