By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
From Rome, to “A Prairie Home Companion” to Pub 500 in Mankato.
Seems an odd progression for any band. But maybe not for Hilary Thavis and Gaia Groove, Italy’s decidedly Delta blues group.
Hilary Thavis is John Thavis’ daughter. The latter is a Mankato native that moved to Rome in the 1980s to cover the Vatican. After a 30-year career -- and a forthcoming book, “The Vatican Diaries,” due out February 2013 -- John has retired and returned to the United States.
Meanwhile, Hilary formed a blues band with three other Italian musicians. By 2005, the band had won Italy’s Cassino Birra Live Music Festival and, in 2007, opened for John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for their concert in Rome. The group subsequently embarked on two separate United States tours and made its first appearance on “A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor” in 2010.
More accolades followed in 2011 when the band won the Pistoai Blues’ Obiettivo BluesIn, Italy’s most important blues contest. Also in 2011, the band released its full-length album “Trouble & Truth,” which showcases Hilary’s magnetic vocals as perfectly suited to the brand of roots blues dressed in contemporary clothes the band prefers.
A week ago, the band was back in the neighborhood for another appearance on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Before coming, the band began asking around for a Mankato venue to play. They found Pub 500, which welcomed the opportunity.
To hear Hilary Thavis and Gaia Groove, visit the band’s Facebook page (search “Gaia Groove Band”) where members post regular updates about shows as well as videos, cover songs and musical tidbits. Also, visit the band’s website at www.gaiagroove.it.