By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
A single conversation with Portland musician Scott Pemberton makes one thing clear: The line between living everyday life and being a song-writing creative is blurred.
“It’s what I do,” Pemberton said. “It’s my way of life — music is.”
Pemberton’s band, Scott Pemberton O Theory (which is leaning into its identity as SPOT for short), will play the Panida Theater on Friday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. as part of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Winter Carnival. Music lovers can expect a show thick with groove, as SPOT’s style is best described as roots music that blends jazz, blues, grunge, funk and psychedelia — often, it has been said, in a single song.
Improvisation lies at the heart of it all, as Pemberton, bassist Stefan Jarocki and drummer David Hagen all come from jazz backgrounds.
“I’m OK with people calling us a jam band. Sometimes we are. Sometimes at the end of a song I’m like, ‘OK, I get it,’” Pemberton said. “But I never thought of it that way — it was more like progressive roots or jazz with all the rest of our influences in it, and it became what it is.”
What exactly that is requires a listen — or two or three — to pin down. The uncertainty felt in attempting to define SPOT is keeping with the band’s name. Pemberton described O Theory (“operator-belief theory”) as “an uncertainty theory” in which “you face uncertainty with either complimentary ideas, parallel ideas or intersecting ideas … but one of those things will get you through it.
“It works perfectly in music, in improvised music,” he added.
Thanks to this approach, no two SPOT shows are the same, even if the band plays the same songs.
“All the songs are like frameworks, or skeletons, that then we dress and present however the mood suits. Every time, every song is different,” Pemberton said, adding, “it’s like going on the same hike over and over — you don’t have the same experience. It’s a different experience every time. The weather is different, your mood is different, the person you’re hiking with is different, or you’re alone, or it’s raining.”
Pemberton’s work has drawn comparisons to famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix thanks to his dedication to the instrument — a comparison Pemberton finds flattering, since he believes Hendrix was “making the music, not playing the songs.”
“I’m honored by the comparison for sure, and I think one thing he was doing that I do is just always pushing — playing the guitar at the point of consciousness where … [you’re] improvising right at the front of your thought,” he said, adding later: “I’m taking different angles and concepts than maybe you’ve seen. Jimi did that, but I don’t do it like Jimi — I’m not playing behind my head or with my teeth or anything, but I’m trying not to be limited by the constraints of the instrument.”
SPOT is brought to the Panida by Mattox Farm Productions, which aims to bring a wide variety of live music events to North Idaho year round.
“These guys are great musicians, led by Scott, who is unbelievable with a guitar,” Mattox Farm founder Robb Talbott told the Reader. “Their music definitely has a good-time feel that is made even better by the energy and excitement they exude while on stage.”
The SPOT show begins right after the 2022 Winter Carnival Parade of Lights in downtown Sandpoint, making it the perfect party to follow up the carnival’s kickoff, according to Talbott. The gig is also the first of many sponsored by Vyve Broadband set to provide two weeks of live music across local venues during the Winter Carnival.
As for the SPOT show, it’s a chance to see (and hear) Pemberton’s philosophy — on both life and music — on a North Idaho stage.
“I’m in the long game as a musician and artist, finding ways so that it’s positive for everybody and sustainable, so you don’t quit,” he said. “Quitting is the only thing that stops you from growing.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 7 p.m. with opening band Justyn Priest Trio. Tickets at $20 for general admission, $10 for youth and children 5 and under get in free. Buy tickets at panida.org or at the door. Theater capacity is limited to 300 guests. The Panida Theater strongly encourages all guests to wear a mask, regardless of vaccine status, while enjoying performances. Listen to SPOT at scottpemberton.com.
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