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Up-and-coming regional bands brush with the big-timers at Moondance Jam

Staff Writer


WALKER -- Huey Lewis claimed "the heart of rock and roll is still beating" in the capper to the 13th annual Moondance Jam Saturday, but it was lesser-known regional acts Kory and the Fireflies and search for george who proved that statement true.

Moondance, the annual festival near Walker, is mostly a nostalgia trip featuring older bands on the downward slope of their popularity. But the festival also opens its stages to regional bands whose careers are on an upward trajectory.

Rick Springfield and Huey Lewis and the News were the main attractions, but Kory and the Fireflies and search for george put on shows that suggested they could be headlining Moondance in 30 years.

Springfield made his mark in the '80s with irresistible pop ditties such as "Jesse's Girl." Kory and the Fireflies, outfitted head to toe in black for Saturday's show, are building up a tasty catalogue of their own even as they tour across the country. "Everyone," the title track off the band's third album, belies their wardrobe choice: It's the sunniest rock tune I've heard in a long time.

Another of the album's singles, "Pop Fly," is a slice of marketing genius. The band's management sent the song to every major league baseball stadium, and most of them bit, including the Metrodome. Radio stations have followed suit.

Kory Van Sickle, lead singer of the Sioux Falls, S.D., band, believes tenacity is the key ingredient in the recipe for success.

"We're just playing and being tenacious and meeting people and typically having really good response when we play," he said in a post-show chat.

After playing the regional stage last year, the Fireflies played the main stage Saturday afternoon.

"It's kind of nice to get on the big stage," Van Sickle said. "I guess they just heard good word of mouth from people last year."

Van Sickle and his bandmates stuck around to see Springfield's show, but first -- along with hungry Moondancers -- they checked out search for george, which played a fun dinner hour set on the regional stage. In their third Moondance appearance, the band mixed poppy originals like "Allison" with solid covers such as the Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy."

Just as Huey Lewis and the News found success by doing things a little differently (a four saxophone accompaniment wasn't common among chart-topping pop songs, but it worked for the News), search for george is taking an unusual path to success.

Granted, their sound can be easily categorized as pop-rock; their 2001 record, "3minute pop song," is aptly titled. But in contrast to the Fireflies' tenacity, sfg is carving out a following despite the fact that music isn't the top priority for some of the band members. The band doesn't even have a home base, as the musicians are spread between Fargo, N.D., Wahpeton, N.D., and Sioux Falls.

"We have a hard time with the schedule," said lead guitarist Steve Luebke after the band's set. "We're all married and most of us have kids. We're kind of tied down, so we just do it for fun."

That's not to say they wouldn't welcome a little radio play. Toward that end, the band will play a showcase for a record company next month.

"They're expecting us to have four songs radio-ready by September," said bass player Chuck Hoaby.

"Since we got word of that, we've done 17 new songs. We're ready," Luebke said.

They don't have headliner status yet, but Kory and the Fireflies and search for george certainly have catchy tunes. The path to pop success paved by Springfield and Lewis has a couple new travelers, and on Saturday, a lot of Moondancers were happy to go along for the ride.

For more information on the bands, consult and