July 25, 2008

Blend is Their Name, and Blend is Their Game: A Cappella Group Performs Vintage Doo-Wop

By Alicia Spates, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Jul. 25--For the a cappella group Blend, doo-wop music of the 1950s and '60s wasn't the first choice to perform. Some of the quartet's members liked contemporary and pop music.

But little did they know they would soon be adding "Runaround Sue" and "Chapel of Love" to their playlists.

"Once they came in and auditioned for the group, they saw how people could like and get into the music," said Johnathan Estes, a member of Blend who spread his interest of doo-wop to the other members.

It's a spark they hope to ignite with their audiences as well.

Blend will perform tonight, Saturday and Sunday at the Lincoln Square Theatre. Comedian Stagger Lee and local a cappella group The Second Edition are the opening acts. (The Second Edition will not perform in Sunday's show.)

The performances are to raise restoration funds for the theater.

Estes said he has always liked doo-wop, growing up with it playing in his household, and he finds the group's variety in music to be beneficial to Blend's sound.

"Each person brings their own unique talent to the stage. We're four guys with four mikes that produces a show with our voices. We sing what you would hear on a record."

Blend -- with Estes, Jeremy Weaver, Evan Boswell and Andrew Smith, who range in age from 22 to 26 -- is based in the Southern Illinois town of Energy. It was formed at John A. Logan College as a music program three years ago, and the quartet has turned the project into a career, performing at parties and festivals throughout the Midwest.

"We're noticing there's a trend of young adults coming in," Estes said of their performances. "My generation is starting to realize (doo-wop music) is fun. It could come back and be very popular."

Their show consists of songs such as "Blue Moon,""At the Hop,""Yakety Yak" and "This Magic Moment."

"We profess Christianity," Estes said, "so our show also includes some gospel music."

It's a "Branson-style variety show" with a lot of crowd interaction, he said. "We try to spice things up and get every age group involved."

Special portions of the show are their "Hee-Haw Tribute" and "Dancing with the Stars," where they invite audience members to come onstage to learn some choreography.

Joining Blend on stage will be their female counterparts, the Blendettes.

The Blendettes are Allison Weaver, Jessica Herring, Joanna Shaffer, Sarah Crouse and Emily Dennis.

Estes said he always had the vision of creating an all-female doo-wop a cappella group because of its rarity.

"It was nonetheless the opportunity to get another group out there to represent '50s and '60s music," he said.

Dressed in poodle skirts, the Blendettes join in with Blend and also harmonize some of their own melodies.

Allison Weaver, the wife of Blend member Jeremy Weaver, said some of today's music isn't appropriate for her 19-month-old daughter to listen to, but she feels doo-wop music is. Plus, her daughter seems to enjoy it.

"She really gets into the boys' choreography," she said with a laugh.

"We all enjoy its wholesomeness," Allison Weaver added. "I need to know there's something healthy and clean for my daughter to listen to. Doo-wop is clean and fun."

WHO: Blend and the Blendettes, with guests the Second Edition and comedian Stagger Lee.

WHEN: 7 p.m. today and Saturday, July 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27.

WHERE: Lincoln Square Theatre.

ADMISSION: $12; call 422-1711 or 972-8606.

ON THE WEB: www.myspace.com/blendspace, www.myspace.com/blendettespace

Alicia Spates can be reached at [email protected] or 421-6986.


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