Written by Michiana Entertainer Thursday, 02 September 2010 19:12
GRETCHENS REVENGE: The Music May Stop (But The Connections Remain)
By: Ralph Heibutzki
More than a decade after joining, singer-guitarist Frank Leftwich feels well acquainted with fans that follow Gretchen's Revenge. “We can put names to the faces; not only that, we're hanging out now,” said Leftwich. “Some of those people that showed up to (first) watch our band are golden friends, they will be friends for life.”
That interest cuts both ways, as Leftwich knows. Due to bassist/keyboardist Steve Beyeler's job, the band doesn't play between January and April, which prompts breakup rumors. However, those rumors may carry weight this year, as drummer Justin Kilmer plans to leave following his son's birth in March. “We've just been fortunate to last this long,” said Leftwich. “I think Justin's doing the opposite of not playing in a band, once he's starting a family life – who knows what will happen later on, as it progresses?”
On Friday, Sept. 24, the band performs from 6 to 9 p.m., during Downtown South Bend’s “Football Fridays Block Party,” at the College Football Hall of Fame campus (corner of Jefferson and St. Joseph streets). Gates open at 5 p.m. Admission is $3.00; children 12 and under are free.
Those who go can expect well-known songs that span four decades -- from the 1970s (The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Who), to current favorites like Kings Of Leon, Matchbox Twenty and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “As far as our performance, I feel like we're fortunate with the friends that we have – we're able to feed off that quite a bit,” said Leftwich. “That's what's let us do this for so long, because we have so much fun doing it.”
Then and now, Leftwich feels the best additions to the Gretchen set list are the simplest – which is why it features four Train songs, for example. However, any additions must justify themselves. “Obviously, we're not going to play every song perfect, but I like to think we cover the songs very well,” said Leftwich. “If we can't do it well, we've done a good job of weeding it out.”
Change has been a constant thread of the band's history. The current lineup of Beyeler, Kilmer, Leftwich (rhythm/acoustic guitar, bass) – augmented by Dave Denlinger (lead guitar), and Elaine McCann (vocals/keyboards) -- has been playing since 2000. By then, Gretchen's Revenge had existed for five years – originally starting as an outlet for McCann and guiding light Wayne Sousley, who ended up leaving for personal reasons.
The cycle repeated itself in 2004, when Beyeler left, according to Leftwich. Without missing the proverbial beat, Justin Kilmer's brother, Ben, held down the bass and keyboard fort until Beyeler's 2007 return. Beyeler and Sousley remain close to the band, along with soundman Jim Whitmer. “We see him (Whitmer) as a sixth member,” said Leftwich. “He has been golden and without him, we just wouldn’t sound very good.”
Leftwich also has nothing but kudos for the work of his former guitar teacher, Denlinger. “I do a lot more acoustic (guitar) stuff, and rhythm, and he can do all the intricate stuff,” said Leftwich. “He's a secret weapon – sometimes it's those little things that get added, that are priceless.” These are the memories that Leftwich will keep with him, if Gretchen's Revenge ends up calling it a day. “David's in three other bands, anyway, and he stays busy – because our schedule isn't that heavy. But he's always been loyal to our band, and he's just a gem to have,” said Leftwich.
As far as his own plans go, Leftwich hasn't thought that far ahead yet, being content to focus on next month's show. “We've reached a mark (of) where I think we did so much of what we set out to do,” said Leftwich. “If anything, it opens the door to do something different – other musical things, or just life in general. But we've been fortunate to do it this long, and have support for this long. The interaction we've had, the fun we've had, I'm going to miss that terribly.”