COTTAGE GROVE – It has already been a busy summer for Inner Limits, which is just the way they like it.
“As soon as Memorial Day hits, every Friday and Saturday is pretty much booked through Labor Day,” band leader and guitar player Olem Alves said Friday. “We ended up being booked Wednesday through Sunday for 3½ months, which is great, because that’s what I like to do.”
Friday was a day when the band really stretched the limits of how much they could do. After performing in the afternoon at the Bohemia Mining Festival, they had less than 30 minutes before they were due to take the stage for an evening show at Saginaw Vineyard.
“We play so many festivals, and every winery around, so the goal is to keep branching out a little bit and to have every venue invite us back. A return visit is a compliment, and that’s really how it happens. People ask me, the best way to get a gig is to have a gig. Then we have to do what we do best, but we have a variety of styles that we can dip into.”
They played the main stage at the Oregon Country Fair a few years back, and they played Willamette Valley Folk Festival a couple of times. Also, they opened up for The Guess Who at the Light of Liberty Festival in Springfield in front of about 3,500 people.
Alves is one of the most skilled guitar players in the area, studying music at the University of Oregon and now giving private guitar lessons. He was mentored by the late James Thornbury, who played harmonica and slide guitar for 10 years (1985-95) with Canned Heat.
“James gave me that blues foundation,” Alves said. “I know a lot of jazz players who don’t have that feeling and emotion that blues players have. It’s a different thing, you cut loose a little more. I learned to play with other people by playing at blues jams at Good Times Cafe and Mac’s. When I was 15, I was too young to go to those places, but I got to meet some of those guys and hang out with them.”
That experience has paid off dearly. Alves really showed off his chops with some blazing lead riffs during “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan, and again during a mesmerizing medley that started with “L.A. Woman” by the Doors, went into “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, then into “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter, then back into “Running Down a Dream.”
“People seem to dig it when we do medleys, you can kind of go from pillar to pillar,” Alves said. “You don’t have to keep it structured, you can kind of roll with how it’s going. It keeps things kind of fresh.”
Alves, 50, says he grew up listening to metal and grunge, but his mom was a Beatles fanatic and he soon found himself migrating toward 60s music.
“Our second album is called “Rewrites,” and we did a couple of tunes from that tonight,” Alves said. “We did ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Come Together.’ We’re also doing a couple of originals for our upcoming album, including ‘Have Some Fun,’ because life is too short not to have some fun.”
Alves said it’s always a good time playing at Saginaw Vineyard, which is back to hosting music every Friday night with new owners Jack and Ali Tibbetts.
“We’ve been doing a monthly outdoor gig here May through October,” Alves said. “We like to do the indoor shows too, but the outdoor shows here are a great vibe, people turn out, we play all the wineries. Every winery is different, the vibe is different, people are different, this one just has a really chill environment. It’s so friendly and inviting, animals hang around, the kids, it’s just different, in a good way.”
Alves and his wife, Krysta, have three children – Jude, 19, Niko, 16, and Esme, 11.
“We used to have a family band that played in fairs and festivals and markets,” Alves said of the band called Sibling Revelry. “Jude was on piano, Niko plays drums and Esme sings and also plays piano. My wife wasn’t in it, she had to stay home and hold down the fort.”
Friday was one heckuva hectic day, but Alves said it went off without any major issues.
“Playing two shows requires a lot of energy, but things went pretty smooth,” he said. “I’m pretty easy going, I don’t get bothered by much, and I feel fortunate to be able to do what I’m doing. It gave me some stress the day before – I had to set up everything the day before – but I’m happy with the way it all worked out.”