Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 29, 2001

Keith Grimwood, left, and Ezra Idlet are
Trout Fishing in America.

Fishing for
fun and music

Distinctive duo with
a diverse repertoire
makes its Honolulu debut

By Gary C. W. Chun

Keith Grimwood is 5 feet 5 inches tall. As half of the folk/rock duo with the quirky name of Trout Fishing In America, he plays Jeff to his Mutt-like musical partner, Ezra Idlet, a "giant of a man" at 6 feet 9.

He's used to being overlooked. In fact, Grimwood seems to thrive at times with his relative invisibility. But the music he and Idlet have woven for delighted audiences both old and young across the nation have made them concert favorites for their infectious sense of fun and superb musicianship. And they hope they can win over more fans with their two debut island concerts, starting tonight.

"My partner, he's easy to recognize; he's the big guy," the amiable Grimwood said by phone from his Waikiki hotel room Tuesday morning. "We both sing and play (he on standup and electric bass, Idlet on guitar) and we've been together for 25 years.

"But one of the distinguishing things about our duo -- besides the height difference -- is that we make more sound than what you think two guys could possibly make. It's a true ensemble performance, filled with polyrhythms. And while we approach our music seriously, we don't with our songs. We're basically lighthearted, doing all original material, appropriate for any age. We play music anyone can enjoy."

The two met when they were members of a Houston, Texas-based quintet, and they first played as a duo on the side when elementary school teachers approached them to play in their school classrooms. "We didn't know any kid songs and didn't realize you had to talk down to the students!" Grimwood remembered. "So from the very beginning, we've been able to play both clubs with an adult audience, and concert halls and festivals with kids and families in attendance. In fact, we've had five generations of any one family come as a group to our concerts."

Their award-winning independent albums have either been for kids or adult-oriented. Their latest album, "Closer to the Truth," is of the latter kind, a solid country folk/rock affair, filled with well-written songs sometimes humorous, but always sympathetic to the human condition.

"It's the kind of music that makes us happy," Grimwood said. "We never do the kind of music that says, 'We've suffered for our art and now feel how much we hurt!'"

Because they'll be playing in a new venue this weekend, don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of Grimwood wandering about before the show, "checking out who's who, and from there, put together a set list of songs that we think will cater to the audience."

That can all change at a moment's notice with a shared glance between the two musicians on stage; such is the advantage of playing together for many years.

"The moment I met (Ezra), we were immediate friends," Grimwood said. "The musical chemistry was always there. The show we do has evolved over time but there's been no reason for us to break up. Thankfully, we never fell in love with the same woman!"

Trout Fishing In America was a name Idlet and Grimwood took up on a whim while the band was on an imposed hiatus (read: lost bookings) during a tour stop in Santa Cruz, Calif. "We had to perform under some kind of name for this local talent contest," Grimwood said, "and I just came up with this title of a Richard Brautigan book I really liked.

"I was a big Brautigan fan. I loved his early work, where he had such a light-hearted approach to the use of the English language. And the name also worked because my partner is an actual fisherman. I remember on our onroad travels that we'd occasionally stop, where Ezra would do some sport fishing and I would read my books. So Trout Fishing In America is both an off-the-cuff name and reflects a deep love of fishing."

The duo depends a lot on radio airplay (their songs have been featured on both public and Disney radio formats) and constant touring to get their music out there. "Once we get an audience in a venue, we'll make believers out of them," Grimwood said confidently. "Get them there and we will entertain them!"

Trout Fishing In America

When: 7 p.m. today and tomorrow
Where: Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Admission: $20 special for families; $10 adults; $4 children 12 & under
Call: 956-6878

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