Collaborative ensemble unites legendary performers
by Emily Genco
November 2011



Bandallamas realizes the superhuman talent of the DC Comics Justice League. Members of the collaborative ensemble don’t wear capes and leave the crime fighting to law enforcement, but they do conquer the doldrums of cookie-cutter music by blending punk, folk, jazz and rock elements. Bandallamas will perform at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison Nov. 11 and the Radisson Hotel in Green Bay on Nov. 12.

Bandallamas combines the skills of legendary performers to craft their eclectic sound. Members include frontman Chris Aaron; President Bandallamas LLC Lisa Bethke, founding member of the Violent Femmes Victor DeLorenzo; Wally Ingram, former drummer for Sheryl Crow; Jane Wiedlin of The Gogos; urban blues artist Bobby Bryan; Pauli Ryan, who has recorded with Garbage and U2; pianist Ken Saydak; and Rob Wasserman, who continues his creative collaboration with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead.

UW-Madison Professor of Bass Richard Davis is also a member. Over the course of his career, Davis has played with Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Barbra Streisand among others and appears on over 1,000 recordings.

“Richard’s an amazing talent and resource Madison has. It’s kind of like finding gold,” Aaron said.

Since they formed in 2009, Bandallamas has enlisted a revolving door of special guests including Grammy Award-nominated singer and guitarist pat mAcdonald and Eric McFadden, who has worked with artists including Joe Strummer and Jackson Browne.

“It’s a lot of fun collaborating with those kind of people. I think more than anything what they live for is to be creative,” Aaron said. “As a group we become stronger.”

Bandallamas released their debut album Eye to Eye in 2010. The record was under consideration for Best Rock Song and Rock Album of the year at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

“When we were entered for nomination for two Grammy awards, it was a killer feeling. [Chris] put a lot of work into the mixing, mastering,” Bethke said. “It was great to see it come together.”

When friends Aaron, Ingram and Ryan, gathered for the 2007 Packers-Broncos game in Denver, Brett Farve’s 82-yard pass in overtime to secure a win wasn’t the sole cause for celebration. That night the trio also decided to form Bandallamas.

“The band members all think of it as a happy accident,” Aaron said.

The project quickly gained momentum. At the last minute, DeLorenzo asked to get involved, according to Aaron. Bandallamas laid down the tracks for the album in just three days at DNA Studios in Madison.

“It just is one of those things that built synergy as it got closer to the recording. All of a sudden we have a 10-piece band, and it was awesome. I couldn’t have planned it any better myself,” Aaron said.

Some of the songs on the album were written beforehand, but all of the songs evolved during the recording process, according to Aaron. “Doubting” bears DeLorenzo’s heavy creative influence. DeLorenzo led Bandallamas to change the pacing in the end section to increase the song’s emotive power.

“He brought this whole new feeling to the song that actually became a B section that takes it to a whole new level which is really cool,” Aaron said. “It’s a song about how when we’re away from the people we love it’s easy to doubt them when you can’t see them face to face. We’re gone on the road a lot. It’s difficult. […] Victor said, ‘Let’s make it feel like at the end everything becomes ok.’ We just trusted, and he took us there.”

Aaron and Bethke began their collaborative efforts with other musicians at the Holiday Music Motel preparing for the Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay organized to raise money to save the historic Michigan Street steel bridge located there.

At the upcoming Bandallamas performances in Madison and Green Bay, the band will be joined by former members of the Green Bay Packers for VIP meet and greet sessions before the shows. Superbowl Champion Chris Jacke and former wide-receiver Bill Schroeder will meet with fans at the Madison show. Ahman Green and Bill Schroeder will greet fans in Green Bay. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the charity Veterans for Peace.

A number of guests will perform with Badallamas at both shows including Clyde Stubblefield in Madison, who is one of the most sampled drummers in history appearing in many raps from the ’90s, according to Aaron.

Bandallamas members hope to eventually hand down the collaborative structure they’ve established to their children, Bethke said.

“Think outside of the box. Toss your hat in the ring. Nobody’s going to judge you. At this caliber of musician, it’s just amazing to see them come together,” Bethke said.

Tickets for the Barrymore Theatre and Radisson Hotel shows cost $17 advance, $20 day of the show and $35 for the VIP passes to meet members of the Green Bay Packers. Both shows begin at 8 p.m.

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