Cover Photo By: Meredith Kaminek
BUILDING BRIDGES TO AUDIENCES
By Jim Price
Since their formation in 2008, Harrisburg-based foursome Bridge Street has been building bridges and connections to audiences throughout central PA as a high-energy variety band, and a seasoned group that works hard to provide good times at every show.
The group’s husband-and-wife duo of singer/drummer Randy and singer/keyboardist Kathy Furr were in a band together and musically connected before they were even a couple, and had continually worked together in music and theatrical projects before the formation of Bridge Street. The couple previously performed for several years as The Quitters, but according to Randy, “…Then we quit.” Two years later, they decided to put together a full band project, and the original Bridge Street was formed with an initial guitarist and bass player. The group’s current guitarist, Mark Walter, joined nearly a year later to make the group a quintet. At one point Bridge Street had grown to six members strong with the addition of a saxophone player, but has since slimmed to its present four-member cast, with their newest member, bassist/singer Bill Sheehan, coming aboard two years ago.
All four musicians bring different influences and musical tastes into their work with Bridge Street. Randy cites the classic rock and pop of the Beatles, Steely Dan and Toto as chief influences, while Kathy was inspired by the melodic quality, harmonies and song compositions of The Carpenters and Barry Manilow. Originally from Altoona, Mark cut his teeth and guitar chops on the 1970s-era hard rock of The Scorpions, Judas Priest and UFO; while Bill was influenced by the 1960s/1970s-era classic rock of the Marshall Tucker Band, Allman Brothers and Santana.
As the members’ individual influences are diverse, Bridge Street likes to provide a diverse variety of music to their audiences, and can tailor their presentation to any venue, from VFW’s and private clubs to nightspots and other settings. Their song variety can range from Patsy Cline to Poison, from Lee Greenwood to the Bangles, from Rare Earth to Candlebox, and a lot of material in between. The group estimates their current song arsenal at around 90, but it is constantly growing as they learn new songs every week.
Bridge Street constantly assesses their song list, paying attention to what works with audiences and what doesn’t. If a song doesn’t connect with crowds after a few shows, it is discarded. Part of the challenge of being a successful cover and variety band is determining the songs that people like and are drawn to; an increasing challenge in today’s digital world, where people can access popular music from a wide array of sources. As Bill explains, “To make it work, it’s really a series of compromises; from music choice to song choice, to who’s going to sing it.”
The end objective is to provide a fresh show each time, and evoke happy responses. “We want people to have a good time,” says Randy. “We want them to respond. Sometimes people don’t have to get up and dance to be enjoying themselves. We can look out over an audience and see people tapping their feet, clapping their hands or bouncing their heads. Even if they are not dancing, we feel pretty certain that they are having a good time.”
Mark adds, “We are a party band…We like to have a good time, and everyone else has a good time.”
While Bridge Street does perform cover music, they don’t view themselves as a live music jukebox. The group strives to stamp their own signature on the music, own each song and give it their own distinctive flavor. They pay attention to detail in each song, and work especially hard on vocals and vocal harmonies.
According to Bill, “We really concentrate on being a musical team, being tight and professional-sounding.”
Having worked in theater, Randy and Kathy recognize that while the music is the first and most important thing, the visual presentation is also important and that Bridge Street must project an upbeat, professional image onstage. For Kathy, it is important to connect with the audience early. “I try never to just stand there and play and sing, I look out and try to get the crowd into it,” says Kathy. “I try to pull the audience in, and if it’s upbeat, I’ll be jumping around.” They keep the mood jovial with improv and friendly joking between songs. And while the group doesn’t rely much on visual gimmicks, they’ll implement the occasional prop or costume element if it works, such as Kathy donning a headdress for Bridge Street’s rendition of the Bangles’ 1980s hit “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
The members of Bridge Street demonstrate a strong chemistry both on and off the stage. They get along as friends, and practices are fun. Mark enjoys that unlike other previous projects he has been involved with, in Bridge Street, “…there is no drama.”
And according to Randy, a big reward of being in this group: “I get to be in a band with my wife.”
Bridge Street’s future plans are to continue to learn and expand their song library, and keep freshening up their presentation to give audiences something different every time. They hope to soon bring their show into fairs, festivals, and – with warmer weather approaching – set up some shore appearances as well.
The members of Bridge Street appreciate everyone who has supported them so far; including Giulio Marchi, who has served as their manager, sound engineer, roadie and bouncer for the past three years. They also appreciate their families and friends, the fans who come to enjoy and support their performances, and the venues that have hosted their shows.
Bridge Street prides itself on being one of the best variety bands in the region. Each show is a fresh experience with a varying song selection. This group aims to please, and musically has something to offer everybody. As Randy says, “Age-wise, I think we can please anyone from 21 to 60.”
Kathy adds, “Come and see Bridge Street; you’ll never see the same show twice!”