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Rock on — Two local bands play at Central Iowa Fairgrounds

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — From left to right, Wenko & BAM band members Mike Bullen, Blake Roseland, George Wenk and Andy Rhodes. Wenko & BAM played a lively set at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds on Saturday night.

The sounds of guitars, drums and singing filled the Central Iowa Fairgrounds Activity Building on Saturday night, as two local bands — Janey and the Growlerz and Wenko & BAM — played for everyone who came out for a bit of live music and fun.

Entry to the event was just five dollars for four full hours of music, and a variety of beverages were available to purchase. Janey and the Growlerz kicked it off by playing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, the stage was turned over to Wenko & BAM for the next two hours.

The members of each band all come from in and around Marshall County, and one of the things they all have in common is their love for music.

The lead singer for Janey and the Growlerz, Janey Potter, said before the band was started they only got together to play for open mic nights, but eventually it grew into something more. Since 2015, they’ve been playing as a band and Potter said being in the band has allowed her to branch into different genres that she may not have explored otherwise.

“I started off as a country girl, and they’ve kind of sprouted me out to try in different genres that I wasn’t comfortable with at first and now I’m like ‘Wow. I can do some of these that I didn’t think I was capable of,” Potter said.

Joel Love, on keyboard and guitar, joked that they had “brought her over to the dark side.” Similarly to Potter, Rod Holke-Farnam who plays guitar, said he never liked playing country songs until she introduced him to certain songs in the genre.

One of the reasons they cover such a variety of songs is in part due to the wide age range in the band. The youngest member of their five-person band, their drummer Blake Kelley, is in his early 20s while the oldest member of the band is Joel Love who just hit 70.

“That’s what makes it fun too, that’s what makes the versatile music, ranging from new age stuff to older stuff and everything in between,” Potter said.

The final member in their band is John Love on bass guitar. John is Joel’s son, and he said it had been fun getting to be in a band with his dad. The event on Saturday was one of their first big gigs since COVID-19, and they were all glad to be there.

Wenko & BAM is a slightly younger band than Janey and the Growlerz, as it was only started around a year and a half ago. The name is a play on each of the band members names, as Wenko is a nickname for George Wenk the keyboard player, and BAM is the first initial of each of the other band members, Blake Roseland, Andy Rhodes and Mike Bullen.

Wenk contributed the band’s start to Rhodes, and he said Rhodes got him back into singing.

“A long time ago I did a record, and I really wasn’t planning to sing again, but Andy convinced me to sing again,” Wenk said. “Me and Mike had worked together in another band for a long time and then we talked with Blake, and he was interested in doing this with us, because he’s the young one, he’s in his 20’s. The rest of us are in our 60’s. It really just came together quickly. It was really great.”

With almost all of them contributing to vocals in some way, singing takes center stage in their music. Wenk said their set included one original song called “Rock and Roll Over” and then the rest were covers of classic rock songs.

“I’m just delighted to still be doing what I do, doing what I love,” Wenk said. “My favorite part has been making music with other good musicians that are just in it for the fun. Nobody is trying to become a rockstar, nobody is trying to make a gazillion dollars, we do it for the enjoyment of it.”

Roseland, their drummer, said being in the band has allowed him to learn a different range of songs which he wasn’t accustomed to.

“We play a lot of old 70’s and 80’s rock stuff and we’re a four-piece, so we all have to connect pretty well and fill it out, so it’s fun,” Roseland said.

Rhodes, who both sings and plays guitar in Wenko and BAM, said he was looking forward to playing a gig now that COVID has receded substantially.

“I’m just looking forward to people having fun. With no masks and stuff, let’s have fun,” Rhodes said.

Most of the seats were filled in the Activity Building, and everyone in attendance seemed to be happy to let the music wash over them.

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Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or smeyer@timesrepublican.com.

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