Jan. 12 2011 10:39 AM

Convoy reunites to play at their old haunt

From left: Robbie Dodds, Jeff Winfrey, Jason Hill, Brian Karscig, Mark Maingaard
Photo by Michael Krull
Brian Karscig and Jason Hill have played together in three bands since the early ’90s. Dishwater was the type of band that would play at Winston’s, Convoy was the type of band that would play The Casbah and Louis XIV was the type of band that would play on MTV2. But what made Convoy stand out from the other two acts was the undeniable “family” vibe, Karscig says.

“We lived and breathed music,” he says. “We all lived in the same house; we were dead broke. We pooled all of our money to get food, pay rent, buy whatever we needed to buy. We were kinda just a family, and all we did was play. When we weren’t struggling to come up with rent, and when we’d get evicted out of places and all we had was our RV, we’d hit the road. We were always playing, five to seven nights a week, whether it was in front of three people or 300 people. So, by the time we did actually kinda get our break, we were just a damn good live band.”

In all three bands, Karscig and Hill served as the main songwriters. The remaining members fleshed out the songs with the influences they brought with them. Looking back, you could say Convoy was San Diego’s answer to Wilco: Rock music with a country flavor, skillful playing and soaring harmonies. The band looked the part, as well. Onstage, they sported jeans, T- shirts, flannels and trucker hats before the latter became the norm.

Karscig says their sound was defined by one multi-instrumentalist star player.

“I think Convoy was largely Robbie Dodds,” he says, “who added a lot of the chicken-pickin’, slide guitars, things that really took us from being a garage-y sounding band to a band with actual chops. When he left, we just did not sound the same.”

Dodds’ departure in 2002 was also the first big shakeup since the band formed in 1996. The once-tight family unit was beginning to fracture.

“There was a good six-month period there where we didn’t have any money to tour,” he says. “We didn’t have a new record out. Everybody got comfortable with their girlfriends or started picking up part-time jobs. It was just kind of the beginning of the end of the connection that Convoy always was.”

Karscig and Mark Maigaard—Convoy’s drummer, who also played with Karscig and Hill in Louis XIV— met recently to catch up over drinks at The Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa, and a Convoy song came on the jukebox. A fan approached Maigaard and asked if he was the drummer for Convoy. Maigaard said he was and added that the guy he was sitting next to wrote “Sugarcane,” the song they were listening to. The fan gushed about the band for a bit, and when he walked away, Maigaard pitched a Convoy reunion to Karscig.

“Mark looks over at me and says, ‘You know what, man, it’s been almost 10 years. If I put out an e-mail tomorrow to initiate a Convoy reunion, would you be down?’ I said if all the original members were in, I would be totally in. He put out an e-mail and within a few hours, everybody got back and was like, ‘Fuck yeah, we’re in.’”

It made good sense, especially since the shows are oneoffs. No new album down the road, no big tour, no pressure. “This is just getting a bunch of friends back together now that we’re all at different stages of our lives,” Karscig says. “It started at The Casbah, it ended at The Casbah and it’s gonna reunite at The Casbah.”

Convoy play with Blackout Party and Brothers Grimm at The Casbah on Friday, Jan. 14. They also play with Behind the Wagon and The western at The Casbah on Saturday, Jan. 15. myspace.com/pineappleconvoy

From left: Robbie Dodds, Jeff Winfrey, Jason Hill, Brian Karscig, Mark Maingaard