WAcoustic rock/current alternative group Stranger’s Almanac takes pride in being an atypical bar band.
“Last time (we played) we got a lot of compliments on our particular song selection,” said band leader Chris Brokaw. “Like, ‘Wow, you guys do a really interesting version of that song,’ or ‘Wow, I love that song. I’ve never heard a band play that out.' That’s kind of what we’re going for.”
Stranger’s Almanac features Brokaw on guitar and vocals, drummer,
percussionist and backup vocalist Aaron Brokaw (Chris’s brother), Josh White playing guitar, mandolin and harmonica and adding vocals, vocalist Becky Kerley, and Mandy Brokaw, Chris’s wife, on bass. The band will start at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Dog Prairie Tavern in O’Fallon, and they are looking forward to another enthusiastic audience.
“We feed off the crowd, I guess you could say,” Brokaw said. “You always like to hear good things, rather than bad things. … We like the response, and the energy of the crowd. I like hearing, ‘Hey, I like your song selection.’ I spend a lot of time being the music Nazi of the band, saying, ‘Nope, we’re not playin’ that one, nope, that’s too typical,’ and ‘Nope, that’s too obscure.’ Trying to find that right niche is tricky.”
Stranger’s Almanac, named for an album by the band Whiskeytown, plays “a little bit of everything,” Brokaw said.
“We’ve been playing out in bands for years, but it’s been mostly originals,” said Brokaw, formerly with the group Salt Vision. “I went into this thinking, ‘I’m gonna play what I like.’ Which probably is a little bit more obscure than your average bar patron wants to hear. So what we’ve kind of done over the course of the last four months or so is really try to make it more crowd-friendly. But at the same time, we want to make sure we are not playing your typical bar songs.”
So forget about hearing “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Mustang Sally” or any Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes, Brokaw said.
“Those typical bar songs are what we go out of our way to avoid,” Brokaw said. “We do play ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ now that I’m looking at the list, and that’s sort of a bar song ringer. But outside of that, we play everything from Radiohead and The White Stripes to The Black Keys and The Civil
Wars. I’m a fan of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, the alt-country scene, Son Volt, that type of thing. We have that stuff mixed in as well.”
While the Brokaw brothers have been performing together for 13 years, Stranger’s Almanac in its current form has just been a group since the winter of 2011. With a scant few gigs, the early returns on the atypical approach are encouraging.
“The first show went well,” he said. “The second show, we added a lot more of that type of music, and the crowd response was much better. I imagine it would be even much more so this time around.”
Kerley, who plays “a mean tambourine” in addition to vocals, said the band’s first gig was a revelation.
“Usually, just the bar stools are filled, so maybe four or five people on a Saturday night,” she said. “And by the end of the night there, you could hardly move. It was just wall-to-wall people.”
Being in a band is a relatively new experience for Kerley.
“I’ve been singing in the car all my life, but never actually out and about for other people until I met up with Chris,” Kerley said.
Chris Brokaw and Kerley went to school together and have known each other a long time. While teaching Kerley a guitar lesson, Brokaw mentioned he was looking for singers for the band. That’s when the light bulb went on.
“I went over one night and sang a song for him,” she said. “He told me at that point I was not allowed to leave – I would have to join the band.”
Kerley, a kindergarten teacher at in the , is really pleased that the audition gave her a chance to be a part of the band.
“Getting out and singing for people – doing something that I love – is enjoyable,” she said. “I’d probably do it for nothing, without getting paid, and I would still have a blast. Just kind of getting out and showing everybody what I can do, and what we can do as a group, and how hard we’ve worked, has been a lot of fun.”
Dog Prairie Tavern is at 2348 St. Paul Road, O’Fallon, MO. For more information, call the tavern at 636-281-1800.