From the first roar of the crowd that follows the first strums of the guitar, there is something special about the audience energy at a Rusted Root show.
"It's an equal energy exchange, and they're giving it right back to you at that instant," says Patrick Norman, the band's bassist and vocalist. "It feeds your energy on stage. There is nothing like that. The audience really is the missing number of almost any live band that's out there."
Rusted Root will head to Cumberland County this week to perform at The Club House at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23.
The band was originally scheduled to play at The Levoy Theatre in Millville, but five acts - including Rusted Root - had to be rescheduled or moved to a different venue due to a delayed opening of the theater. The more than 100-year-old theater on High Street is in the final stages of an $8.5 million renovation.
Opening day at the theater is now scheduled for Sept. 8, according to the Levoy Theatre Preservation Society.
Rusted Root has sold more than 3 million albums worldwide and is best known for the radio hit "Send Me On My Way," from its 1994 major-label debut album "When I Woke." The multi-platinum sextet is known for its unique fusion of acoustic, rock, world and other styles of music.
Band founder and leader Michael Glabicki and vocalist and percussionist Liz Berlin formed the band while students at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. Norman, also a college student at University of Pittsburgh, played guitar at the time.
"They were looking for a bass player … (they) asked if I could sit in," Norman recalls. "I told them I don't play bass … I ended up going out and renting a bass, went and rehearsed with them for one night, and the next day was the show. We just jammed together and it felt really good. It was cool because it was a brand new band - they hadn't even been out much. It was fresh and it was neat. Because it started the way it did, I ended up learning how to play bass with this band."
Rusted Root is known for its unique fusion of root music and world sounds, with a powerful percussive style that has African and Native American influences.
"Percussion has always been the background with everybody," Norman says. "It's the first instrument of music. I think we were all just really into percussive music - world music, different rhythms from everywhere, you know? It just naturally found its way into our writing."
The sound has earned the band a cult following. "Rootheads," as they're affectionately known, often follow the band as they play everything from major music festivals (Bonnaroo and Woodstock '99 among them) to intimate clubs and bars.
"It's always fun to play in front of 500,000 people, but it's equally as fun playing a small club like The Stone Pony (in Asbury Park)," Norman says. "It's sweaty and hot, and you're right in the mix with the crowd. And it really lends to the music. You feed off of that energy as a band. We're recording an album right now, and it really helps us when we're working out a song and we're able to just throw it in to the set and get that immediate feedback. They are two sides of the same coin. Playing live at festivals is great - it's more personal in a club like The Stone Pony."
The new album, tentatively titled "The Movement," will be the group's first release since 2009's successful "Stereo Rodeo." "The Movement" is slated to be released at the end of October, Norman says.
"The album is really song-oriented," Norman says. "It's very bright, I would say, like in the positive attitude on the tracks. I think it's our best album to date. We spent so much time writing these songs, trying them live and tweaking them, and I'm just really excited."
The audience can expect to hear a few of the tracks from the new album at Thursday's show, Norman says.
"Well, we're going to have a really heavy party and a great time, hear some fun new music and some old stuff, too," Norman says. "We'll be bringing out some friends of ours to play with us - Lucy Stone - she sang a little bit on the album with us. Should be a really good mix."
Norman, who was unaware of the show's venue change before doing a telephone interview, says this won't be their first motorsports park performance.
"You know, we actually played a raceway once, I think in Texas," Norman says. "It was a few years ago. It was ridiculously hot. A black asphalt track and like 115 degrees outside."
He laughs before adding, "It won't be like that in New Jersey."