Bands On The Rise Area Groups Aim For The Big Time

February 15, 1991|By Chris Schaub

Because of an editing error, an incorrect performance date for the band Uprising was listed in yesterday's Maryland Live. The band will appear tonight at the 8x10 Club.

*Uprising When: Today, Feb. 15, 10 p.m.

Where: 8x10 Club

Tickets: $6

Call: 625-2000


*All Mighty Senators


When: Saturday, Feb. 16, 10:30 p.m.

Where: Grog & Tankard

Ticket: $5

Call: 752-5522.


*Karen Goldberg When: Feb. 16, 9 p.m. Oxbow Inn (969 Ritchie Highway in Arnold); Feb. 21, 8 p.m. Maggie's (Washington Road and Greene

Street, Westminster).Tickets: Free admissions.

Call: 647-2232 (Oxbow), 876-6868 (Maggie's).

As always, it's been a long day.

The band members piled into their 12-passenger Ford van long before lunch and drove till late afternoon for their gig. After setting up their equipment and running a sound check, they broke for a fast-food dinner around 6:30, relaxed for a few minutes, then returned to the club. And played hard.

Now, having performed two 90-minute sets, the members of Uprising are breaking down their gear, loading up the van and getting set for an all-night drive back to Baltimore.

Such is life for a band on the run -- and on the rise.

Still, no matter how often that composite picture of the reggae group's road schedule repeats itself, you won't hear complaints.

"Every time I go on stage," explains singer Danny Dread, "I do my best to project 100 percent of my love, energy, and whatever wisdom I have attained. My goal is to uplift the spirits of the people I play for."

That attitude helps propel Uprising, which like other local bands such as OHO and All Mighty Senators, are striving to gain national profiles. The big myth in the music business is that a dividing line exists between local and national success, and crossing it requires a contract with a major label recording company. But the truth is that alternative routes to success exist. Bands like Uprising have gone national, or at least regional, just by crossing the state line.

Baltimore magazine's best local band for 1990, Uprising has been playing their style of reggae since 1985 when guitarist Lenny Innis joined the members of the Harmony Express Steel Orchestra. In the six years since, Uprising has compiled more than an album's worth of potential hit songs and a list of clubs played that covers half the country. But they still await the coming of their record. As their booking agent Nancy Lewis bears out, "It can be a very frustrating situation."

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the unsigned musician's life is the grueling schedule that touring demands. "We don't travel first class," says drummer Dexter Keane. "It's tiresome."

Sometimes on the road, if the band is not too far from their nexshow, they send Dexter Keane or Lenny Innis, two of the non-dreadlocked band members, into a hotel to try to find a room. "Imagine being constantly together," Ms. Lewis adds, "in a van, in a room, on a stage . . . and they've kept this up for over four years."

Uprising has been averaging 16 gigs a month, ranging from Savannah, Ga., and Boston in the South and East to Chicago and Louisville in the Midwest. "We couldn't do it without our fans. They're our foundation," explains lead singer Dread (whose real name is Kirt Danny Lewis). Undoubtedly their fans in the Baltimore area are the cornerstone of that foundation, but the whole structure begins to weaken as they travel further from the mid-Atlantic region. Clubs can be lax in promoting appearances and logistics can make it difficult for bands to do it themselves.

But the best self-promotion is performance and it's become something of an Uprising postulate that no matter how many people show up for their first appearance at a club, the place will be packed the next time.

Despite the crowd support, and innuendos offered by a few record companies, "no one has formally approached us wanting to deal," laments Mr. Keane. "The word from the agency is 'as soon as you put [a demonstration recording] out we'll respond.' "

Actually Uprising has released a two-song cassette which they produced and sold entirely on their own. But a larger product like an LP -- something that would grab the attention of an outside investor -- is something of a Catch-22: The demo itself would require outside investors to bankroll. "It's difficult with reggae," admits Mr. Innis. "Reggae is not really mainstream, and it's political. Record companies don't come at you. You have to be in the right place at the right time".

The right time could be just around the corner. Faith is a big part of reggae music, and the members of this band -- originally from Trinidad and Barbados -- have no shortage of it. Along with Dread, Innis and Keane, Eddie Salim, Wayne Raymond and Terin Cole have been realizing Uprising's spiritual goals while working toward the material ones. "We've devoted ourselves to making the kind of music we love," Mr. Dread explains, "and we in turn receive love from our fans. No amount of money could compensate for that."

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