Balishagg Reunites After 20 Years…with no plans to stop

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Balishagg, Then (1994) and Now.

When Balishagg formed in 1994, there was no facebook, no twitter. There was barely an internet. Dave Wilson recalls, “Back in the day we paid for an extra phone line to have an answering machine on it with the month’s dates; you had to bring a sign-up mailing list clip board and then print and mail monthly postcards of the calendar.”

But there was WRFL, UK’s student-run radio station (formed in 1988 and turning 25 this week) and there were flyers on the telephone poles. WRFL’s hidden talent night at the Wrocklage in 1994 provided a goal and a calendar date. The band had gotten its start from a reply to a “seeking to form band” flyer in the old Cut Corner Records (where CD Central is located now) and it turned quickly into a partnership between Lexington songwriter Dave Wilson and Louisville guitarist Mike Lenihan that has continued to this day. “It was instantly obvious that we would play together forever,” says Wilson. Lenihan adds “I was trying to get something going with a few other guys and when we jammed with Dave it clicked.”

Needing a name quickly for the Hidden Talent night for WRFL, they went with a tobacco that was a favorite of the young band. With future attorneys in the band they knew enough to later modify the spelling and the fact they were not competing in the tobacco trade made them feel safe enough to keep the name Balishagg.

Fifteen years after their last show, Balishagg is ready to once again bring what they call “the good vibes, soulful original songwriting and ‘out on a ledge’ improvisational” style back to the stage. They will play Saturday March 9, 2013 at Cosmic Charlie’s, located where the old Lynagh’s music club once sat, a few doors down from the current Lynagh’s pub.

Balishagg was born in the jam band era — Phish, Widespread Panic, Dave Mathews and obviously The Grateful Dead. “We were actually a bit harder edged in the very beginning,” says Lenihan. “I was really into John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra while Dave’s early songs were influenced heavily by Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.” Wilson adds “It all really fell into place once the lineup filled out with Josh Weil on bass, Erik Shields on drums and original drummer Brian Koetter returning from study in Italy to bring percussion into the mix. But if there was one singular event that brought us to the Balishagg most remember it was when Brad Slutskin joined the band on keys.” “That was a game changer for sure” says drummer Erik Shields. “It opened us all up to further possibilities.”

Balishagg fans have two lineups they remember, pre-CD and post CD. After the release of their only studio recording, original bassist Josh Weill moved to New York to teach English and write and perform his own material and Brian Koetter began his architectural career. That led to the addition of Richard Burchett on bass and Doug Weinberg on percussion. This is the core of the current lineup with the addition of multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist Dave Foster and one other change, Doug Weinberg passed away in 2005 as a result of a pulmonary embolus at only 29. “This is someone you can’t replace.” says Wilson, adding “…his work as an anthropologist until his death is humbling and to us he was not just a great musician, he was a constant smile and a true friend…” (There is still a dedicated page on the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project Web site. Donations will be taken at the show and a portion of the show’s proceeds will be donated in Doug’s honor to The Lauren K. Weinberg Fund at the Bluegrass Community Foundation.)

Balishagg will be playing the entire night. First set will begin at 10 pm. Saturday, March 9th Cosmic Charlie’s – $6.00 Doors open at 9 pm.

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