By Chris Hupe
Urban Legend are into their fifth year of bringing dance music to crowds in and around The Fort. A band that can always “get the party started,” the original concept came from the minds of Lisa McDavid, Mike Dupuis and Mark Gevaart, accomplished area musicians who found they had a simple, common goal. “We wanted to put together a solid dance band that people wanted to hear,” Gevaart said in a recent interview.
After mixing some other musicians into the fold, the band tweaked its concept a bit, made a few lineup changes and grew into what has now become one of the area’s best-known and most popular party bands, playing old-school soul and R&B while mixing in some 80s favorites and a few modern tunes for good measure. The current lineup finds Gevaart, DuPuis and McDavid joined by two keyboardists, Tony Zuber and Mike Rogers, vocalist Lisa Mertz and Matt Schory on guitar.
Chances are you haven’t noticed the band listed as playing at any of the usual music venues in town lately. There’s a good reason for that: they aren’t. Bar gigs are saved for October through March when the weather is less cooperative. Summers are ripe for weddings, and Urban Legend has become the “go to” band for these special occasions. “We’re booked almost every weekend,” says Gevaart. “We’re a strong wedding band. We perform any or all of the music needed for the ceremony and reception. We work with the bride and groom to find out their needs and develop a timeline” to take a lot of the pressure off them and “allow them to concentrate on other things.” Weddings are a special day for any couple, and the addition of a band like Urban Legend makes it even more special.
Gevaart also points out that summer is festival season, and Urban Legend are a great draw for those events as well. “We love to play festivals. It’s a great time. It’s worth it for us to drive couple of hours to play 90 minutes at an out-of-town festival” and get in front of a new crowd. That, he says, ultimately increases the band’s fan base, in turn creating the demand for more Urban Legend shows. Of course, not all of the festivals Urban Legend plays are out of town. In just a couple of weeks they open for The Devonshires on closing night of the Three Rivers Festival July 21.
“We’ll be playing for an hour at that show and will probably try to pack 17 or 18 songs into that set. We’ll do some medleys of songs” but will also do many favorites in full. If that sounds like a lot of songs, Gevaart says they have previously done similar sets with great success. “One time we did 10 Earth Wind and Fire songs in a half hour. Then, at another show, we performed 14 Beatles songs in about 40 minutes.” To do that, the band has to work on pace, order of songs and song selections repeatedly during rehearsal. “We move things around like a chess game. If something doesn’t work, we try something else until it does.”
While on the subject of those rehearsals, Gevaart is quick to point out the amount of time Urban Legend spend practicing is key to their live shows. “We do our homework and we rehearse as much as we play. Rehearsals are a time when members bring in different ideas to expand our playlists, but it is also the time when we work out exactly what we are going to do on stage for our upcoming shows. We get into some great discussions” and work everything out to the benefit of the band, and the fans, as a whole.
Urban Legend have won two whatzup Whammy awards for Best R&B Performer. According to Gevaart, the key to their continued success is simple: constantly gaining fans by putting 100 percent effort into each show.
“We all love and respect each other’s contributions. We all want to work as hard as we can (prior to getting on stage) so we can put on the best show possible. None of us could do this without the others, and as one unit, we work to ‘bring it’ every time we play. We have grown [a lot over the years] and exceeded our original expectations. Persistence and hard work pay off, we are proof of that.”
Summing up the Urban Legend experience, Gevaart said, “The highest compliment anyone has ever paid to us is when a fan came up to me after the show and said ‘Urban Legend didn’t play every song I wanted to hear, but every song Urban Legend played, I wanted to hear.”
Sounds like a band you don’t want to miss.