A rock band with a string section and a piano is set to bring a unique sound to Seymour.
On Thursday, The Woomblies Rock Orchestra will take to the stage on East Second Street between Ewing Street and Indianapolis Avenue for the third Seymour CityJam concert of the summer.
It will be the group’s first time performing in the city.
Darnell Dukes, executive director of the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour, saw Phil Pierle performing with another band in February at Pewter Hall in Brownstown and learned about the rock orchestra. The arts center coordinates the CityJam summer concert series.
“We’re hoping to make some great new friends there this month so that we can come back next year,” said Pierle, a vocalist and guitarist with the band.
The free concert will go from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and food will be available for purchase starting at 5:30 p.m.
The Woomblies started as a quartet in 2000 in Indianapolis. Pierle and Paul Holdman, who also is a vocalist and guitarist, had been casual acquaintances through the local music scene.
“One night, I walked into The Willard in Franklin to see our buddy, Gordon Bonham, and Paul was playing,” Pierle said. “When it was break time, he came up to me and asked what I was doing musically. I told him that I was doing solo work and licking my wounds from the last band that I was in. He asked if I wanted to jam sometime. We booked a fairly steady gig at The Willard.”
They had different drummers and bass players with them in the beginning, but Pierle said they clicked right away when Jamey Reid (drums and percussion) and Brant Milholland (bass and vocals) came on board.
“It was a definite musical chemistry between the four of us,” Pierle said. “Back in those days, we never rehearsed. That’s how we developed our unique sound.”
The group chose cover tunes not covered by other local groups, which drew a fan base that was “tired of the same old music,” Pierle said.
“Unlike jam bands, we chose to play the best, in our opinion, popular songs but songs that not every other band plays,” he said. “’Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got’ by the Four Tops is a good example. Most people really enjoy hearing it again, if it’s done well. The song doesn’t have to be ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ for them to dance.”
In 2007, the quartet released a self-titled album of original music.
All four members were instrumental in creating the arrangements. Pierle did most of the songwriting, while Holdman and Milholland wrote a few of the songs.
“We’re proud of that CD,” Pierle said. “One of the best compliments is when people request our songs over covers.”
Then in 2012, The Woomblies Rock Orchestra was created. Pierle said he had always wanted to do something with strings, and that became a reality when he received a call from Dan McMichael, operator of The Rathskeller in Indianapolis.
McMichael wanted a rock band with a string section, and Pierle jumped on it.
“The rest of The Woomblies were reluctant, but a one-of-a-kind experience was created in Indianapolis,” he said.
With help from McMichael, The Woomblies added a four-piece string section and a pianist, forming a rock orchestra that could play some of the greatest classic rock and Motown songs ever written, Pierle said.
The string section is led by cellist Grover Parido from Carmel. He brought along Melinda Riley on viola, Allison Emmert on violin and Julie Schull from the Carmel Symphony Orchestra on violin.
The group’s longtime friend, Greg McGuirk, joined them on piano.
“For the first 13 years of the band’s existence, we played every weekend or as much as we could,” Pierle said. “Nowadays, the orchestra is focused on concerts, special events and festivals. We don’t play as much, but the quality sure has gone up.”
The band is ready to perform in Seymour for the first time.
“We hope people come away from our show feeling happy and inspired,” Pierle said. “We’re very proud of our song list because it consists of material that not every band can play. When ELO, Led Zeppelin, The Spinners and Barry White are done well live, it’s a pretty cool thing.”
The final CityJam concert of 2016 will be Sept. 15 with Rumors, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band.
CityJam raises money through sponsors and donations for Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.
Sponsors this year include The Tribune, JCB and Seymour Crossing.
What: Seymour CityJam featuring The Woomblies Rock Orchestra
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: East Second Street between Indianapolis Avenue and North Ewing Street in downtown Seymour (rain site is Knights of Columbus, 118 E. Second St.)
Cost: The show is free, but food will be available for purchase starting at 5:30 p.m.
Next concert: Sept. 15 with Rumors, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band