Doko Benjo brings its rock/funk to House of Blues

Times Correspondent | Friday, December 28, 2007

Unlike many aspiring musicians hungry for fame, Cary Kanno, guitarist for rising Windy City rockers Doko Benjo and jazz-hoppers Abstract Giants, is in no hurry to find his commercial peak with each of his groups.

"It seems like in both bands, we just keep going up and we haven't plateaued yet," he said.

"It's a slow, steady climb. It's not like there's been any skyrocketing recognition. And it's nice that it's been that way."

Opening for long-running eclectic rockers Rusted Root Sunday at Chicago's House of Blues, Kanno has spent six years up and down the frets for Abstract Giants.

The band has built up a fan base throughout Chicagoland with performances everywhere from Metro to Taste of Chicago, and in October, it released its second studio set, "Unearthed."

About three and a half years ago, Kanno got together at a North Side bar with a handful of longtime friends who were all fellow musicians and decided to form a band of their own.

Taking its name from the Japanese translation of "where's the bathroom?" ("It has a nice ring to it," Kanno said, laughing)," Doko Benjo is rounded out by vocalist Amy Totch, guitarist Willis Wendell, drummer Matt Spooner, bassist Rusty Ehler, trombonist Geoff Lewis, saxophonist Dave Schacht and trumpet player Bryan Ewing.

When pressed, Kanno described Doko Benjo's music as a hybrid of rock and funk.

"We like to try and push the envelope as far as pop and rock music goes," he said.

"We try to introduce different elements to our music beyond just the 4/4 rhythm, and we try to mix things up melodically and make the music more intricate."

Last year, Doko Benjo released a 10-song EP, "Kitty Litter." Members currently are at work on what will be their first full-length set, which they hope to release in 2008.

"Ever since we've gotten together, I like to think that we've gotten better and better as we go along," Kanno said.

"We're a lot better of a band now than we were when we recorded that first CD."

On Jan. 19, Kanno will join his Abstract Giants mates for a showcase at Chicago's Metro in online entertainment and gambling Web site Bodog's regional "Battle of the Bands" contest.

Winners of the nationally run contest, Kanno said, will receive a $1 million recording contract from the Web site.

For more information on the band, go to

Sunday headliners Rusted Root continue to tour together on a regular basis as well as pursue individual music projects. The band is scheduled to perform Feb. 22 with award-winning Christian rockers Newsboys Feb. 22 at Merrillville's Star Plaza Theatre.