It was about seven years ago when I first realized Bret Alexander of The Badlees was truly a man of his word.
It was in The Woodlands Grand Ballroom, and the band was giving its last area show before heading out on a national tour with Bob Seger. And though the place was jam-packed and the group was on a tight schedule, Bret and I still managed to chat for a few minutes before the band flew off to California.
"Now, Bret," I said, "you be sure to give us a call in a few weeks and let me know how it's going out there."
Alexander said he would definitely do so, and a few weeks later, the phone in the newsroom rang. It was Bret, as promised, and through that call and our conversation, he gave our readers and the band's fans a nice little update on what was happening on the big tour.
Flash back to April 25, 2001. The place is The Voodoo Lounge, the event is "Concert For Karen III," The Badlees are on the bill, and it is another packed house. Bret and I are talking again, and he makes what I consider a very generous offer. He says he'd like to get the band and Saturation Acres, the recording studio he co-owns and operates with Badlees bassist Paul Smith, a little more involved in next year's benefit. We kicked around a few ideas and decided to talk about it some more in the coming months.
On Tuesday, Alexander and The Badlees will again be proven men of their words.
On Tuesday, The Badlees "Concert For Karen IV' EP will hit area record stores.
And all of the money raised from the EP will help benefit the "Concert For Karen IV" fund and be presented to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of Karen Greenberg Revit.
The EP will include two new songs from the band's forthcoming album, "Renew," plus covers of The Beatles' "Rain" and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." The two new tracks — titled "Renew" and "See Me As A Picture" — are the first new material released by the band in nearly three years, and with only 1,000 copies of the EP getting pressed, it should make for a very hot item in area record stores.
Asked why the songs "Renew" and "See Me As A Picture" were offered on the EP, Alexander says both tracks simply had the right feel for the event.
"Basically, we picked a couple of songs that have a pretty positive message," he says. "They're kind of reflective, yet look forward at the same time. They just seemed to fit."
Interesting enough, it was just over a year ago that this column brought you a trilogy of stories on Badlees side projects: vocalist Pete Palladino's first solo album, plus the debut albums from The Cellarbirds and Echotown. At the time, it seemed uncertain whether The Badlees would ever record together again, or whether Alexander, Smith, Palladino and guitarist Jeff Feltenberger and drummer Ron Simasek would be able to work out the creative differences they admitted had caused some rifts within the band. But with "Renew" set to hit stores in June, Alexander is asked a rather obvious question:
Is the album's title and the song of the same name an indication of the band members' "renewed" commitment to each other?
"When you write songs, you're just trying to tell the truth," he says. "And that's really all I've ever done when I've written songs or what anybody in our band has ever done when they've written songs. You just try to tell the truth. So I guess the answer would be yes. About 90 percent of the songs on the album probably have that theme in them, because that's what's on your mind."
Also on the band's mind is "Concert For Karen IV," which will take place April 24 in The Woodlands Grand Ballroom. The show is held in memory of Karen Greenberg Revit, who died of leukemia in 1998 at the age of 33. The Badlees knew Karen from her work at Jitterbugs nightclub, where they frequently performed, and through her work at Soundcheck magazine. In a fitting gesture, two of the photos that grace the band's "Concert For Karen IV" EP were taken at Jitterbugs, and Alexander says The Badlees — who have played all three previous concerts and who also have had family members touched by cancer — remain very committed to the cause.
"With a band like The Badlees, we get asked to do charity functions every other day," he says. "But you want to do something that's well-organized, and that goes out to the people you're trying to help. So, in recent years, we've basically narrowed it down to a few, and 'Concert For Karen' is one of them."
"Sometimes, being a musician, you're doing these benefits 'without a face,' " Palladino says. "It's not that they don't have a face; it's just that they don't have a face to you, personally. This is very unlike that. Everybody knew Karen, so that in essence personalizes it for everybody. You're not up there just playing for a good cause, you're up there playing for this person that you remember, and you're trying to do everything in your power to make this thing a success."
The Badlees' "Concert For Karen IV" EP was recorded at Saturation Acres studio in Danville. Pressing was donated by WEA Manufacturing in Olyphant, and Palladino designed the artwork, which the Times Leader funded.
Alexander says The Badlees always enjoy playing "Concert For Karen" and adds that the group is looking forward to seeing other acts on the bill, such as Clove, Crush, 40-Lb. Head, Liquid A, UUU, Negative Space, Bad Hair Day, Wax, Flaxy Morgan and The Collective. Unlike bands from some other regions of the state in which The Badlees has played, he says, groups from Northeastern Pennsylvania seem to have a stronger sense of unity when it comes to such events. At "CFK," he says, the musicians are focused, there are no egos, and everyone playing truly understands the importance of the cause.
My talk with The Badlees about this new EP reminded me of another conversation I had with several band members shortly after our first benefit show back in April 1999. They said then that as long as the group was still together, it would always play "Concert For Karen" and would always do anything it could to help out with the event.
On April 2, the EP hits record stores.
On April 24, the band will take the stage at 10:30 p.m.
As always, men of their word.