A framed dollar bill hangs on the wall of the band room behind Ed Koehler's garage south of Nisswa. The bill symbolizes SKATYRS' first paying gig, June, 28, 1997, at a friend's party on Lower Hay Lake.
It also, to hear the lead guitar player tell it, is roughly how much the band should have earned at that gig, although they were paid a bit more.
"We had a long ways to go," Koehler said Tuesday as the band ran through a set of classic rock standards in preparation for Thursday's Moondance Jam gig, their first at the annual festival. "We still do. But it's slowly growing and growing. I'm amazed, I really am."
The six-piece representing six different Brainerd lakes area communities is the living, breathing (and rocking) definition of a weekend band. SKATYRS has two solid original songs, one of which is appropriately titled "Weekend Musician," and all of the members are in this purely for the fun of seeing people dance to their music.
As Koehler puts it: "We have nowhere to go with this. We don't expect anything. We want people to like our music and like us, and that's about it ... We didn't want it to become like a job."
Bass player Stan Childs -- along with Koehler, the only remaining member from the original 1996 lineup -- adds, "Even if we sold a million records, how would we travel?" Most of the band have children and/or day jobs or, as the 58-year-old Koehler likes to say, they are simply old and tired (the other band members are 59, 59, 50, 41 and 32).
"We want to be famous, but not well-known," keyboardist Mark Westberg (the 32-year-old) quipped.
The band is so casual about their music "careers" that they can't even agree on what SKATYRS (pronounced "scatters") stands for: The official version, laid down by taskmaster Childs, is Still Kids After All These Years. But Koehler thinks the "K" should stand for "krazy." Drummer Ron Scrimshaw suggests "kickin'." Rhythm guitarist Brian Wallace has another idea that can't be printed in a family newspaper.
That's not to say SKATYRS doesn't work hard. At Tuesday's practice session in the increasingly warm band room, the goofing around quickly gave way to a no-breaks-allowed run-through of the Moondance set, with Childs clocking every song.
What's more, the session proved the musicians will endure a lot of pain for their craft; they might want to consider Battered as a temporary band name. A broken femur from a recent car accident forced Westberg to miss the band's last three gigs; the leg began to throb halfway through "Born on the Bayou" Tuesday, but he toughed it out.
It's worth it for Moondance, he explained, grimacing. "It's 45 minutes. I can stand it for 45 minutes."
If you go
What: SKATYRS performing at Moondance Jam
When: 1 p.m. Thursday
Where: Moondance Ranch Saloon Stage, Walker
Moondance tickets: $75-$450
Web sites: www.skatyrs.com, www.moondancejam.com
Lead singer Brad Wallace recently tore cartilage in his knee stepping from his boat to a dock; perched on a stool next to the seated and worse-off Westberg, he's not complaining.
Before "Shout," the 12th of 14 songs in the set, Scrimshaw took a serious look at Childs -- who once suffered heat stroke during a show, his bandmates say -- and asked if he needed a drink of water. "You look like you're just shot," Scrimshaw said.
"I'll make it," Childs said, ending the discussion.
After the set, it was clear the band would make it through Moondance, too: Even if Koehler stumbled on the opening riff of "Born to Be Wild," even if Childs forgot to jump in at the beginning of "Some Kind of Wonderful," even if the theoretical 45-minute set flirted with the hour mark.
SKATYRS' set (even the two originals) is pure classic rock, with the rich, six-piece sound "skatyrizing" the music somewhat, especially on the closer, "Kiss Him Goodbye." In fact, the set might be too much rock, even for Moondance. A couple band members suggested Brad should throw in a slow tune somewhere in the middle.
But Koehler had other ideas: "Nah, let's just kick their (posteriors)," he said.
It turns out Childs, Koehler and Scrimshaw were all wise with their acronym interpretations. No doubt about it, these crazy kids are still kickin'.
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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