Like many a Midwesterner returning to Wisconsin Dells as an adult, Kurt Neumann has vivid memories of visiting the area when he was a child.
“I can remember being a kid and going riding in the Duck boats and seeing it all, that’s what I remember,” Neumann said.
What Neumann can’t recall for sure is whether he’s ever performed in the Dells-Delton area with his longtime band, the BoDeans.
“I feel like we must have, but I can’t remember a specific performance,” he told Capital Newspapers recently. “We’ve stopped to gas up and get a Starbucks when we’re driving across the state, but I don’t recall playing there recently — really being there and staying.”
Neumann and the band he co-founded in Waukesha more than three decades ago are sure to stay longer this coming Friday, and they won’t be here only for gas and a Starbucks visit.
The BoDeans will perform at the Palace Theater in Lake Delton, and Palace co-owner Anthony Tomaska has promised confidently a “barn-burner” of a show.
Midwesterners especially have come to expect such performances from the band since Neumann formed the band with high school friend Sam Llanas in the early 1980s. Indeed, the BoDeans’ longevity owes in part to their reputation for rousing live performances, and connecting with those audiences remains a primary motivation for Neumann.
“That’s why I got into it, the performing of music,” he said by telephone from a tour stop in Minnesota. “That energy, I always related to. That’s what I enjoy most about what I do.”
Those performances invariably include a string of familiar songs from the 1980s and ’90s, when terrestrial radio was a primary vehicle for purveying and listening to popular music. Foremost among those songs is “Closer To Free,” the Top 20 hit that served as the theme song for the ‘90s television show “Party of Five,” as well as “Good Things,” “You Don’t Get Much,” “Idaho,” “If It Makes You,” “Stay” and “All The World.”
But, unlike many established and successful bands that make it past 30 years, the BoDeans also continue to release new music on a regular basis. The band has released five studio albums since 2010, three since Llanas left the fold in 2011 over a “personal difference.”
The band’s 13th studio effort, appropriately titled “Thirteen,” came out earlier this year, and they also have new music coming out all the time in the year-old Netflix show “The Ranch.” They write and perform the show’s soundtrack, Neumann said.
The new music invariably makes its way into the band’s live performances alongside the familiar favorites.
“We definitely come out and play of lot of the great old classics, but we mix in the new stuff too,” he said. “I’ve always got new music coming out and coming down the pipeline.”
Even though he now resides in the musically cosmopolitan town of Austin, Texas with his wife, Neumann remains true to his Dairy State roots — in his music, in his audiences and even in the musical company he keeps.
“I try to maintain the original vision, the music and the sound,” he said. “The people I hire to play all are really good, down to earth people who fit in that same category. It’s all about the people first, and the ability to play comes second – it’s not that way with everybody.”
Those “down to earth” Midwestern virtues continue to serve the BoDeans well, Neumann believes, especially with the home-state audiences like the one they’ll perform before Friday.
“There’s something about that Wisconsin feel – we’re part of something together,” he said. “This is their sound too, and their songs they grew up with too. We’ve grown up together, and that’s a good connection people have to enjoy.”
“There’s something about that Wisconsin feel – we’re part of something together. This is their sound too, and their songs they grew up with too.” Kurt Neumann, the BoDeans