Jammin’ at the alley

Alex Brown

Alex Brown

BB and the Bullfrogs performed Friday night at the Prairie Lanes Bowling Alley to a good crowd, despite the bitterly cold winter night.

“We’ve been wanting to get a 50s and 60s band for a while” said Les Nelson, one of the owners of Prairie Lanes.

“Even with the weather, it was a good turnout ? Now that people have heard them, they’ll spread the word. They are a really good band,” he said.

The members of the band, originally from Spirit Lake, Iowa, are all students at SDSU. Brent Brekke, lead guitar and vocalist, is a junior agronomy major. Tyler Pedersen, bassist and lead vocalist, is a sophomore music education major. Drummer Mike Woizeschke is a sophomore engineering major.

This talented trio has a great stage presence and chemistry. Their free-flowing stage banter helps with a smooth transition between songs. It is easy to tell that the band has been performing together for many years, as the crowd can feel the energy that helps keep the excitement growing all night long.

The musical talent, range and diversity of the members is quite spectacular. The dynamic duo of Brekke and Pedersen provides a great blend of voices, which they credit to the long relationship between the singers. Brekke’s mellow baritone meshes well with Pedersen’s vast vocal abilities, ranging from high falsetto to lower tones similar to that of an R&B swooner. The range of the vocalists allows for a wide variety of songs. One of the most notable is the group’s rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” featuring a staggering vocal display that uses notes sung both lower and higher than the original recording.

The band to audience interaction is also something to behold. While it is easy for a DJ to take requests, it is much more difficult for a live band to do so, especially when they have never performed the song.!

“While the quality of impromptu songs may not be up to our normal standards, we’re not the type to turn down a challenge,” said Brekke.

“But there certainly are limitations to our impromptu abilities. There are certain songs that just can’t be given justice by a three-piece group.”

BB and the Bullfrogs are certainly a crowd favorite, with fans in all age demographics. Sitting in the audience, you can feel a certain connection with the band, as they carry on conversations with fans, take requests on the spot and even feature random dance contests with tunes like the Chicken Dance. As young and old gather to compete, the pace quickens with each pass, as Pedersen speeds up until even his band mates cannot keep up, turning the piece into a solo. Laughter breaks out among the crowd as the lightning-quick verse is played, much too quickly for anyone to keep up with.

“Don’t worry,” said Pedersen. “No one ever can keep up.”

The musical influences of this group are deep and family-oriented. Brekke’s grandpa became a co-founder of DJ & the Runaways, who still holds the record for highest record sales for any Iowa band. Their Billboard hit “Peter Rabbit” sold more than 400,000 copies and gave them the opportunity to tour the country. It was his grandpa that helped BB and the Bullfrogs get started.

“He (Grandpa) taught me to play the guitar, and Tyler to play the bass,” Brekke said.

BB and the Bullfrogs currently maintain a busy schedule, taking on not only school, but traveling South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa for gigs nearly every weekend. The band was initially formed between Brekke and Pedersen seven years ago. The drummer, Mike Woizeschke, was later added, as the current group just started their fifth year together. They plan to continue to play together throughout college, and hope to stay together much longer than that, depending on the future. The Bullfrogs hope to continue playing at Prairie Lanes in Brookings. For more information about the band and their schedule, check them out on their Web site at www.bbandthebullfrogs.com.