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Published March 26 2012

Familiar faces populate F-M music scene

If you saw a local band in concert recently and thought that its guitarist looked a lot like the guitarist you just saw in another local band, you’re probably not hallucinating.

In a close-knit artistic community where people often mingle and interact with each other it’s not uncommon for bands in Fargo-Moorhead – or any city – to share a guitarist, drummer, singer or anyone else. Thanks to the size of the F-M musical community, musicians here say they get to know each other, and each other’s talents, very well.

Such familiarity creates an atmosphere allowing for the easy “sharing” of their talents, and their members, between bands.

Some musicians play between bands just as an opportunity to collaborate with friends, while others do it as a way to embrace different musical styles. Whatever the reasons, the F-M music scene is populated by some very busy players.

Here are four of the more busy local musicians, who might feel like they’re in more bands than humanly possible.

Tom Johnson

Instrument of choice: Anything with strings

You know him from: The now defunct Johnson Family Band

For the first time in a long while, Tom Johnson will no longer play in a band that shares his last name.

The Johnson Family Band, a folk-rock act that was a staple at concert venues around the F-M area for nearly seven years, recently broke up after several band members moved away.

Now, Johnson will be able to spend more time with a band that shares his first name; Tom & Diane, a duo made up of himself and his girlfriend Diane Miller.

A guitarist and singer, Johnson has also played in the John Thomas Trio (which he describes as “jazz-fusion”), Haley E. & the Rydells (“kind of the same as the Johnson Family Band, but with electric instruments”), Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (“progressive radical jazz”), hip-hop band D Mills & the Thrills (which also features his girlfriend, Miller) and the jazz-group Max Jonk Sextet.

Johnson, who also teaches at Marguerite’s Music in Moorhead, says he’s cool with being so busy with so many different bands because he enjoys playing the different styles of music.

“Doing radical, different genres, you really learn to find different experiences,” he says.

Patrick Lenertz

Instrument of choice: Guitar

You know him from: Heavy is the Head

Lenertz, a faculty assistant at Minnesota State University Moorhead’s social work department, could probably write a dissertation on the social habits of Fargo-Moorhead bands.

The guitarist/singer is the frontman for the reggae tribute band Heavy is the Head – which includes Steve Wallevand, progressive alt-country band The Legionnaires, rock ‘’n’ roll/blues band Bad Mojo and also in The Quarterly, a Grateful Dead tribute band that only performs every four months,.

Like Tom Johnson, Lenertz says he plays in as many bands as he does simply because he enjoys the variety of genres.

“I have an eclectic taste in music, and each one of those (bands) lets me dive into different types of music,” Lenertz says.

And like all the other musicians will attest to, Lenertz says the close-knit nature of the music community leads to rewarding partnerships or collaborations.

“The scene around here is one that supplements each other,” he says. “It’s very supportive. It’s like the six degrees of Fargo bands.”

Steve Stine

Instrument of choice: Guitar

You know him from: Methusela

Sometimes, the workload of playing with so many different bands takes its toll on a guy.

Just as Steve Stine.

The guitarist, who teaches at North Dakota State University and at Elevate Rock School in Fargo, played with local rock ’n’ roll bands Dozer and Methuselah, ’80s medal/modern rock band Six and his church band before deciding that he needed a little time off from the band scene to spend more time with his family.

In his experience, Stine says one reason musicians try to play in more than one band is so they can get some exposure.

“Being a musician, the thing is you never want to say no to opportunities,” he says.

And as Stine takes a well-deserved break, he knows he’ll only be able to keep saying no for so long before he decides to get back out on stage.

“There’s something really exciting about playing with your friends and playing on stage,” he says.

Steve Wallevand

Instrument of choice: trombone

You know him from: Moody River Band

In the 18 years that Steve Wallevand has been playing trombone in the local music scene, he’s collaborated with an impressive list of groups including the blues/rock act Moody River Band, The Allen Carter Big Band, reggae tribute band Heavy is the Head and many more.

And, probably not coincidentally, Wallevand also played and recorded with the Johnson Family Band at one point.

Wallevand says it’s the attitude that local musicians have toward each other that makes it easy for inter-band associations.

“Everyone seems to be pretty accommodating and respectful of each other,” he says.

Wallevand estimates that he spends sometimes as many as 16 hours a week rehearsing or playing at gigs. During that time he’s come to know many other musicians, and that, he says, is one of the things he enjoys the most.

“Getting to play with all the different musicians that I do is a real joy,” he says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535