For a band that once called the Kickin' Chicken home, playing the Turkey Jam should feel like a natural progression.
Weigh Station formed in the spring of 2006, the collaboration of college buddies and musical compatriots. They quickly built their name along King Street with their funky blend of dirty Southern rock.
"A few years ago, the Chicken was the spot for us," says guitarist Tom Leonczyk. "It would be all sorts of musicians and friends that we knew playing there."
Leonczyk met saxophonist Eric Gaffney in his dorm at the College of Charleston, and they soon paired up with vocalist/guitarist John Heinsohn. They're anchored by William Moore on bass and Stuart White on drums — both of whom are distinguished alums of the downtown jazz scene.
White is the band's most recent addition, adding an impenetrable tightness to the group's improvised jams. "He definitely pushes everyone a little bit," says Leonczyk.
After nearly five years of tightening their sound and building a local fan base, Weigh Station is hoping 2011 will be a break-out year. They're heading into Ocean Industries Studios the week after Thanksgiving to work on a five-song EP, drawing from more than 25 originals currently in their live lineup.
"We're going with the ones that have the best energy and are more song-oriented than jam-oriented," says Leonczyk. "We're focusing on the songs and making it accessible listening for anybody."
Tracks "Train of Love," "The Heat," and "Rockin' the Bench" are all on the list to record, and songs will likely make appearances in the Turkey Jam setlist. Weigh Station is the rare local bar band that can move a dance floor without relying on covers. They pull out the occasional "Statesboro Blues" or "Maggot Brain," but with their sax-driven grooves and catchy melodies, the originals are memorable on their own.
Leonczyk, Heinsohn, and Moore all contribute to the songwriting, which is then fleshed out by the band together.
"If a person has a better idea, we listen. If we all feel good with what someone brings to the table, then we do that," says Leonczyk.
Weigh Station shies away from comparisons to other Southern-style jam bands, but their influences can't be hidden in the music. The idea for the band's name arose during a road trip to the Allman Brothers Band's Wanee Festival, and Leonczyk cites Gov't Mule and the North Mississippi All-Stars among the bands he'd like to see Weigh Station support.
When their EP comes out this spring, they anticipate growing into a regional act.
The group is eager to play the Turkey Jam this week. The irony of a band called Weigh Station playing a Thanksgiving-themed event called "The Turkey Jam" isn't lost on them.
"It's definitely a name that sticks in people's heads," says Leonczyk. "I get calls and texts from people who are driving down the highway, saying that they just thought about us. It works out pretty good."