Playing ‘exactly’ what they want, this country-propelled Southwest Michigan trio plays Grand Rapids for the first time this week while eyeing completion of a full-length album. (Podcast, videos)
THE BAND: The Boulevard Billies
THE MUSIC: Vintage country, Americana and bluegrass
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 1) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids with the Roger Brown Band; March 4 at The Livery in Benton Harbor
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For decades, Dan Geib and Mark Albers (aka Art Gomperz) have churned out their audience-pleasing brand of country music together, even attracting a European audience at one point that made The Art Gomperz Band a Top 10 chart favorite.
When that five-piece band finally ran its course as scheduling became “too much of a hassle,” The Boulevard Billies were born – a St. Joseph-based vintage country trio featuring Geib on guitar and banjo, Albers on bass and Rusty Hardwater on guitar and mandolin.
Suffice to say, Geib and Albers have come a long way from their childhood days some 45 years ago when they just wished they were The Monkees.
“I find this new band (Boulevard Billies) one my favorites as the material is more Americana, bluegrass and country classics, which allows me a great opportunity to flatpick and play the banjo,” says Geib. “Our music is true to the sense of eclectic Americana.”
The Boulevard Billies previewed that show by stopping by Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) this week to talk about their music and perform a song on the air. Watch a video for one of the songs here, and listen to the full podcast below.
VIDEO: The Boulevard Billies, “Do You Wanna Go Walkin” (Local Spins Live)
Audiences experiencing the two-year-old trio for the first time can expect “a wide selection of tunes including but not limited to bluegrass, Texas swing, classic country, instrumentals from fiddle tunes, banjo breakdowns, Django Reinhardt, Gershwin,” says Geib. “We also like to throw in a chunk of humorous banter between songs when we can.”
The repertoire reflects the influences of band members, who grew up listening to the likes of Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens. George Jones, Dwight Yoakam, Bela Fleck, Hank Williams and Tony Rice also are cited as inspirations.
“Between that and all The Beatles’ albums that I used to pilfer from my mother’s collection, that’s kind of what happened to me,” says Hardwater, of Niles, who’s performed in the past with the bands Tremor Medicine and Hard Water Biscuit.
The Boulevard Billies have released an EP and hope to complete a full-length recording later this year – an album that will feature originals written by Hardwater. The band also aims to expand its fan base by performing more frequently outside Berrien County in places such as South Bend, Ind., Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and the Chicago area.
“Once established into the larger base, moving into festivals and more outside events is next. But most of all, we are just a handful of pickers looking to play music and have a good time,” says Geib. “We truly play exactly what we want.”
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with The Boulevard Billies (Feb. 1, 2017)
VIDEO: The Boulevard Billies, “Take Me Back to Tulsa” (Local Spins Live)
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