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John Lamb, Published April 16 2014

Weekend Watch: Lenertz’s solo includes, honors local scene

Fargo - If you’re ever looking for Pat Lenertz, the best place to start is the nearest stage in downtown Fargo.

For more than a decade, the singer/guitarist has been playing any show he could – from an open mic night to a tribute show to performing his own tunes, Lenertz is Fargo’s hardest working man in music.

Need proof?

Sunday night he played as part of a singer/songwriter showcase at The Hotel Donaldson. On Tuesday he returned for his regular shift hosting open mic night at the Sidestreet. On Wednesday he wasn’t scheduled to play, but he was expected to show up at the High Plains Reader’s Best of the Best Award Show where The Pat Lenertz Band and Heavy is the Head were both up for Best Band and Lenertz for Best Musician.

Last but not least, he’ll take the stage tonight at The Aquarium as the Pat Lenertz Band plays its CD release show.

“It’s therapy, man,” he says of his regular gigging.

He’s not kidding about it being therapy. The 32-year-old has been playing since he was 15 and his parents bought him his first guitar, a Gremlin acoustic.

“It was the cheapest one we could get at the pawn shop,” he says, smiling. “I played that thing until my fingers bled. It helped me center my energy.”

At 16, he was in his first band, the Edgar Stevens Band, but was ultimately kicked out.

Lenertz took the rejection as motivation and formed Bad Mojo with some friends from Moorhead High school.

The blues and jam-based Bad Mojo gave way to his country band, The Legionnaires, his focus from 2004 to 2010, when Heavy is the Head, his reggae cover band, took over.

Add to that The Quarterly, his periodic tribute to the Grateful Dead, and you start to realize why he needs to play so much – his influences aren’t contained to one style of music.

“I’m a recovering jam addict. I like taking it out for a walk, but I like that semblance of structure,” he says, adding that he was raised on rock and Motown. “Of all the bands I’ve ever played in, Heavy is the best received. Everybody loves reggae.”

When he decided to focus on his own songwriting, he called on old friends like drummer Trevor Pearson (Bad Mojo) and bassist Travis Atwood (The Quarterly) for his rhythm section. He met guitarist Casey Conners at the Sidestreet’s open mic night, and later asked Mike Jenkins, who he’d admired since seeing him play Kirby’s over a decade ago, to sit in on keys.

The band has been gelling for a while and Lenertz had been fine-tuning his songs with Ken Davis (The Legionnaires). When they decided it was time to commit the tunes to recordings, Lenertz’s wide-range in music and musicians led to 24 people playing on the disc, “Love, Loss & Regret.”

The disc is a concept album of sorts, covering the “ebb and flow of relationships and life in general,” he says.

The “Love,” depicted in “Your Way” and “Minnesota Rose,” is dedicated to his fiancée, Holly Diestler.

The “Regret,” is tense in “The Light” and “Riverside,” which closes out the disc.

The “Loss,” heard on “Heavy by Midnight,” “Shila” and particularly “Farewell to You,” was greatly inspired by Bad Mojo guitarist and Lenertz’s high school friend, Cody Conner, who died of a drug overdose in 2012.

“He was such an integral part in all of our lives. He was the ultimate blues man. Now I have to be as honest to my music as he was to his,” Lenertz says. “To the end he was pure. We’re all on this road. He fell down and now we’re all carrying the torch.”

While Conner wasn’t around for the recording session, Lenertz tapped as many musicians that he admired as he could.

“We thought it would be cool to get all of these people and it just became something bigger,” he says. “Let’s celebrate downtown music scene through this. It really is a reflection of an area I’m very proud of.”

“Part of being around Pat is that he plays so many different styles. He’s comfortable playing rock, country, playing bluegrass. He’s kind of a musical chameleon,” says Davis. “So we tried to make a record that kind of touched on all of those areas. I wouldn’t even say all. I don’t think this shows everything Pat can do, but at some point you have to say enough is enough.”

“You never know what’s going to come out of Pat,” says Terry Ruud of Cat Sank Trio. He first met Lenertz when Ruud was teaching a songwriting unit to freshmen at Moorhead High School.

They’ve kept in touch through the years, and Ruud has enjoyed watching Lenertz grow as an artist.

“He soaks up music like oxygen. It all comes back out in one way or the other, but it’s always Pat,” he says.

In addition to Pearson, Atwood and Conners, the disc includes Heavy is the Head bandmates Diane Miller, Andi Thoreson, John Shea, Jason Will, Josh Reinhardt, Fred Haring and Steve Wallevand, Bad Mojo bassist Matt Monson and local string specialist, Tom Johnson, among others.

One name that doesn’t seem to fit in is WDAY radio host Christopher Gabriel’s.

Lenertz says while performing on “The Christopher Gabriel Program,” the host claimed to be a drummer, so the guitarist invited him to sit in at a show. When Gabriel never showed, Lenertz grew doubtful.

“I wanted to call his bluff,” he says.

But it was Lenertz who folded when Gabriel stopped in at a recording session and played percussion on “Let’s Wait.”

“He laid it down like a boss. He wasn’t just in time, he was in the groove,” Lenertz says with a laugh.

Lenertz was so happy with how “Love, Loss & Regret” turned out, he’s looking to head back to the studio in May and record a new album he hopes to have out in a year.

He’s already lining up friends for the new album, including Tom Peckskamp from Moody River Band and Ruud.

“Any time you make a list, you miss someone. I squeezed as many people as I could,” he says.

So how many people can he squeeze onstage at the Aquarium?

“I’m trying to get as many as we can. I wanted to do a ‘Last Waltz’ show,” he says, referring to The Band’s star-studded farewell gig. “It’s nice to celebrate. I love living here. We’ve got something special here, and it’s nice to shout it from a mountain top, or at least a stage on the Plains.”


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

If You Go

What: Pat Lenertz Band CD release show

When: 10 tonight

Where: The Aquarium, 226 Broadway, Fargo

Tickets: $5. ID-only. (701) 235-5913