When it comes to picking bands for the Saturday night Street Dance, the Monticello Riverfest committee is batting an average that would make Joe Mauer jealous.
But this year, the committee is swinging for the fences. They’ve brought in the Fabulous Armadillos, a band based out of St. Cloud that is made up of mostly full-time musicians.
Committee members are hoping for one of the best attended street dances in memory, and with good reason. The Armadillos play approximately 100 shows a year, and have developed a faithful following around Monticello, fans that they refer to on their website as Dilloheads.
“I am really excited about the street dance on Saturday evening,” said Tim Kordell, Riverfest chairperson.
“They are a very popular band from St. Cloud with a large following so we are expecting a much larger crowd than in years past. I think they are going to put on a great show and it’s going to be a lot of fun for everyone.”
The Armadillos boast an impressive background. The eight -piece band has had multiple members share the stage with some of the biggest names in music.
Guitarist Paul “Stretch Rocker” Diethelm spent eight years touring with Jonny Lang’s band, sharing the stage with not just Lang, but also Aerosmith, B.B. King, Sting and the Rolling Stones. Greg “Gary D.” Armstrong, the keyboardist for the band, toured worldwide with Bobby Vee in the 90s.
During that time, Armstrong shared the stage with Sir Paul McCartney. Vocalist Billy Scherer has also had a share of the spotlight, spending time singing with the well-known and beloved Johnny Holm Band.
The other band members include Mike Zeleny on bass, Jay O’Donnell on the drums, Pat Thorn on the trumpet, Mike Kreitzer on the saxophone and Pamela McNeill on vocals.
After many of them traveled all over the world for large stretches of their careers, the members came together to form the band when they got sick of the wear and tear of travel.
“We started the Armadillos seven years ago as a way to keep playing without having to travel on the road so much,” said Armstrong.
They haven’t lightened their load too much. They still play those 100 shows a year, but for the most part they stick around the central Minnesota area. Many of their shows are based at the Pioneer Place Theatre in St. Cloud, where they do theme shows, ranging from Studio 54 to Motown to Woodstock.
In all, they have done 32 different themes for shows.
But for festival concerts, such as Riverfest, they take the best songs out of their theme shows and combine them to make an appropriate playlist for the event.
“We do what we call kind of a best of,” said Armstrong. “We pull the songs that are more upbeat and more danceable.”
One thing that is important to the Armadillos is their ability to cross between genres and eras with ease.
“We pride ourselves on being able to go from an AC/DC song to Barry Manilow,” said Armstrong, before laughing and saying that doesn’t mean a Manilow song is guaranteed. From country to rock to swing, you can expect a lot of things from the St. Cloud-based band.
Probably the biggest thing to expect is a good time.
They want you to have one, and they know they’ll have one, as playing a festival allows them the opportunity to relax and have fun compared to the slightly more rigid theme shows they play in St. Cloud.
“It’s definitely lower pressure,” said Armstrong. “We tend to have more fun at [festival] shows. We are given more freedom.”
We’re looking forward to it,” added Armstrong. “We’re excited.”So is the Riverfest committee. And if its past record is any indication of the future, everyone else should be as well.
The Street Dance begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 11. The dance takes place in the Monticello Community Center parking lot. Food, beverages and a beer garden will be on site.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]