And they said it would never happen. After fifteen years apart, Michigan’s own Bop (harvey) has reunited and will be headlining the East Lansing Art Fair on Saturday, May 22 at 4:45pm. This, the band’s first major festival in 15 years, marks a very special anniversary: celebration of the band’s prolific and juggernaut career, which began 25 years ago and came to an abrupt halt ten years later.
And what a ten years it had been. By spring of 1994 Bop (harvey) had performed almost 2000 shows together, cavorted with thenâ€new President Clinton, delivered one of the firstâ€season highlights of NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien, released nine recordings, played every major city in North America and shared the stage with the likes of UB40, Squeeze, Black Uhuru, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a dozen other international heavyweights.
â€œBop (harvey) was the first American band that I had heard successfully integrate American pop, R&B and funk with island and African grooves and form,â€ commented Max Weinberg, Longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s Eâ€Street Band, Tonight Show drummer/personality and former president of Hard Ticket Entertainment, a division of thenâ€powerhouse BMG Records. â€œI flew out to Seattle and was blown away by the power coming off of the stage.â€ In no time the band was in the studio finishing up â€œGitchee Gumee To Meâ€, their 1992 studio release.
And then the president called. Or to be more accurate, the Clinton campaign team, who were seeking an act to fire up crowds attending various Midwest rallies. The band ended up playing a string of Clinton events, including an election day airport rally, concluding with substantial faceâ€time with the candidate, who returned the favor by inviting the band to play not one by two events during his inaugural festivities. Suddenly the band was enjoying front page status (including the Detroit Free Press), and megaâ€success seemed a few drum beats away.
But, as is frequently the case in the often fickle music industry, that was not to be the case. With early 90′s American radio abandoning world music in favor of the Seattle sound, Bop (harvey) found itself falling into an endless cycle of oneâ€nighters, with little organized support from labels, managers and distributors.
â€œRemember, in the early nineties there was still no viable internet or home recording capabilities,â€ bemoaned St. Echo. â€œAnd while we had built a successful selfâ€run business, we were still forced to rely on all the big companies, none of which ever really knew what to do with us commercially.â€
By 1994, the members of Bop (harvey) had becomes disillusioned with the business and exhausted from tour bus living. The band’s two main songwriters, St. Echo and Sarder, were at creative odds, with Sarder opting for more traditional Jamaicanâ€influenced roots and St. Echo pushing more for pop and funk. So in the spring of that year, shortly after an appearance on Late Night to promote the release of their ninth recording, â€œThe Monster Butt Beat Dance Testâ€, the band quietly called it quits.
In the fifteen years since those last performances, the individual members have gone on to various shades of fame, fortune, family and obscurity. There seemed little interest in a reunion until the band gathered for keyboardist, Randy Sly’s 2006 wedding. Band politics, grueling schedules and business disappointments a thing of the past, the band again found its old sound and the original fun they had performing together. So when Scott Culling called earlier this year with the idea of an official reunion, everyone finally said yes.
â€œI have to tell you,â€ commented Culling, â€œI never thought we’d all be in the mood to do this again, but rehearsals have been a blast and we immediately locked in to that Bop (harvey) sound. I think the shows are going to sound like we spent fifteen days apart instead of fifteen years.â€
And on May 22nd, the East Lansing crowdâ€”likely looking a bit older and greyer than usualâ€”will get their chance to once again put on their dancing shoes and hear one of their longâ€time favorites. If you want to hear one of the area’s most important musical exports of the late 80′s/early 90′s, don’t miss this show.
Find out more information on the East Lansing Art Festival & MSU Arts and Crafts Show, May 22 & 23
Checkout the Bop (harvey) fan club on facebook for lots of great pictures, videos and memories!
Also read “Bop is back” in the Lansing City Pulse featuring a short interview with Dan â€œSt. Echoâ€ Stechow (bass/vocals)