If there's any justice in rock n' roll, the $4 you'll pay to see The Badlees tonight at Wilkes-Barre's Market Street Square will be nothing compared to what you may shell out to catch their act in an arena a year from now.
The Badlees are that good.
One of Pennsylvania's best and most entertaining bands, the group has just released an outstanding new album, "The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time," and has returned to the clubs with their dynamic live performances. Tonight's performance at the club, 33 Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, Wilkes-Barre, begins at 9.
The Central Pennsylvania-based band has been garnering attention since it arrived on the scene four years ago. In January 1992 their first full-length album, "Diamonds In The Coal," featuring such gems as "Just One Moment," "Like a Rembrandt," and "The Real Thing," received rave reviews from such prestigious music journals as The Album Network, Cash Box, and Billboard.
Now, with the release of "Spare Time," the band appears on the verge of national recognition.
The Badlees are Pete Palladino, vocals; Bret Alexander, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, vocals; Jeff Feltenberger, guitar, vocals; Paul Smith, bass, vocals; and Ron Simasek, drums, percussion. The group recently held a record release party at Jitterbugs in Edwardsville, and performed for their growing legion of fans in Northeast Pennsylvania. Just before hitting the stage to a packed house, the band discussed the new album, their unique live shows, and how their love for music supersedes any professional goals they may have.
Although pleased with the "Diamonds" LP, and admittedly a bit surprised by its success, they have tried to capture more of the band's live sound on the new album.
"What we did on this record was a little different," says Palladino. "We wanted to capture what we were about live and the energy that was apparent at our live show. We wrote these songs and worked them out live before we even approached recording... On the 'Diamonds' album, we really didn't get a chance to do that. That's really the big difference."
They've also worked with a new producer, Jack Pyers of Dirty Looks. "We needed an outside opinion...an objective, innocent bystander," he added.
The group plays throughout the northeast, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. They also performed in Texas, where they enjoyed the camaraderie displayed among musicians in the Lone Star State.
"There's no 'I'm better than you' kind of a vibe," says Palladino. "Everybody's a musician and everybody's friends. That's what we're really into — bands that are like that ...
"We try to be like that."
Marketing albums on independent labels is no easy task. The Badlees' records are available at their shows, and at record stores in areas in which they are well-known. Radio will be a key factor to reaching a wider audience. WEZX-FM (Rock 107) and WTLQ-FM (102.3) have recently added the album to their playlists, and the group has accomplished the difficult task of altering the old-school thinking in the local clubs: cover bands only, please.
"We want to do our own music. We got into this business because this is what wanted to do," says Alexander.
With greater exposure, The Badlees' following is growing in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
"We have a lot of die-hard fans who come and hang out with us who are really into the band," says Palladino. It's tough for an original band to put people in the clubs. We've been lucky in that respect."
Although a deal on a major label is an obvious goal, they find having their music recorded and distributed on an independent label (the Scranton-based Sharktooth Records) to be creatively satisfying.
"It would be great if we got signed, but we're almost doing the same thing. I guess we'll stick it out as long as we can keep making records. We don't want to give anything up because we are accomplishing things. We don't need to sell our soul to get a deal," says Feltenberger.
"Here's our new record — if you like it, hop on board," adds Palladino.
The Badlees have two things going for them which give them a legitimate shot at national success: quality music and a distinctive live show.
If you haven't seen The Badlees live — see The Badlees live.
Their shows are highlighted by Palladino's hysterical stage antics, nostalgic music flashbacks and humorous stories. On any given night, they could break into their rendition of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," The Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" or "The Pina Colada Song." At one local show last year, the group performed the "Hawaii 5-0" theme, complete with surfing poses by Palladino.
Lyn Carey, co-owner and operator of Jitterbugs, and publisher of the local "Sound Check" music magazine, was the first to bring the group to the area as a featured act. After receiving good word-of-mouth on the group from friends outside the area, she was pleased after booking the band.
"The Badlees put on a show," she says. "They really know how to work a crowd. You have to keep watching to see what they're going to do next."
This entertainment also helps in winning over those who might otherwise be unwilling to give an original band a fair listen.
"We try to give people something that they could grasp onto the first time," says Palladino . "I think the thing people dig about us is they're not quite sure what they're going to hear or what's going to go on."
The charismatic singer uses his bandmates as a testing ground for his humor. "If I can make these guys laugh I know I'm doing all right," he says. "Because they hear me every night. If I hear Ron back there giggling ..."
Despite their humor, The Badlees are about music. Good music. 'The Unfortunate Result Of Spare Time" is a great album — strong, identifiable lyrics, fine melodies, and soaring vocal harmonies. And the unquestionable distinction and strength of this band are those harmonies, found throughout the album in the choruses, backing vocals, or as a simple soft backdrop to Palladino's leads.
Highlights of this strong LP include "You're Not The Only One," "Laundromat Radio," "Easier Done Than Said," "Matter of Time," "Laugh To Keep From Cryin' " and the first single, "Me, Myself, and I." Once again, positive reviews are flowing in from music trade magazines across the nation, including the critics choice star from Billboard.
At the conclusion of the interview, the group are asked if they have anything to say or add.
"Hi Mom," quips a smiling Palladino.
He may say that from the podium of the MTV awards someday.