Arts & Entertainment

Rahway Residents are Anything but Blue as John Popper Brings His Famous Blues Rock to UCPAC

John Popper of Blues Traveler playing his signature harmonica. Credits: Vince Sadonis

Rahway, NJ- A man of 14 harmonicas and the voice behind the 1995 Blues Traveler hit “Run-Around,” John Popper is coming to Rahway on September 30, 2017 to perform at the Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage. With a style of music typically defined as soul, blues rock, psychedelic rock and southern rock, Popper aims to write songs that speak to shared human experiences and emotions. Appearing as a solo act, he’ll be crooning to 1,334 seats starting at 8 PM.

John Popper’s most famous incarnation is the band Blues Traveler, which was first signed to a label in 1989. The founding members were Popper on harmonica and vocals, Brendan Hill on drums, Bobby Sheehan on bass and Chan Kinchla on guitar. Currently, all founding members are still in the band with the exception of Sheehan, who passed away in 1999. Tad Kinchla became the bassist in 2000, with Ben Wilson also joining the band that year on keyboards. “Run-Around,” from Blues Traveler’s fourth album aptly titled four, launched their debut into mainstream music. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy in 1995: “Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.” “Hook,” from the same album, is their second most well-known song, reaching number 23 on Billboard.

Aside from Blues Traveler, Popper has also maintained a flourishing solo career, which began with his 1999 solo album Zygote, and he has started two other bands. The John Popper Project was formed in 2004, featuring Popper, Tad Kinchla, drummer Marcus Bleeker, bassist Rob Wasserman, and turntable artist DJ Logic. The Duskray Troubadours is Popper’s third band, formed in 2010 with Kevin Trainor and Aaron Beavers on guitar, Steve Lindsay on bass, Mark Clack on drums, and Jono Manson on guitar and keyboard. John Popper also joined with Frogwings (1999) and The Devotees (1997) for their albums Croakin’ At Toads and Gimme Gimme, respectively, and has appeared as a guest musician (primarily on harmonica and back-up vocals) for countless other artists, including the Dave Matthews band, Hanson, Cee-Lo Green, and John Oates. Blues Traveler’s most recent album, 2015’s Blow Up the Moon, saw the entire band collaborating with other artists, including the Plain White T’s, 3OH!3, and Jewel.

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Aside from music, Popper has appeared in several movies, including as himself in Private Parts, Howard Stern’s 1997 autobiographical movie, as part of the band in Blues Brothers 2000 and in Just for the Time Being (2000) as Frankie. Popper wrote the lyrics for the ninth theme of the hit TV show Roseanne, which all of Blues Traveler performed.

An expert in harmonicas, John Popper has fourteen in total, which he originally wore in specialized pouches over his clothes so he could switch between them quickly during live performances. Nowadays, he keeps them all in a small box. Twelve of the harmonicas represent the twelve tones of A, A-flat, B, C, D, D-flat, E, E-flat, F and H. The remaining two are the highest and lowest harmonicas available. Inspired by the way Jimi Hendrix used to change the sound of his guitar, Popper changes the sound of his harmonica using a special microphone connected to an amplifier.

Tickets for John Popper go on sale March 14 and range from $10 to $40. They can be purchased online at, over the phone by calling (732) 499-8226 or in person at the box office. The Union County Performing Arts Center is located in downtown Rahway at 1601 Irving Street and is easily accessible to major roads and public transportation.


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