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Highs in the mid-‘60s

Legendary local rock ‘n’ roll outfits play reunion concert


While veterans of Lansing’s 1960s rock music scene are mostly in their 60s today, a select batch of those musicians are hoping to recreate some of the sonic majesty that happened over 45 years ago at local teen clubs and venues.

A stacked roster of the area’s biggest bands from that era reunites Friday at the Lakeview Banquet Center in Laingsburg, the former location of Jambalaya’s. The concert, dubbed the Lansing Area Band Reunion, spans from the mid-‘60s garage rock explosion to the early ’70s prog-rock boom, featuring local legends like the Plain Brown Wrapper, the Plagues, the Ones, the Beaux Jens, the Maxx, the Paris Bakery, the Barristers and other specials guests. Most of the groups haven’t played a note together for decades.

The Plagues, a garage band from Lansing’s 1960s music scene, joins a slate of local ‘60s and ‘70s bands Friday for a reunion show in Laingsberg.
Courtesy Photo

Bill Malone, bassist and vocalist of the Plagues — a cult-status Lansing garage band known for its string of collectable Fenton Records 45s — said the band recently held its first practice since 1967.

“We’ve already had a practice here,” said Malone from his home in California, where the other Plagues members also wound up living. “We spent a couple days here practicing. When we get back to Lansing, we’re going to set up for a few days and practice some more.”

Malone moved to California in the late ‘60s to become a film director. His resume includes thrillers like “House on Haunted Hill” and “Feardotcom.”

“We’re all a bit rusty except for our (lead) guitarist, Van Decker,” Malone added. “He’s been playing regularly, whereas (rhythm guitarist) Jim Hosley and myself really haven’t been doing much musically.”

While fellow Lansing band the Ones was known for dynamic Motown-style ballads like “You Haven’t Seen My Love,” the Plagues is best known for its scorching garage-punk anthem, “I’ve Been Through it Before,” and other primitive yet Beatles-esque tunes. Malone said that raw energy will be on display at the reunion concert.

“It’s like when you went to see the Beatles,” he said. “You wanted to hear them sound like the records, which they did. My thought is, that’s the way the Plagues should be. We should just sound like the records, try to do it as close to the spirit as possible as when we first did it in 1965.”

As for the Plagues’ set list, Malone said the guys are opting out on cover songs. Instead, the band will play its singles and perhaps a few surprises.

“We’re going to do the records and probably a new song I wrote for the occasion. Jim Hosley has a new song as well,” Malone said. “Jim’s song is more specific to the occasion, mine is just more along the lines of if the Plagues had continued. It would’ve just been another song on the list.”

Original Plagues drummer Phil Nobach is not able to make the performance, but event organizer Dave Livingston, bassist/horn player for Plain Brown Wrapper, said that’s not a problem.

“My son is filling in on drums for them,” Livingston said. “In fact, there will probably be 15 drummers in the building that night from a number of bands. It’s a geezer party of musicians.”

Livingston said he and Gary Manthei of the Paris Bakery have been working together to make this concert happen.

“The whole thing was a trip,” Livingston said of his days in the Plain Brown Wrapper.

The band, which also featured Hosley and Decker of the Plagues, lasted from 1967 to 1973.

“We played a lot of concerts with guys everyone’s heard of — Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, MC5,” Livingston said. “There were a lot of great bands in the state. Outdoor summer concerts were a big deal.”

Livingston said the band’s set will be wide ranging, considering the number of players that rotated in and out of the group during its original run.

“The Plain Brown Wrapper will do at least one set, because there are a number of players,” he said. “We’ll have at least two bass players there.”

Known for its progressive, horn-heavy jazz/rock sound — similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears — the Plain Brown Wrapper recorded three LPs that are all still unreleased. But the group did manage to tour various parts of the country in a converted school bus and release a few singles. In its prime, the band of long-hairs even inked deals with Beachwood Music, a division of Capitol Records, and Wooden Nickel Records, a division of RCA Records. Both deals fizzled out.

“Our final concert was at the old Lansing Civic Center with a 200-voice choir and a full orchestra,” Livingston recalled. “After that concert, we parted ways in the spring of ’73.

The last time Plain Brown Wrapper played was a 1994 reunion show at the Lansing Center.

“I’ve been trying to get this reunion together for the last five years,” Livingston said. “Twenty-two years in between shows is too long.”

Lansing Area Band Reunion

6 p.m.-midnight Friday, Sept. 23 $15/$10 adv. Lakeview Banquet Center 5942 Round Lake Road, Laingsburg (517) 927-1365, facebook.com/events/623892751106857


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