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Jasmine Maki, Forum News Service, Published August 16 2013

Fargo cover band brings high energy to performances

When Bill Dablow, of Wahpeton, N.D., first heard Fargo cover band Helena Handbasket perform Nov. 13, 2010, at the Fargo VFW, he recalls thinking, “Wow, this is explosive.”

As a seasoned musician, Dablow was blown away by the band’s energy and immediately knew he wanted to be a part of the show. Despite having started his retirement from music one week earlier, Dablow joined the band on stage for a few songs. One year later, he’s Helena Handbasket’s lead singer.

With saxophone, bass guitar, drums, guitar, trumpet and trombone, the eight-member cover band is known for their original horn arrangements. They perform about once a month at local Fargo bars including the Pickled Parrot, where they are the favored house band, Side Street Grille and Pub and Dempsey’s Pub. They also occasionally perform in Detroit Lakes and said they hope to schedule a show or two in Grand Forks soon.

Forming a working band

Helena Handbasket, which formed in 2002 under the name, Patents Pending, has changed members multiple times throughout the years. Since Dablow joined two years ago, band members have remained consistent.

Forming a band is like cooking, said Chris Hanson, band manager and one of two original members. “You try a lot of different recipes and change things around and eventually, you get what you’re looking for. To me, (Dablow) was the missing piece we needed to complete the set.”

Dablow is the newest member, but each has a different story of how they joined.

Tenor saxophonist DeAnn Fylling, originally from Minot, and trumpet player and former Red River High School band director James Landman, met Hanson through the National Guard. The three play in the 188th Army Band together.

Landman, who recently accepted a job as director of band at Cheyenne High School in West Fargo, said, “It’s important for teachers to keep performing because you don’t want to get too far displaced from what you’re teaching your kids to do.”

He was asked to join Helena after an extended substitute stint in 2010 because he said the band liked the energy he brought to the show.

Dablow was the last to join. Hanson knew him from his previous band Billy D and the Crystals. He also performed with Dablow in former bands Tripp 40 and the Fat Daddy’s.

Dablow said the members of Helena Handbasket gave him a warm welcome and allowed him to feel more secure than he did in other bands. “I always know I’ve got a lot of great musicians to back me up,” he said.

‘An infectious energy’

The same energy that attracted Dablow to the band is what makes them stand out from other cover bands in the area.

When they first changed the band name to Helena Handbasket in 2008, Hanson said the goal was to create the most energetic bar show that would get people out of their seats and excited. It’s clear they’ve achieved that goal. Dablow may be the front man, but the entire band brings a lot of energy.

“We like to do a lot of things with the horns together, even if it’s just swaying the horns or jumping at different parts,” Landman said. “We’re always dancing, moving around and keeping the energy high.”

Hanson added: “We really have an infectious energy not only to the music but to the presentation of it.”

The band plays original arrangements of popular classic rock songs like The Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” And, they always get the crowd moving.

Along with their high energy performances, their original arrangements also set them apart from other local cover bands. Hanson looks for songs that will create a good performance and writes horn arrangements for each song.

“Either we completely change it or we keep it in its general pure form and add horns,” he said.

It takes Hanson about a week to figure out an arrangement from concept to finish. Then, like anything else, it needs to be tested and fixed. But with eight band members, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to rehearse.

‘It’s quite the conference call’

All the band members have busy lives of their own with families, full-time jobs and other side gigs. Hanson, for example, works full-time in the human resources office at the National Guard, while balancing six other bands and freelance work. Schwind, Pfaff and Maynard also play in multiple bands.

Regardless of their busy lives, Hanson said they have always found at least one weekend a month to rehearse and perform.

“It’s a very planned thing,” he said. “We sit down with calendars, and we pick out a weekend each month. It’s quite the conference call.”

Although Helena Handbasket is a band and a business, Hanson said it’s also just an excuse to get out and play music together. Only three of the eight band members — Hanson, Landman and Fylling — actually went to school for music. The others are self-taught musicians. The band provides them with more opportunities to do what they love.

“We love doing it and love watching the crowd react,” Hanson said. “There’s nothing better than having a crowd that feeds off of you because you feed off of (their energy), and it’s a never-ending circle.”

Helena Handbasket will perform at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24 at The Pickled Parrot in Fargo.

Band members

• Lead vocals: Bill Dablow, of Wahpeton, N.D.

• Saxophone: Eddie Schwind, of Fargo

• Bass guitar: Christopher Hanson, of Fargo

• Drums: Russell Pfaff, of Barnesville, Minn.

• Guitar: Josh Maynard, of Fargo

• Saxophone: DeAnn Fylling, of Minot

• Trumpet: James Landman, of Fargo

• Trombone: Mike Saunders, of Fargo

• Sound: Dan Felde, of Fargo