Eaglemania Submitted photo

Having been at this job for quite a while now, it’s always fun to interview acts for the first time (yeah, I’ve mentioned that before, I’m sure) and such is the case with this week’s chat: Frankie Reno of Eaglemania. This seven-piece tribute act, made up of Reno on keyboards, guitar and vocals; John Gaechter on guitar and vocals; J.D. Kelly on lead vocals; Ken Darcy on guitar and vocals; Jon Weiswasser on drums; Dennis Espantman on bass guitar; and Josh LeClerq on guitar and vocals, successfully recreates the sound and style of The Eagles and will be performing at The Elm in Waterville on Friday, Sept. 23. Being very familiar with the group to whom they pay tribute, but not so much with these seven gentlemen, I wanted to learn more; so when I was granted an interview with the band’s founder, I began with an obvious question…

Q: How long are you off the road before you head out again?
Reno:
Right now we’re on a little vacation, so we’re off for the next couple of weeks then we start up again at the end of August and run through September and the fall.

Q: How many shows do you do over the course of, say, a year?
Reno: We do about a hundred shows, our goal is about 120, so we come in that neighborhood, and it’s all over the country, from coast to coast.

Q: How long have you been doing this?
Reno: I started the band about 11 years ago. It took me a good year to get it together and get all the right guys together, so we’ve been working together for about 10 years.

Q: I’m a huge Eagles fan mostly because of their incredible vocal harmonies, their version of “Seven Bridges Road,” especially the way they did it on the “Hell Freezes Over” DVD, is my favorite song of theirs.
Reno: Yeah, that’s one of the songs that gets the biggest reaction from our audiences. They’re amazing: they are unbelievable songwriters, incredible vocalists, and then the way their harmonies blend is just amazing.

Q: Now, how do you go about choosing what you do? They have quite a catalogue of material.
Reno: Yeah, that was one of the things, especially in the beginning, that took some time to figure out because you are right, their catalogue is incredible. I mean, we could be onstage for four hours every night and already our show is two-and-a-half hours, which is a long time to ask people to sit there. So one of the hardest things I had to do was to sort through everything and figure out what it was that people really wanted to hear and, unfortunately, leave out a lot of really good songs, because there are so many hits, and the people really want to hear the hits.

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Q: Yeah, that’s understandable.
Reno: The real die-hard Eagles fans will request some of the deeper cuts on the albums, but if we do that and I leave out a song, like “Lyin’ Eyes,” then I get yelled at for leaving it out (chuckle).

Q: (Laughter) So it’s a curse and a blessing.
Reno: Exactly, yeah! But, boy, what a catalogue they have.

Q: Now, I hear that you do some of the solo work from Henley, Frey and Walsh?
Reno: We do, yeah. That’s one of the things that sort of sets us apart from a lot of the other Eagles tributes, but I don’t even think we do any Glenn Frey solo stuff right now, we do a couple of Joe Walsh tunes and we do a couple of Don Henley solo tunes.

Q: Looking at some of the still photos of your live shows on your website, that’s an intricate bit of staging there.
Reno: Yeah, it’s a lot, it’s a lot to put on the shows.

Q: So I imagine set-up and break-down can be a little daunting.
Reno: Well, we have a great crew that handles all of that for us, we’re really fortunate in that regard, but it is a lot of work.

Q: Now, do you change up your set list night to night?
Reno: No, I made a decision a long time ago to sort of treat this the way you would treat a Broadway play: we’ve got a beginning, a middle and an end, the show remains the same. Every once in a while I’ll throw an extra song in here or there, depending on the venue, but for the most part I’d say 90% of the set is always the same, show after show, and it’s been that way for almost 10 years.

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Q: Have you performed in Maine before?
Reno: I’m trying to think, I don’t know if we’ve been up to Maine or not, I don’t think we have. We’re up in the Northeast a lot but I don’t think we’ve gone as far as Maine yet.

Q: So The Elm will be your Maine debut.
Reno: I hear it’s a nice room.

Q: Back to the show itself, do different members sing lead on certain songs? How does that work?
Reno: We have three of us that are the main lead vocalists. The front man is J.D. Kelly and he handles all the Don Henley stuff, the Timothy B. Schmit stuff, the Randy Meisner stuff, he does all of that, which is the bulk of the show. And then we have Ken Darcy who handles all the Glenn Frey stuff, the “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and all the songs that Glenn Frey sang lead on, and then I sing almost all the Joe Walsh stuff.

Q: So, what can folks expect from your show up there at the Elm?
Reno: Well, it’s about 2½ hours of all the Eagles’ hits so if they like the Eagles, they’re going to love the show. The audiences sing along to just about every word to every song, it’s a pretty cool experience.

Q: Is there anything, Frankie that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Reno: As a tribute act, we are respectful of that The Eagles have done and are still doing, but their ticket prices are extremely high and a lot of people can’t afford it so we’re the next best option for them. We’re very complimentary to The Eagles but we don’t go out there and try to imitate their personalities or looks, we don’t dress like then or act like them, that’s not part of our game. Our goal is to take our personalities and us as a band and just perform their catalogue and their music, people seem to relate to that. When I started this, I wanted to sound like The Eagles and I wanted to do the best job we possibly could performing their catalogue, and we’re having a lot of fun, it’s a blast! The people who come to see us seem to enjoy us and tells us that, even after 10 years we’re not tired of doing it and are still excited about every show.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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