BEST BETS: June Jam band kRush brings back sounds of Rush

The Newark-based band kRush will perform the songs of Rush at June Jam on June 10. (Submitted photo)

Taking on the task of being a Rush tribute band is no easy feat.

From the distinctive falsetto of lead singer Geddy Lee to the precision guitar work of Alex Lifeson to the artistry of Neil Peart, arguably one of the greatest drummers in rock history, matching the sound of the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Famers is not for your average garage group.

kRush, a trio based in Newark, has been playing the songs of the progressive rock giants since 2013. They will perform at the 39th annual June Jam festival June 10 in Houston.

“Like many progressive rock bands, people either love or hate Rush. Coming from bands for a lot of years, when you are playing classic rock every week, the same people come to hear the same music over and over again. Rush isn’t one of those bands. People have definitive ideas on them,” said lead singer, bassist and keyboard player Ken Gildea of the band whose last full-scale performance was in 2015.

Mr. Gildea formed kRush with guitarist Andy Logue and drummer Bill Murphy.

“Andy and I have been in bands together for years and seem to follow each other around,” Mr. Gildea said.

“We’re both huge Rush fans and when we practiced and jammed together we would play a few Rush songs. We had thought about the idea but never thought it would take off — that there was too small of a fan base.

“But as time went on, we realized this is what we love to do and decided to try it.”

With the two of them set, their most pressing task was to find a drummer up to the challenge of taking on the work of Mr. Peart.

“Bill was the first guy we tried out on drums and we clicked right away,” recalled Mr. Gildea.

“Andy knew he was into progressive, modern rock and he was a big Rush fan. When we went down to his basement, we saw he had a drum kit as big as Neil’s. Half the basement was taken up with just his kit. We got through (the Rush song) ‘Xanadu’ and knew this was going to work out.”

Three months after forming, the band’s first gig was at the now-defunct J.B. McGinness Pub and Grille in New Castle.

“We got the drummer in March and by June we had our first show. I remember talking to the guys and saying ‘You do realize this is going to be a very judgmental crowd.’ They don’t care if you can do the songs. They care if you can do them well,” recalled Mr. Gildea.

“Can this guy sing like Geddy Lee? Can this guy play like Neil Peart? It started off with a lot of people with folded arms. But by about the third song, people started getting into it.”

The band quickly found an audience as Rush fans starting hearing about kRush via online message boards and word of mouth.

“We’d be playing a show in Delaware and have people come in from other states. We once played a show in Baltimore and had a guy fly in from Chicago and flew back immediately after,” Mr. Gildea said.

Early on, one of the band’s biggest thrills came in 2014 and 2015 when they were chosen to play at RatCon, the largest gathering of Rush fans in the United States, held each year in New Jersey.

“It’s essentially this backyard event but it’s big as far as who was there and who it’s for,” Mr. Gildea said.

“You’re really playing in front of people who want to hear it played the way they want to hear it. Everything is so complicated and intricate and long and involved. If you didn’t grow up with it, you’re going to need cheat sheets all over the place to keep up. If it’s in your head as you’re playing, it’s much less daunting.”

As the lead singer, Mr. Gildea has to handle the parts sung by Mr. Lee, whose high-pitched voice is one of the most celebrated in rock.

“It’s not my exact singing range to reach the higher harmonies,” he said.

“I’m pretty anti-social before shows in order to get into that range. It would be pretty counterproductive to speak in my normal speaking voice before a show. I use a few techniques to get into that realm.”

As the band has evolved, so too has its shows with combining visual aspects and other hardware.

“Everything is pretty structured in the shows in which we try to recreate that larger concert atmosphere. We use the video backdrops to give the audience a little bit more to latch onto visually since Andy and I spend a lot of time anchored and can’t move around a whole lot with me on the keyboard and Andy with the foot pedals,” Mr. Gildea said.

June Jam fans can expect to see a range of songs from kRush when they take the stage at 8:30 p.m. — from the more recognizable to a few for the hardcore.

“We’ll do stuff like ‘Tom Sawyer’ that everyone knows and a lot of the mainstream stuff but there will be stuff for the huge Rush fans as well, Mr. Gildea said.

“Festivals are a lot of fun. We definitely see people come up and then politely walk away, which is fine. But then we’ll get people afterward tell us that they knew more songs than they thought they did. Like they didn’t realize ‘Subdivisions’ was a Rush song. More people just want a quality show and good music, even if they aren’t necessarily familiar with all of it. And that’s what we try to give them.”

The gates at the G&R Campground in Houston open at 10 a.m. with the music kicking off at noon.

Along with kRush, the lineup includes the country band Triple Rail Turn (former Philbilly), Mike Hines and The Look, Wesley Spangler, Smokin Gunnz, Dirty Deal featuring Billy Meyers, Universal Funk Order, 13:1 and the Junior Jammers.

There will be games for kids and adults, raffles, 50/50s and drawings with all proceeds going to local organizations and individuals as needed throughout the year. Food will be available for purchase as well as other vendors.

Tickets, at $35 in advance, can be purchased at Mainstay Suites in Dover, at B&B Music in Camden, Lewes and Salisbury, Md. or online at JuneJam.com. They will be $40 at the gate.

Mrs. Delaware Pageant Saturday

Saturday night will see the Mrs. Delaware America Pageant at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover starting at 7.

Tetra Shockley, Esq, will crown her successor at the event. The winner will move on to compete at the Mrs. America Pageant in Las Vegas in August.

The prize package this year includes a round-trip ticket to Las Vegas, hair services, spa services, tanning, photo shoots and more.

The 2017 contestants are Mrs. Camden Kimberly Phillips; Mrs. Dover Victoria King; Mrs. Lewes Elissa Troise Greco; Mrs. Magnolia Ivana Hamilton; Mrs. Newark Camille Johnson; and Mrs. Wilmington Amanda Shepard.

The event will be hosted for the second year in a row by Rick Bernstein with music by DJ Alkimist.

The judges are reality show star Shane Lewis of the Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid”; Stacy Adams, owner of Fitness Together in Georgetown; and Alina Pfifer, Mrs. Delaware America 2015.

The contestants will compete in interview, swimsuit and evening gown.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for VIP seating. For more information, visit www.mrsdeamerica.org.

Jazz ensemble to perform for First Friday

As part of First Friday festivities, Rege-Walker World Jazz Ensemble will perform at 5 p.m. on Loockerman Way Plaza with the Dover Public Library’s In Harmony Series.

The ensemble blends traditional African, Latin, and Asian music with American jazz. The group features original compositions performed by a variety of top regional musicians. Music and the musicians change with each performance.

This performance features: Karen Rege, piano; Aaron Walker, drums; Tony Smith, trumpet; Scott Lynch, bass; Pape Demba “Paco” Samb, African percussion.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is “Wonder Woman 3D” and the animated “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.”

On DVD and download Tuesday is “Beauty and the Beast” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Aftermath.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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