Large Flowerheads

Large Flowerheads

By Frederick Jerant

It’s like a trip back in time: The room is packed with a sea of dancers, awash in tie-dye, paisley and fringes. They’re mesmerized and excited by the driving rhythms provided by keyboards, guitars, drums and voices. The only thing missing is the aroma of incense (and some other stuff).

What you’re experiencing is the closest you’ll get to a swingin’ ‘60s dance party. Sure, many in the crowd have a touch (or more) of gray, but it doesn’t matter. Peace, love and happiness emerge whenever the Large Flowerheads perform.

The ‘heads have been around, more or less, since the early ‘90s. Drummer/singer/guitarist Moe Jerant recalls playing in a short-lived band with future members Greg Geist and Billy Trexler. After it broke up, Moe, Billy and Greg formed the Large Flowerheads with bassist Gina Balducci.

“We started out playing ‘60s music,” Moe says, “but bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were becoming popular, so we turned to grunge.” Although the group was fairly successful, the lure of other projects led to its demise.

Skip ahead to 2008. Moe joined Billy and Greg at a Musikfest party. “Greg had a list of ‘60s songs. When we did ‘Double Shot,’ the people in the room just lost their minds!” she laughs. “I thought it might be time to visit the ‘60s again.”

Following a year of woodshedding in Greg’s basement, the resurrected Large Flowerheads –  including Dave “Dano” D’Amelio on bass and keys – played its first gig at the Ice House in Bethlehem.

The right sounds

The years 1960-1969 have been described as “the golden age of the American 45.”

And the group mines that rich vein with alacrity. A typical set can mix tunes by Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Rivers, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the Buckinghams – all recreated with skin-tight vocal harmonies and authentic arrangements (even an electric sitar!).

But their sound is more than just playing the proper chords and riffs. Band members favor authentic-sounding (and -looking) Stratocaster, Gretsch and Epiphone guitars; Moe’s custom-built drum kit combines vintage appearance and sound with the toughness needed to withstand the rigors of the road.

One concession to modern tech is the Roland VR 700 and Yamaha MM6 keyboards played by “Dano’s” 2012 replacement, John Harkins. Although Farfisa and Vox Continental “combo” organs were prevalent in the ‘60s, “John wanted to add more sounds, like strings and horns. You can’t do that with a little Farfisa,” Moe explains.

When we did ‘Double Shot,’ the people in the room just lost their minds!” she laughs. “I thought it might be time to visit the ‘60s again.”

And everyone sings lead and harmony vocals.

It’s a combination that’s enabled them to open for the Grassroots, Peter Noone/Herman’s Hermits, the Fifth Dimension, the Guess Who and other groups.

Party central

Audience interaction is important, Moe says, because “When we play, we feel like we’re hosting a party for our friends – so we want them to hang out with us and have a good time.”

And it’s more than a general invocation to “put y’all hands together!” “Everybody sings along when we play ‘Venus’ by Shocking Blue. It happened spontaneously the first time, and we just went with it. But now, the crowd sings along every time,” she says. And Greg’s performance of Tom Jones’ “Delilah” prompts a throng of screaming women to toss armloads of bras and panties at the singer.

“That bit started during a gig in Wildwood,” Moe says. “A woman came charging from the back, swooned over Greg and threw some underwear. Now we carry bags of it with us, and hand it out to willing guests.”

And what would a ‘60s party be without gyrating female dancers? Enter Jane Ribecky Geist and Joanne McGovern, “The Go-Go Twynnes.” Actual twin sisters, the duo sport the requisite white boots, glittery go-go dresses, and ‘60s-style hair and makeup. “The Twynnes learn steps by watching videos of old dance routines, and even have their own fan club!” Moe says.

Speaking of fans…

The result is the “Large Flowerhead Children’,” the band’s huge Lehigh Valley fanbase. “I can’t say enough about them. They’re like family,” she says. “At practically every show, we need to ‘make the rounds’ between sets. We’ve even had a fan bring cakes to the shows, to mark another fan’s birthday.”

She recalls one fan in particular. “She had a muscular disease, but she was a strong-willed fighter and outlived everyone’s expectations. She went to our Bethlehem shows as often as she could, and was actually buried wearing her Large Flowerheads t-shirt.”

The “Fifth Flowerhead”

As business manager, Colleen Zajacik guides the band’s financial and marketing/promotion activities. But her role is growing. A trained keyboardist, Colleen occasionally fills in on bass guitar, keyboards and drums – particularly on the “Golden Slumbers” medley. “She had never touched a bass before, but she was up to the challenge,” Moe says.  And it really helps the sound; the distinctive bass lick of “Midnight Confessions” isn’t as prominent when played on a keyboard.

Get up and go

Ready for some spooky ‘60s fun? The Large Flowerheads will host their annual Halloween dance party on Saturday, October 25 at the Fearless Fire Company in Allentown.

“It’s crazy,” Moe says. “All these adults adopt a mindset of being in fifth-grade, and show up in outrageous costumes. We award various prizes throughout the night, but it gets harder to judge every year.”

Tickets are available online. It’s gonna be a groovy night, baby!

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