You may recall that The Badlees' big show at The Woodlands a few weeks ago came on the eve of the band's big West Coast tour with Bob Seger. On stage that night at The Woods, the band told the packed house how they were looking forward to hitting the road with the rock legend, and even dished out a few covers of Seger classics.
After the show, I asked The Badlees' Bret Alexander to give us a call here at the paper in a few weeks and let us know how things were going. He said he would, and, proving to be a man of his word, the phone in the newsroom rang earlier this week with an obviously happy Bret Alexander calling from Phoenix.
"It's been great," said the guitarist/songwriter, rattling off Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Oakland as some of the cities the band has visited. "It's been very consistent over-all. People have been pretty responsive."
Alexander said the band has been playing 35-minute sets to average-size audiences of about 15,000. He added that Seger's band and road crew have treated them well, with the group getting good sound-checks and courteous treatment.
"You're working with complete pros," said Alexander. "Sometimes you get in an opening-act situation and you're like the odd-man out and don't really get a chance to do your thing ... but we're working with such professionals — it's like clockwork every night.
"You can get on stage and put on the show you're used to, except to a lot larger audience. ... It's a sold-out tour. Every night is huge."
Alexander said the Seger crowd arrives early, allowing the band to play to packed houses. When asked if any of the shows stood out above the rest, he named their April 18 show at the Los Angeles Forum, where he said the band was particularly well-received.
The Forum — most rock fans know — is the Madison Square Garden of the West Coast. While young musicians in the East grow up dreaming of playing The Garden, kids in the West feel the same reverence for The Forum.
"We were surprised because L.A. crowds are notoriously luke-warm — just because they see so much," said Alexander. "They were really responsive. We had a group of friends out at the show — Jeff (Feltenberger) has his brother out there — it was really cool."
Alexander said that although Seger travels on his own tour bus with his family and remained somewhat reclusive, he was able to meet him the night The Badlees first arrived in Seattle on April 6. He said Seger was cordial, and that the final approval for The Badlees getting the opening-act slot on the tour had to come from Seger himself — who liked their album.
"That's pretty much standard," said Alexander. "If you get a tour — the people that you're touring with have heard your music and liked it. It's a thrill when people you grew up listening to are listening to your stuff ... he was really cool to us."
Bret said the band really hit it off with the other musicians and was able to spend some time hanging out with Seger's all-star touring band, which includes John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff ("The drummer of all drummers," says Alexander), plus keyboardist Bill Payne and Shaun Murphy, both of Little Feat.
He added that now that The Badlees' stint on the Seger tour is over, the group's being replaced by another band which features a rootsy sound and lots of ethnic instrumentation: Bonepony.
Ironically, Bonepony — which shares the same label as Seger, Capitol Records, and the same booking agent — also shared the bill with The Badlees last July at a show at Sea-Sea's in Moosic. While there, the two bands saw similarities in each other's sound and struck up a strong friendship. (Badlees' bassist Paul Smith, I recall, was so impressed with the band that he bought a Bonepony T-shirt and wore in on stage that same night).
"We're really excited that they're getting it," said Alexander. "When we played down in Nashville we went by their house and hung out all day... At that time, we were both trying to get the Seger tour, and we ended up both getting it. It actually worked out really well for everybody."
Alexander says that the group is now heading home, but that they've learned to never get too comfortable with life back in Pennsylvania. "The last time we thought we were going to be home for three weeks and we were home for two days," he said with a laugh. "They said, 'You've got the Seger tour — pack.'"
He added that the band will try to spend some of the time at home recording some demos, and that they're currently planning some regional shows, including a three-night stint at The Metron in Harrisburg next weekend.
That's right: THREE nights.
When The Badlees were whisked off to Seattle three weeks ago, they were forced to postpone a few highly-promoted shows on very short notice. Upon leaving, they promised to make it up to any inconvenienced or disappointed fans and club owners as soon as they returned. That's why they'll be performing at two over-21 shows at the Metron next weekend — both at a reduced admission price — and at a special all-ages show on Sunday.
Men of their word, those Badlees.