The Ohio duo has long made Grand Rapids a regular tour stop and will bring their holiday concert to Calvin University’s Chapel on Saturday night. The Local Spins interview.
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It was 30 years ago that Linford Detweiler and Over the Rhine took the stage at their first-ever show at what was then Calvin College.
“It felt good to feel the music falling on ears that had never heard us perform before,” reminisced Detweiler in an interview from his home near Martinsville, Ohio.
Over the Rhine, which also features Detweiler’s wife, Karin Bergquist, had just released its first album and opened some shows for the legendary Bob Dylan.
Over the last three decades, the folk-based band has performed regularly at Calvin, now a University. And many of those concerts have been on their Christmas tours, including their Saturday (Dec. 2) concert at Calvin University’s Chapel, billed as “an acoustic Christmas.”
“We didn’t record a Christmas album until 1996,” said Detweiler of their collection “The Darkest Night of the Year.” “Our second Christmas album was called ‘Snow Angels,’ and our most recent one is ‘Blood Oranges in the Snow.’
“You can see we mastered the art of snappy, holiday titles over the years,” he quipped.
The eclectic duo plans to draw heavily from those songs, but also from across the rest of their folk, country, Americana and pop catalog. Even back to their first cassette demo from 1989.
“I have to remind people that for a very brief time we were an ’80s band,” he smiled.
Over the Rhine (named for a Cincinnati, Ohio, neighborhood where the band took shape) has music which provides a distinctive take on the holiday. It leaves room for the conflicting emotions people can have during the Christmas season.
“Holidays can be hard for a lot of folks: if you’ve buried a loved one, lost a job. That stuff doesn’t magically disappear because someone put lights on a tree.”
That approach is shown even in the titles of some of their songs: “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue,” “Broken Angels” and “If We Make It Through December.”
A LONG RUN OF CALVIN SHOWS THROUGH THE YEARS
Although starting out as a “college-friendly” band, Over the Rhine has found a good chunk of its audience has aged with them, with their albums serving as mile markers along the road. Yet they’re still discovering new college-aged fans, as they have during their run of Calvin shows.
They refer to their new followers as Over the Rhine “generation-next.”
“I remember a young Sufjan Stevens opening for us (at Calvin) one year and everyone in the room was hearing him for the first time,” Detweiler said of their musical history.
Their return to Calvin stirs up a lot of memories for the artists. And it helps them see an overview of their creative careers.
“Back in ’93 when we first played Calvin, we were probably thinking that songwriting and performing were things we might get out of our system,” said Detweiler, who turns 60 next year.
“We would call our parents and tell them we were hanging it up and getting back to our real lives. The years passed and eventually we realized we were never going to make that call. This was our real life.”
VIDEO: Over the Rhine, “First Snowfall”
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