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John Lamb, Published December 19 2012

Blenders are home for the holidays this year

FARGO – After 22 years together, the Blenders have traveled a long and winding road. But it’s a more direct route that brings them back home this weekend.

The locally formed vocal group plays five shows tonight through Sunday at the Fargo Theatre. With two decades of Christmas shows under the quartet’s belt, this is the closest to the actual holiday they’ve ever performed in their hometown.

While the singers, Ryan Lance, his childhood friend Tim Kasper and brothers Darren and Allan Rust, all still have family and friends in the Fargo-Moorhead area, the decision to put the annual dates so close to the holiday is more of a business one.

Ryan Lance says the group shortened the seasonal tour from four weekends to a more compact 10-day period with runs in Minneapolis (where most of the group lives) and Fargo with a night in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday.

This way the group spends less on renting gear and retaining a crew and truck, stays focused on the music and doesn’t spend as many weekends away from their families.

And there’s a bottom dollar upside to the timing.

“Closer to Christmas we have a chance to sell more tickets. When it’s 50 degrees outside, people aren’t really thinking of us,” Lance says, referring to years when the holiday tour would open at Thanksgiving.

The holiday shows are a mix of business and pleasure as it allows them to reconnect with family and friends.

“We have fans who have become friends over the years and everyone has gotten so busy, this is the one time a year we get to see these people,” he says.

While the reunions are sweet, sometimes the news that comes with them is bittersweet.

“We’ve had a lot of fans who have been there through the years, and we find out they’re not around anymore,” Lance says. “But we get letters from people saying that this song or that record was their favorite and they listened to it up until the day they died, and that’s pretty cool, pretty poignant.”

On the flip side, Lance says the group has gained new fans who were raised on their pop and soul sounds.

“There aren’t too many things done where you can have 90-year-olds to 5-year-olds at the show and they get it, they’re all entertained,” he says.

Despite the family following, the group still wants to shake it up from time to time.

“We don’t want to be all milquetoast. We want to keep it as edgy as we can because that’s who we are,” he says.

At one of last year’s Fargo Theatre shows the group indeed put the audience on edge when smoke from the stage show set off fire alarms.

“It’s so rock ’n’ roll,” Lance laughs.

He’s tight-lipped about what’s new with this year’s show, but says after opening in Minneapolis last weekend at least one of his dances needs work.

“I found out from some audience members that perhaps I should’ve had a little bit more clothes on. We got some hate mail so that has to change,” he says laughing. “I love to perform. I’m not the most amazing singer, musician or dancer. I can do a lot of it, but I just love to perform.”

The group has worked in some skits over the years to break up the show and while some comedic spots are back this year, they’ve found they can’t stray too far from tradition.

“You can’t mess with the songs too much,” he says. “You can’t please everyone, but there are a couple of songs we’re not doing this year that people are writing to us saying they are disappointed. What do you do?”

With four CDs of holiday arrangements to choose from, Lance and his band mates have plenty of material to choose from. And with the gift of a long career, they’ve learned what their fans like.

While broader exposure has escaped the band (they had a minor hit with their original “McDonald’s Girl” and played “The Arsenio Hall Show” and the “Today” show), Lance is happy with the band’s course.

“When we were younger, we had our taste of grabbing the brass ring. There were records deals and big shows and stuff. You have dreams of achieving success. I don’t think we ever imagined we’d be doing this to this extent.

“We can look back at all of the different record deals and offers that came our way and didn’t really pan out, I’m kind of glad because who knows where that would’ve gone, because we’re still making albums and entertaining people,” he says. “We enjoy doing it and people enjoy seeing it, and we feel very successful for the fact that we’re still doing it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

If you go

What: The Blenders

When: 7:30 tonight through Sunday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday

Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway

Info: Tickets are $36. (866) 300-8300 or www.tickets300.com