TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Five or 5,000. That's one of the mottos of the band Whiskey Rodeo, referring to the quality of show they will put on any given night. No matter if the crowd comprises of only 5 people, or as many as 5,000 spectators, Whiskey Rodeo will provide the same entertaining, exciting, and high-octane show for whoever (or how many) may be watching.
Whiskey Rodeo, which formed in Flagstaff almost five years ago, will be playing this Fourth of July in Tusayan from 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. during the Independence Day festivities.
Whiskey Rodeo toured through 11 southern states last fall and received their best reception in the heart of Texas. They returned to Texas for nine shows in 11 days around the Memorial Day Holiday this past May. That trip benefited Soldiers' Angels, a volunteer-led nonprofit providing aid and comfort to United States Military and their families.
"Raising money for those folks is huge," said Greg Francescon, vocals and guitar. "Then they're able to ship soap, toothbrushes, magazines, cookies, sundries, and more to our troops overseas."
Founded in 2003 by the mother of two American soldiers, Soldiers' Angels and its hundreds of thousands of "Angel" volunteers assist veterans, wounded, and deployed personnel and their families in a variety of unique and effective ways. One of those ways is sending supplies to the troops via care packages containing items most Americans use everyday and can tend to take for granted.
Soldiers' Angels has also sent First Response Backpacks to the wounded in hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, provided care to those in stateside military and VA facilities, provided emergency aid to military families in need, and provided flights to soldiers on leave or in emergency situations.
Lead Guitarist Chase Carpini said the band will continue supporting Soldiers' Angels going forward because it's an organization and cause they feel very strongly about.
Whiskey Rodeo's upcoming show in Tusayan began when Josie Bustillos from the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau tracked down Carpini and asked if they would be willing to play a Fourth of July festival at the Grand Canyon.
"I wasn't really sure how the Chamber found us, but Josie called me and said 'we really want to have you play but we're sure we can't afford you,'" said Carpini. "But we figured out a budget and were able to get it all settled. Josie from the Chamber has been great."
Whiskey Rodeo's unique sound and blend of various genres will be perfect for the festival atmosphere next week at the Grand Canyon. They will play anything from one of their many original tunes, to songs from Queen, Led Zeppelin, Hank Williams, Jr. and even the Temptations.
"Our sound is a combination of Americana classic southern rock and all kinds of music that's happening today," said Carpini. "Most of our music is original music, we're an original band, but we do play covers also. We just don't do it as a cover band, we do it our way and as our own version."
"There aren't too many bands that smash Primus and Pink Floyd together," added Carpini. "But we do."
Francescon said one way to win over a crowd is to play the songs the crowd loves but make them remember the band for their unique version.
"Especially when you're playing a four hour show and it might be the first time that the audience is being introduced to you," said Francescon.
The band is confident the audience will like their originals, but they also know the songs that audiences already love. This perfect blending of originality and new versions of classic songs is why the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce wanted Whiskey Rodeo in the first place.
"The variety of music we play, it caters to everybody, it's not just one thing or another," said Andrae Blissett, drums. "Everybody will like at least some thing that we do."
"Songs you already know are like old friends," said Carpini. "So if an old friend introduces you to somebody new, it's different than if you just met that person on your own. That's the job of a cover song, that's why we use them in our shows. Plus when you hear those songs as a member of the crowd, it makes you feel like you know everybody else. Everyone is connected at that moment."
There's no "fourth wall" with Whiskey Rodeo, as Carpini would say. The audience gets to interact with the band, they can come up on stage and get involved with the show, and band members will frequently go into the crowd during their shows.
"This is a party, there's just a band in the middle of it all," said Carpini. "This is what we do."
"We have to make sure that they know that we're having as much fun as they are," said Francescon, referring to the crowd.
Band members feel all the traveling, touring, and performing on the road only enhances and finely tunes their shows for better and even more entertaining performances every time they return to Arizona. Whiskey Rodeo knows their audience and always plays the appropriate show for the appropriate crowd at that particular time.
"We're never late, and we never quit early," said Francescon, quoting another unofficial band motto they have adopted.
"We'll have a ball, Fourth of July's going to be a great day," said Carpini.
"Believe me, you are going to have a good time," said Francescon.
Whiskey Rodeo is Francescon, Carpini, Blissett, and Mat Allen on bass. Carpini is from Los Angeles and also has a sound and stage company, Francescon is from Portland, and Blissett is from St. Louis. They all met in Flagstaff and that is where Whiskey Rodeo was born. For more information visit whiskeyrodeo.com and soldiersangels.org.