If you went into local record stores last week seeking the latest release from the Badlees, you probably left empty-handed.
Nearly all copies of "River Songs" were sold out.
If you wanted to simply hop aboard one of the two chartered buses headed to New York City last weekend to see the band perform live, you may have been left standing in the parking lot.
Both buses were booked full.
Even if you drove to the Rodeo Bar in Manhattan to get a good look at the band, you'd have had a hard time getting close to the stage.
It was standing room only.
The Badlees, based out of Selinsgrove, were formed five years ago. Now, after one EP, three independently released albums, a trip to China and thousands of miles logged around the East Coast, the band is on a roll.
But the success they're having here in Northeast and Central PA hasn't come easy, arriving only after years of hard work and dedication — from both the band and their fans.
This month alone, their schedule includes 19 live shows and nine radio interviews. They'll perform throughout the state, including gigs in Edwardsville, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Stroudsburg and Lancaster. Radio interviews include stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
But keeping the Badlees rolling is a team effort, involving more than just the band, which consists of vocalist Pete Palladino, guitarist Bret Alexander, guitarist Jeff Feltenberger, drummer Ron Simasek and bassist Paul Smith. Behind the scenes are manager Terry Selders, road manager Scott Berger, sound technician Keith Barshinger and co-writer Mike Naydock.
To appreciate how hard these guys work as a team, consider their schedule from the weekend beginning Friday, March 17:
- The band plays a 10:30 gig at Willow Run in Berwick. They arrive at the club around 3 p.m., and spend about four hours setting up for that evening's show. Soundcheck runs from 8 to 9 p.m. The band's second set ends at 2 a.m.
- At 4:30 a.m. Saturday, March 18, Berger and Barshinger finish breaking down the group's show. Neither man gets to sleep until about 6 a.m.
- Rising at 8:30 a.m., they load the band's gear and sound equipment into one truck and head off to New York. Arriving about 2 p.m., they spend about four hours setting up for Saturday's show at the Rodeo Bar.
- The band arrives about 5 and helps with the final stages of preparation. Soundcheck runs 6 to 7 p.m. At 10:45 the band hits the stage.
- The Badlees play two sets, lasting until 2 a.m. Sunday, March 19. Berger and Barshinger begin loading out, arriving back at home base in Berwick around 8 a.m.. There, they unload the truck again and place the equipment back in the band's own smaller trailer. Berger hopes to get to sleep by 9 a.m. In 48 hours, the duo scores only three hours of sleep.
- Later Sunday, band members head to Philadelphia for an interview on one of the city's leading FM rock stations, WMMR, 93.3.
"I love the band," says Cindy Drew of WMMR, who hosts the Sunday night "Street Beat" program. "I think the new album is the best that they've done yet."
Loyalty from fans
The Badlees have inspired a rare emotion among their followers: affection. Their fans seem to not only care about the band as musicians, but also as people.
Shawn McNelley and Tamie Heintzel, both of Selinsgrove, organized last weekend's bus trip to New York.
"It shows the people in New York and especially the record (company) people how important we feel the Badlees are," says McNelley. "We feel they have something very good to offer. They just need to be in the right place at the right time, and the right people need to hear them. They've got what it takes to make it."
Heintzel says the bus trip was more than just an excuse to party in the Big Apple.
"It gives people a different atmosphere to experience the Badlees other than the area that they're from — whether it be Wilkes-Barre, Selinsgrove or Harrisburg," says Heintzel. "It also lets them see how the people from New York City react to them."
Jim Yoh, 25, of Kingston, tried to get on the Wilkes-Barre/Selinsgrove bus, but when he discovered it was sold out, he and a few friends decided to drive out themselves. "They're so good that they draw you to them." he says. "You just want to see them any chance you can."
The band's reach extends even beyond the boundaries of the Keystone State.
Karen Woodman, 24, from Hamilton, Mass., near Boston, also drove down to see the band and meet some friends. About 18 months ago, a friend from Harrisburg sent her the Badlees' first two full length albums, "Diamonds In the Coal" and "The Unfortunate Result Of Spare Time." She's been a fan ever since.
The New York show was Woodman's third time seeing the group. "I know they have a good following in Pennsylvania," she says. "I'm starting the Massachusetts trend."
David Tecun, manager of the Rodeo Bar, liked the Badlees' music and would love to have them return. "It's a very good crowd," he says. "I didn't have any problems — and (their fans) drink a lot. All my beer is gone! We're going to bring them back again."
During the first set of the March 18 show in New York, the Badlees focused on material from "River Songs." Fans responded to the band's intense performance by standing atop stools and benches, singing, dancing and cheering to every song.
Vocalist Palladino commanded center stage, capturing the essence of each song with his mannerisms and facial expressions. Guitarist and chief songwriter Alexander, usually quiet and somewhat reserved on stage, stood off to the left; on this night, the man who could also be considered the soul of the Badlees was simply on fire.
To the right was Felterberger, whose strong, soaring backing vocals and soft harmony backdrops are an integral part of the Badlees' sound. To the rear of the stage was the rythm section of Simasek and Smith, who provide the dynamic backbeat to the music that has caught the ears of thousands here in Pennsylvania.
Yet despite the band's soaring performance and the audience's enthusiastic response, Badlees&339; manager Selders remained cautious about the outcome.
"There were some important people in the room," he says, "but it remains to be seen how important their presence really was. They all seemed to have a great time, but you just can't count on anything until it comes through."
Still, there's a strong sense of confidence in the Badlees camp.
"It will happen," says road manager Berger. "None of us would be doing this if we weren't convinced it's going to happen — and it will happen."
But in any conversation, or radio or printed interview, there's never any sense of urgency within the band.
Palladino, who admits being surprised by the high volume of sales for "River Songs" in its first month of release, keeps things in perspective.
"The music is the most important thing," he says. "People want to hear our music, and we are making music that touches people. That's the only thing an artist can ever ask for.'