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Eric Sommer

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Eric Sommer broke out of the Boston folk music scene with a mixture of roots-pure, fingerstyle acoustic guitar and new wave pop, a blurred combination of Nick Lowe, The Cars and Spider John Koerner influences. 

This unique alchemy produced a driving, guitar-based sound grounded in a tight, infectious beat and laced with Byrds-style, jingle-jangle guitar work; this sound landed Eric and The Atomics house band duties on Tuesday nights at Cantone’s, the uber hardcore, working-class punk bar in downtown Boston, just off an area called The Combat Zone.

At first, writing power pop rock songs, Eric blended his acoustic feel, open-tunings and slide guitar into a more personal writing approach, producing a wide rang of very personal songs, songs based on years of road work, travel and observations as well as some autobio material. During this time Eric was regularly called on by legendary promoter Don Law to fill in at Boston’s Paradise Theatre, located right on Commonwealth Avenue next to Boston University and across from another hardcore rock palace, The Underground. At the Paradise, Eric shared the stage and a number of tours with many national acts such as David Bromberg, Leon Redbone, John Mayall, Dr. John, John Hammond, Little Feat, The Byrds (McGuinn Clark and Hillman) and new wave British acts like Nick Loweʼs Wreckless Eric, Brahm Tschikovsky and Gang of Four.

Sommer, who paid his guitar dues on the streets of Boston during high school, left for Europe and played in Amsterdam and Hamburg before settling in Aarhus, Denmark where he toured with Danish bands and held steady gigs at Den Hoyle and De Gaverit, two very popular clubs for American ex-pats in Europe, and then moved to Amsterdam, lived on a houseboat and worked the Netherlands music clubs, the Amsterdam scene and German concert circuit. 

Back in Boston, broke and homeless, Eric lived on the streets and in abandoned warehouses in South Boston while playing every open mic and working every short-order cook job he could find. He took guitar tips from legendary guitar master David Landau, brother of Springsteen manager Jon Landau, then from Mick Goodrick of the Gary Burton Quartet and Steve Howe of YES fame, and listened to all the Joe Pass, Jeff Beck and Charlie Christian vinyl recordings he could find.

The Atomics continued to hold down the house band spot at cantone’s and after shows and tours with a number of new wave and punk acts like The Dead Kennedyʼs, The Atomics evolved into one of the best local power pop/new wave bands in Boston. The trio disbanded in the mid 80ʼs and Eric moved to New York, then Atlanta and finally settled around the Mid-Atlantic area, choosing Adams Morgan, a hip, cosmo-type east village like area of Washington DC, as a base of sorts. Eric mixed his music and visual interests together and launched the Georgetown Film Festival which combined indie films and animation with a music festival. This combination led Eric into “motion music” and he has created film scores and soundscapes for a number of short films, features, animations and docs.

But touring and road work is Ericʼs passion, and Eric is a regular performer in many national venues, and has built a solid musical and performance reputation across the country. Ericʼs goals are rooted in what John Lee Hooker said to him at a J.Geils show at The Catacombs in Boston : “If you ainʼt playinʼ, then you just payinʼ”. The message was clear - stay on the road if you don’t want to go broke.

It's no trick to say Eric is, hands down, one of the hardest working tour players out there today, taking every opportunity to make friends, make music and make a difference. His creative and recording output musically is very significant, but add that to the stories, poems, observations and sketches he is constantly posting and you can get a sense of the message he is trying to put across and the difference he is trying to make.

 

Since 1995 Eric has been touring and playing all over the US and plays an average of 200 - 270 shows a year. He has been a regular performer at The Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN, The Carrboro Festival in Carrboro, NC and the Festival for the ENO in Raleigh, NC. Recent shows have included bills with Mates of State, OLD 97ʼs, Austin Guitar wiz Monte Montgomery, Chris Smither and Jerry Douglas of Union Station, Sarah Watkins of Nickel Creek and Built to Spill, to name just a few.

Jim Reed of Savannah Connect said “Anyone whoʼs been in need of a fix of spectacular, percussive and virtuosic guitar work can rest easily. Eric Sommerʼs coming to town; One of the finest American guitar players on the road today Eric is an American original ... a poet, songwriter and showman... and the master of all things Americana."

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