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Thursday, November 29, 2012

BOP (harvey) reunion at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing Dec 1

Singer Steve Sarder recalls an era when selling an album bundled with a tee-shirt was a good day. Adding a new name to the mailing list was even better. For bands like East Lansing’s BOP (harvey)--in the pre-Internet world of music sales and marketing—those numbers meant everything. And BOP put up some solid numbers: approximately 150,000 records and 50,000 shirts sold. When they threw in the towel the first time in 1994, they had some 17,000 names on the mailing list. “The mailing list alone cost us hundreds of dollars to mail out each time,” Sarder said. The prevailing thought was if you have good sales and good loyalty among your fans, you’re on your way. Although they might not get a postcard in the mail this week, music lovers from all over Michigan are looking forward to this weekend. BOP (Harvey) plays a reunion show Saturday at Rick’s American Café in East Lansing.
Today the download has changed the music buying game. “Nowadays kids just want to buy the music by the song,” Sarder aka Word E Smith said. “Kids feel like they’re getting ripped off if they have to buy the whole album. They say ‘I don’t want all that music. I just want the one song.’” So it seems like a complete CD is too much to invest in these days. Longtime music lovers know you have to hear the whole album to get the full effect. “The idea of the concept album has been lost,” Sarder said. “Albums used to be made with a thought to flow. If you’re into a CD for only one or two songs you’re missing a lot of good music in between. BOP used to put a lot of time into segues and connections between songs.”
Music lovers from the 80s-90s and today know how BOP’s reggae-fueled soca rock makes them entirely dance floor-friendly. “We were definitely a hybrid,” Sarder aka Joe Six-Pack said. “We had strong reggae influence. But there were other influences too with so many people in the band; and with the band being a democracy and all we tended to venture into different areas. We’d have a reggae tune next to a calypso next to a ska tune. We’d experiment with all the Caribbean and African rhythms. We even got into some Nigerian juju-style songwriting.”
The popularity of the infectious grooves of the band allowed them to share the stage with just about every notable world music performer of the day: Steel Pulse, Yellowman, Eek-a Mouse, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, and Ziggy Marley. “Just about everybody and anybody that was known in the reggae world,” Sarder said. “We had come to work with all of them at one time or another; that was just terrific. Toots & the Maytals were one of my all time favorites.”

After 650,000 miles on the road (two cars, four vans, one motor home, and a Greyhound coach) BOP seemed poised to make a break-through. As burnout set in, nerves became brittle. The end was prolonged by the opportunity to play campaign rallies for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. “We played rallies at MSU, Ann Arbor, and a pre-election night rally in an airport hangar in Romulus,” Sarder said. “On all three occasions we got to shake hands with the candidate. But on the last one, we got to go backstage, rub elbows and talk it up a little more and some photographs taken.” After Clinton won the election the band was invited to DC for the inaugural festivities. “We got to play in a tent on the Washington Mall with Blues Traveler, Taj Mahal, and Little Feat. For two days there was entertainment from 10am to 5pm. It was quite an experience. After we were done with our set we had passes to go all over. We got to meet a lot of professional musicians and see a lot of shows. We saw Fleetwood Mac from basically backstage.” They also played the Hard Rock Café that week which led to more shoulder rubbing with famous people.
BOP’s next big break—they had stopped touring by then--came when they appeared in the first season of the Conan O’Brien Show. Their bass player (Dan Stechow aka Danny St Echo) had been hired as an assistant on the program. And it didn’t hurt they were on Max Weinberg’s (The E-Street Band) label at the time. “We went on Conan the last week we were touring in April 1994,” Sarder said. “Having those two connections is what allowed us to get on there, particularly since we weren’t really a national phenomenon. We really ought to have stayed together a little longer and worked that first national exposure more. By then we knew we were packing it in; it was a bittersweet moment. Our last show was at the Majestic Theater in Detroit the same week we were on Conan.” BOP (harvey)’s music lives on still in the hearts of many. Ever familiar to hawking merch out of the trunk, Sarder says copies of  their Bread & Circuses CD will be available for purchase at the gig on Saturday. Among other things, BOP (harvey) promises to be in rich form; whooping it up in what may well be The End of the World Party--Mayan-style.“Rick’s American Café was our birthplace,” Sarder said. “We’ll play all our classic tunes there; the one’s that we’ve been playing the longest--like the more rootsy selections.”  
BOP (harvey) wsg Roland Remington, 9:30pm, Saturday at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing. BOP shows at 10:30 and 12a.

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