Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen goes on the road in a vegetable oil powered airport van – finds new artists to jam with as he travels

Todd Day Wait’s approach to music is exciting and refreshing. Traveling all over the country performing with different musicians ensures his music will always bring something new and unexpected. One of my favorite tracks is “Nowhere To Be” because it truly embodies the spirit of Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen. This is truly music without labels.

Todd Day Wait takes his musical agenda, his group called Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen, on the road across the country in what was once a 1997 airport shuttle van. The vehicle runs on half vegetable oil and half diesel.

By Connor Elfrink

September 9, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Todd is really a very talented musician. Check out this solo performance of his song “I Sure Love You.”

Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen has been rolling around the country and squeaking out filthy R&B, reggae and soul grooves since 2009. Some musicians take time to craft an eccentric name for their bands, but for Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen, a simple name and a constant rotation of musicians do just fine.

Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen is an environmentally focused band that finds new musicians on the road to jam with each show. Frontman Todd Day Wait is a former member of Columbia’s East Ash Street Band and makes his way around the country in a 1997 airport shuttle van that has been converted to run half on vegetable oil and half on diesel.

Wait’s van represents his musical drive to create a gypsy caravan of sounds, as well as his ability to achieve collaborative musical excellence. The band once made it almost 400 miles from Chicago to Columbia on only $40. Wait panhandles at various mom-and-pop restaurants and McDonald’s for used grease to convert into fuel. He says people support his mode of travel. “There is a pretty strong underground network,” he says.

Wait doesn’t encourage people to eat fried food, but he says Americans seem unwilling to stop, so he would rather put the habit toward something less wasteful. He hopes to encourage others to look into alternative forms of transportation and fuel. “The best part is not giving money to BP,” Wait says.

Similar to the band’s unorthodox means of travel, Wait searches for supporting acts in unconventional places. For most tours, Wait’s only travel companion is his childhood friend Drew Wilson, also known as DJ Alpaca, who frequently opens for Pigpen’s set. The two find musicians at music shops, venues and bars. “We kind of just jump in there headfirst and find people through touring,” Wait says. “It’s a lot easier to get people to play in their hometown as opposed to dragging them along for the whole trip.”

Recruiting new artists has its benefits. Wait’s lyrics are folk stories that have the raw feeling and simplicity of country music. Cities with strong musical pedigrees, including Memphis, Chicago and New Orleans, have helped shape the group’s style.

Wait says the best thing about finding musicians on the road is adopting their styles in his own musical repertoire. He tries to open his ears and play off their strong points. “If a drummer does blues well, we’ll play that,” he says. “If a guitarist does improv, we’ll do that.”

Local musician and multi- instrumentalist Dylan McCord admires Wait’s unorthodox approach to touring. “It’s very smart the way he’s going about it,” McCord says. “He’s done a lot of networking around the country to get oil. He brings back somewhat of a world view.”

Bassist Michael Neubauer has toured with Wait. He says incorporating different sounds brings a new feel to local music. “I can usually tell if a band is from Columbia or St. Louis,” he says. “With Todd, I get more a sense that his music comes from all over.”

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