THE POWER OF COLLABORATION
The Steel Bridge Song Fest has been responsible for a whole lot more than just saving a megaton structure in Sturgeon Bay. The annual event has become a laboratory for songwriters thanks in large part to the efforts of Pat McDonald. It’s attracted big names from the local, regional and national pantheon including Jackson Browne, Jane Wiedlin, Eric McFadden and Victor DeLorenzo. All of these artists eventually became involved in a band that came to be known as the Bandallamas.
The project got its start in 2007 when famed Wisconsin musician Chris Aaron took the advice of his wife, Lisa Bethke, and began to think of ways he could expand his horizons. That led to a conversation with Madison percussionist Pauli Ryan who suggested they lure drummer Wally Ingram (who’s worked with such players as Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, CSNY and the aforementioned Browne – just to name a few) by taking him to a Packers game in Denver, where Aaron has resided since 2006. The evening was memorable not just for Favre’s bomb on the first play of overtime to win the game, but as fate would have it, their decision to see a band named Banyan afterward. Rob Wasserman was playing in that group and after-gig conversations revealed commonalities that led to the desire to work together. Bandallamas was off and running.
Aaron found himself jamming with Wasserman and Ingram and an impromptu hotel recording session laid the groundwork for the songs that would eventually become Eye to Eye, a sprawling two-disc debut with so many guest artists it’s practically a compilation album. Yet, unlike a compilation there is a remarkable cohesion that holds the album together. (You can read the review of the album here)
In March of 2009 the core group had expanded to include Aaron, Ryan, Ingram, keyboardist Ken Saydak , Madison guitarist extraordinaire Bobby Bryan and Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin, who’s also had an extensive solo career and strong Madison ties. The group convened at Madison’s DNA Studios and in only three days recorded the bulk of the album’s eighteen songs. Guest artists include Pat McDonald who contributed two songs, one of which was co-written with Jackson Browne. Also appearing are Tony Brown, Victor DeLorenzo, celloist melaniejane, Eric McFadden on mandolin, Delaney Davidson on harmonica and vocalist Hazel Miller. Jane Wiedlin’s “Best Bad Luck” is a nice departure into pop rock with a very catchy hook. Another significant contribution came from Richard Davis who fulfilled one of Wasserman’s dreams by dueting with him on Wasserman’s composition “Glissando,” an awesome track that expands the scope of the band’s music into truly unique territory.
Bandallamas received a couple of Grammy nominations for their work but, as you can imagine, the logistics of getting such a group together to perform make that very difficult. The band’s only two gigs this year will happen in Madison and Green Bay on November 11th and 12th respectively. The Madison event, being held at the Barrymore Theater, is a very special fundraiser for Vets for Peace (you can read about that here). Clyde Stubblefield will join the group as will Jimmy Voegeli, Tony Menzer and Jim Schwall. We will be posting a write-up on the event here.
There are future plans for another Bandallamas recording and if there is any justice the group will get some support that could lead to a tour. Keep your eyes on the Bandallamas’ website and don’t miss your opportunity to take in this supergroup on November 11th and/or 12th.