China Post: Jetleggers Reunite in Tainan

By Sean Scanlan
Special to The China Post, April 22, 2005

E-mail boxes were buzzing recently with speculation that Seattle-based band Dennis Rea and the Jetleggers would return to Taiwan after a decade-long absence.

The group has finally landed, and beginning this evening embark upon two weeks' worth of gigs throughout the island, culminating in a performance at the Tainan May Jam on May 1.

Rea lived in Tainan from 1990-1993, performing regular gigs with fellow Jetleggers Ryan Berg and Axel Schunn as well as what Rea describes as a "shifting constellation of players from the US, Canada, and Germany." For this year's tour of the island, he has recruited Olli Klomp on drums and Karl Scheer on electric violin.

Remembering the Tainan music scene in the early '90s, Rea says there was a dearth of original music, a club scene mostly dominated by glossy cover bands, and college acts playing covers such as shout-along Joan Jett songs. He also laughs about a couple of gigs shut down by "machine-gun carrying police officers."

Rea says his music was too much for local audiences at the time. His band offered a head-spinning mix of jazz improvisation and straightahead rock numbers like "Clown Hole," "The Heimlich Maneuver," and "Jaguar Feathers."

Rea even speculates his group of Tainan musicians predated the Spring Scream movement and the explosion of the alternative music scene throughout the island. "I would like to hope that we influenced some of the musicians here," Rea says. "I think our band was eclectic in the extreme."

Rea says he has been rehearsing with the current Jetlegger lineup for the past four months, and looks forward to the many friends and acquaintances who will turn out for the band's two-week tour.

Rea's first introduction to Chinese culture occurred in 1989 when he lived in mainland China, recording a solo album and performing alongside well known rock stars such as Cui Jian. Rea describes a memorable moment in Beijing when Cui Jian took the stage with Rea's Tainan-based band, Identity Crisis, and sang his song "I Have Nothing to My Name." Rea says the tune was the anthem for disaffected youth in the post-Tiananmen generation.

Aside from this magical encounter, Rea has other credits to his name such as becoming a nominee for best guitarist in the 2005 Seattle Weekly Music Awards, and other Rea recordings have made critics' Top 10 lists in such respected publications as Pulse! and Earshot Jazz. Dennis Rea and the Jetleggers will be supported on this tour by former bandmate Andreas Vath from Germany, performing under the name Chekov.