It’s the Jim Thorpe version of a mega-weekend around town. Two PA bands, The Badlees and the Craig Thatcher Band, highlight the final weekend of the Jim Thorpe Fall Foliage Festival, with Friday and Saturday evening performances at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.
Friday, Oct 21
It’s hard to say “Pennsylvania band” without also saying “The Badlees,” possibly the most well-known rock outfit to emerge from these parts. Their Friday, October 21 date at the Mauch Chunk Opera House looks back on a long career and looks ahead as well.
(Badlees fans: the Friday, October 21 show is at 8:30 PM. Doors are at 7:30 PM. Give yourself plenty of time to get to town as it’s a Fall Foliage Festival Weekend. Special record store event at SoundCheck Records before the show at 4 PM. Tickets can be ordered by calling 570-325-4009, visiting SoundCheck Records in downtown Jim Thorpe, or by selecting your seats online.)
Long in each others’ orbits as friends, drinkin’ buddies, and as members of other bands, frontman Pete Palladino, guitarist and songwriter Bret Alexander, guitarist Jeff Feltenberger, bassist Paul Smith and drummer Ron Simasek soon saw that more and more fans were turning out for their shows, excited to hear their singular brand of Americana rock ‘n’ roll, reminiscent of John Mellenkamp and Tom Petty.
What ensued was a parable describing the arc of a fast-rising rock band’s existence: a best-selling album in River Songs, a video for MTV (featuring Julianna Margulies), tours around the country performing not only to sold-out rooms but arenas, opening for Bob Seger and Gregg Allman, even touring the Chinese mainland.
But the time also included being hostage to the machinations of large record companies, as their label was gobbled up by another, delaying the release of Up There Down Here by almost 2 years. The 60 minutes of inspiration performing onstage was preceded by hours of boredom, the existential malaise of touring, endless wrangling with record companies, and the unmet demands of families and friends.
After a nearly 15-year run the Badlees split up in 2003 to pursue personal projects and other objectives.
Fortunately, they remained good friends and have attracted a lot of attention recently by reuniting to play selected gigs, such as their 2010 show at the Opera House.
First of all, they never lost their legions of fans. Then last year they released the fine new album Love Is Rain, a beautifully-produced and satisfying collection of songs that traverse many musical styles. The album flows easily among genres, from rock ballads to mandolin-driven acoustic tunes.
Opening the show will be Mike Miz. He’s from the Wyoming Valley of N.E. Pennsylvania – the rough coal-country northern end of the Appalachians, and a particularly good fit with The Badlees. He and his band have also opened for Derek Trucks, Blues Traveler, Leon Russell, Shawn Colvin, Railroad Earth, Jackie Greene, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and Bob Dylan.
We’re looking forward to a great show. This is heck of a lot of outstanding music for $18.
As a commenter said in response to a YouTube posting of a recent Badlees performance: Just love you guys. Your music is good for my soul.
Saturday, Oct 22
The Craig Thatcher Band first performed this music at the Opera House 5 years ago. In that time, Badge: The Clapton Retrospective has become one of the most consistently well-attended shows on the Opera House schedule.
Check out their promo video for a sampling, recorded here at the Opera House.
Once you’ve seen it, the show’s popularity comes as no surprise. It’s a deeply satisfying and well-thought-out show by a group of musicians at the top of their games who all love the music of EC.
I remember inviting my brother-in-law to this show about three years back. We both grew up loving Clapton, but he’s especially blunt when he doesn’t like someone doing somebody else’s music. Particularly EC’s.
Not a problem this time.
“That one brought a tear to my eye,” he said after one extended jam on the Clapton standard, After Midnight. The tastefully constructed leads are inspired by the Clapton canon for sure, but they come from guitarist Craig Thatcher’s soul, clearly.
Thatcher has been a compelling guitar figure in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley for 3 decades, performing with some of the area’s most well-known musicians, and, in the process, perhaps supplanting them in that role. His Badge: The Eric Clapton Retrospective show has evolved with him, and he has taken it around the country as its recognition has grown.
The Craig Thatcher Band also comprises Craig Kastelnik, himself one of the eminent keyboardists in the area, and none are better at so many styles of rock and jazz. He’s also a noted singer, as is his wife and bandmate Patty Kastelnik, who also adds percussion. Bassist Wayde Leonard has been with Mr. Thatcher for over 20 years and is also a fine vocalist. Along with drummer extraordinaire Don Plowman they lay down a superb backbeat perfect for Thatcher’s pyrotechnics.
In a special treat, the emerging and already-popular violinist Nyke Van Wyk performs with both bands!