It’s been more than 20 years since the hard rock band Baton Rouge has been on stage in Pittsburgh, but they are reunited and returning for a special show Wednesday evening at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater in preparation for a weekend gig at Firefest X, in Nottingham, England.
Featuring Homer City native and now Pittsburgh resident Scott Bender on bass, the band also consists of vocalist Kelly Keeling, guitarist Lance Bulen and drummer Corky McClellan.
When the band parted ways in 1991, Keeling worked with the band Blue Murder and rock legends Michael Schenker, Don Dokken and the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Bulen also worked with various artists, eventually forming Kingbaby, his current band.
McClellan still plays and gives drum lessons.
Bender took a different route. For several years after Baton Rouge, he played the Pittsburgh circuit with Triple X.
Eventually, life took over and the music got pushed to the side. Bender now owns a construction company that takes up most of his time, as well as being father to two young boys with his wife, Karrie Kuchinski Bender.
“Music was a full-time occupation for me. I would actually practice 10 to 12 hours a day, just to be able to play well. It’s hard to be a ‘weekend warrior’ and play brilliantly,” Bender explained through emailed questions.
So, how did the Baton Rouge reunion come to be?
It started when the group first got back together in 2009 for a festival called Rocklahoma, an annual three-day celebration of ’80s bands in Pryor, Okla., that pulls in 200,000 people.
“It was huge. We went there and did very well. We kicked some (butt), which prompted interest from a few different record labels, including Retrospect Records out of Las Vegas and Frontier Records in Italy. Kelly signed a Baton Rouge deal with Frontier Records, and as a result we’ve been working on it for the past few years.”
When asked how likely it was that there would be a new Baton Rouge album, he said “very likely. Lance recorded about 13 tracks and Kelly did quite a few, too. I also have a few tracks. It’s been tough with all of us living in different cities to finalize the album. The record label (Frontier Records) wanted to record us at Firefest for a live album, but we declined to do that because we want to be more prepared.
“We will see what the future holds after Firefest, and see what the vibe of band is after that. It might inspire us to be more creative.”
When asked how it was to practice and refresh himself on the music, which includes the songs “Walks Like a Woman,” “Doctor” and “The Storm,” Bender said, “It’s easy. Like riding a bike. The rest of the band mates have all worked professionally since Baton Rouge, so they all play full time.”
The Firefest X festival is Friday through Sunday, featuring 19 hard rock bands of varying degrees of fame. Baton Rouge will perform on Sunday, alongside members of Vixen and a super group called Legend, comprised of Joe Lynn Turner, Eric Martin and Fergie Fredricksen.
The Pittsburgh show will be a great time for the band to reconnect with family, friends and fans. While Bender did give a few details in advance of the show, he wanted to keep some things a surprise.
“All of the music is from the first record (“Shake Your Soul”). We also have a few tasteful Southern songs — I am not going to mention names — old school rock. We are also doing a Kingbaby song that Lance is going to sing, and it’s pretty cool. I will sing a song or two and Kelly might pull out the keyboards and jam with fellow Atlantic Recording artist Herman Granati, of the Granati Brothers. We’ve known him for a lot of years. It’s going to be a great show. All kinds of really cool, unexpected stuff on stage. You will just have to wait and see.”
The show Wednesday is at the Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., Pittsburgh. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m., with opening band Meanstreet, a Van Halen tribute band. Tickets are available at the door or online at www.showclix. com.