May 19 2010 12:00 AM

Bop (Harvey) reunites for Art Festival concert

After forming in 1984, Bop (Harvey) began a trip through reggae, soul, Latin, funk and psychedelic rock with one goal in mind: to make each crowd dance their asses off. Which is what the East Lansing band did for 10 years — all the while keeping busier than most local acts.

Along the way, the band played more than 2,000 shows, recorded a catalog of nine albums and performed on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

After becoming a success in the Midwest, the band moved to Providence, R.I., in 1988 in an effort to break into the East Coast scene.

A landmark in the band’s career was playing multiple Bill Clinton rallies in 1992 and, ultimately, his presidential inauguration.

After the stress of a hectic tour regimen, the band broke up in 1994.

However, November 2009 saw the 25th anniversary of the band, and led to a couple of successful reunion shows in East Lansing. The band is set to play again at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the East Lansing Art Festival.

Founding member Dan “St. Echo” Stechow (bass/vocals) recalled being a part of the busiest band in Lansing for most of his 20s.

“We were the road-dog band of the century,” Stechow said. “We played about 200 shows a year. We got to the point where we owned our own 40-foot Greyhound bus.

“We were widely regarded as a regional favorite. Our first national tour was in 1987, but when the ‘90s ended we were very much a North American act. We played all over the continent, all the time — we’d only have two weeks off a year.”

How did the band first get together?

We met while attending Michigan State. I responded to an ad that Scott Culling, the drummer, placed in the winter of 1983: “Drummer seeks bass player to start reggae band.” At that point my extensive knowledge of reggae was probably The Police, whereas Scott was a music major and musicologist at heart. He has very extensive knowledge of reggae, ska and African-influenced music.

In the spring of 1984, we finally met (lead vocalist) Word E. Smith. We instantly clicked into the fast track. After adding four more players, we played our first official show as Bop (Harvey) on July 20, 1984. After that, we took off like a rocket and prided ourselves by getting every crowd on their feet from beginning to end.

Why did the band break up in 1994?

the time that we got to that stage we had become disillusioned with the
industry. We never achieved the sort of fame we hoped for, at least not
in terms of radio and record industry support. But we made a great
living and were very successful in terms of having a fan base and
crowds. We just were never the style of the moment that the industry
tends to adopt.

the time we were done, we had said everything we were going to say
musically. We’d performed those songs 1,000 times. It was not an
acrimonious breakup; it was just time to move on.

How was it getting back together after so long?

was about what you’d expect. It was kind of like getting together with
an ex. I think not feeling the pressure of a record label was great.

we first got back in the same room together, everyone was a little
timid, a little walking on eggshells. But that really dissipated and
the shows in November went so well, better than we were expecting.

set of rehearsals, getting ready for the Art Festival show, has just
been a delight. I’ve had more fun with the guys at these last
rehearsals than I can ever remember. We’ve been pleasantly surprised.
The (reunion) shows we recently did in November, everyone boogied their
asses off (and) we’ll see if we can recreate that out in the street at
the Art Fest.