Erie’s revolutionary seven-member cover band highlights more than 60 years of music — from the 1950s through today’s hits — on Saturday at Coconut Joe’s.
Roll over, Charles Darwin and tell Chuck Berry the news: Erie band Theory of Evolution spans the 60-plus year history of rock ’n’ roll.
The seven-member band plays songs from the late 1950s — such as Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” — right on through today via such current artists as the Foo Fighters, Dierks Bentley and Mumford & Sons. In between, other decades and styles get their due, such as new wave (“Blister in the Sun”), Southern rock (“Hold on Loosely”), country (“Wagon Wheel”) and power-pop (“The Middle”).
The set list is extensive — about 90 songs — and growing. And every show, band members stress, is different as they mix up eras and change the set list to keep them fresh.
Big-voiced lead singer Joshua Walters, also a veteran Erie DJ, wanted his first rock band to master a wide swath of music, not a snippet.
“Everybody kind of wants to be an’80s rock band or a Motown band or R&B and or this and that,” he said. “We want to have something for everybody, so we pretty much cover the evolution of music from the ’60s through today.”
Finding capable, experienced musicians who shared his passion for music history was initially a challenge, though.
“That was something not a lot of musicians were keen on. They were all like, ‘I’m a rock player’ or ‘I’m a rock guitarist’ or ‘I’m a rock drummer.’ ‘OK, then. You’re not the one for us.’ So, over the course of a year and a half, we were able to find these beautiful gentlemen,” Walters said, nodding toward his bandmates. “And we all share the same passion for music and it’s been really, really cool.”
Those mates on the Evolution scale include rhythm guitarist Pat Harvey, lead guitarist Steve Crowl, percussionist Michael Chessario (bongos, congas, chimes), drummer Brad Quattro, bassist John Fisher and singer Ashley Stout. Harvey was the first one in; he met Walters through a mutual friend and they began jamming together on an array of songs.
“It’s a big challenge,” Harvey said, of playing music from different eras. “But we all are big fans of music. We love music. So, we don’t bump heads too much on what songs (to play). It’s up to the singer, whatever he can sing, and lucky for us he can sing just about anything, so that works in our favor. When you have a strong singer, it makes the rest of us look good.”
Walters especially loves singing “Superstition,” “Unchain My Heart,” Jeff Healey Band’s “Angel Eyes” and the Beatles’ “Come Together,” among others. But he’s not the band’s only singer. Stout — who can’t attend Saturday’s show at Coconut Joe’s, but will sing June 23 at Irish Cousins — often covers Janis Joplin, Alanis Morissette, Pink, The Cranberries and more. Walters discovered her when working a DJ night at Doc Holliday’s.
“She sang Pink and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was like, ‘Whoa. This girl can sing.’”
He invited her to band practice and she blew away everyone else, too. They stopped playing while she sang “House of the Rising Sunday”
“She said, ‘Did I screw up?’” Walters recalled. “And they were like, ‘No. You’re in!’”
Crowl and Fisher previously played in Sands of Time, which featured ’50s and ’60s music. Crowl had to learn 45 songs in two weeks before gigging with the band, including latter-day songs he’d never heard before. Now he’s a fan of Sublime’s “Santeria” and Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire.”
“I’m an old guy. I’ve been listening to classic rock,” Crowl said. “So, this was all new. But it was great. I’ve bought a bunch of these albums, too. They’re pretty good.”
He also had to master “Hotel California.” Said Crowl: “(That) has one of the most amazing leads, ever. I probably got 60 hours into that lead. But I worked hard at it. I wanted to be a part of this band.”
The learning never stops. Walters insists they master new songs for every show, which his bandmates good-naturedly complain about. “He thinks every song is two chords!” Harvey cracked.
But during rehearsal, it was easy to see this is one group with off-the-chart camaraderie.
“It’s like hanging out with your best buddies,” Walters said. “Tuesdays are so much fun (at rehearsal). We mess with each other, we poke fun with each other. When one guy screws up a note, we ride him ’til there’s no end. Because that’s what bands do.”
Theory of Evolution plays Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m., at Coconut Joe’s, 28 N. Park Row. Free admission. They also play June 24, 9:30 p.m., at Irish Cousins, 3924 Main St. in Lawrence Park. For more on Theory of Evolution, see the band’s Facebook page.
3 MORE DR. ROCK PICKS
Block it: Block party season opens with Money Shot 2.0 and the Super Band Thursday in Perry Square, 6 to 10 p.m. Partial proceeds benefit the C.A.R.E. Fund, which goes toward downtown Erie improvements.
On the beach: With the passing of Greg Allman, catch local Allman Brothers’ tribute Blue Sky when they team up with Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle for a formidable UPMC Sunset Music Series season opener on Wednesday, starting at 5:30 p.m., at Presque Isle’s Beach 1.
’60s redux: Bill Cotter’s Bohunks reconvene for cool garage rock and other songs (Prince, The Hollies, Lou Reed and more) on Friday 8 to 11 p.m., at Lager Café, 2056 W. Eighth.