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Forgettable name, indelible music

Holiday special: Bar Band and other locals cover the songs of The Band

Spend enough time gigging with Denton indie bands and you’ll discover one of the most influential acts claimed by local musicians.

No, not the Beatles (though the Fab Four are beloved here).

The Rolling Stones, you say? Close, but no.

The band in question is … The Band. As in the roots-rock outfit launched from North America by Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson.

On Friday, Denton’s enduring tribute group — generically named Bar Band — will play a marathon gig of The Band’s beefy catalog.

“We’d done a show of Bruce Springsteen covers and later the Rolling Stones. But I’d wanted to do a show covering The Band for a long time,” said Grady Sandlin, a busy local drummer and the stage dad for Bar Band. “I started talking to Dan [Mojica] about wanting to do this, and I think it was his idea to book the show near Thanksgiving.”

A post-Thanksgiving show aligns with Martin Scorsese’s documentary film of The Band’s final show, The Last Waltz.

“It was filmed on Thanksgiving in 1978,” Sandlin said.

The Band made about 10 studio albums, and collaborated with Bob Dylan on Planet Waves and The Basement Tapes.

Sandlin, Bar Band’s drummer, was a fan of The Band for a long time. Then he saw The Last Waltz and slipped closer to disciple mode.

“In 2003 or ’04, I saw the documentary and after that, I was hooked. It was one of those situations where I’m having to find everything they ever did. I get kind of obsessed,” Sandlin said.

Bar Band’s bassist Tony Ferraro said the admiration for The Band is spread fairly evenly throughout the cover band.

“We’re not putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get down every last thing,” Ferraro said. “One of the romantic things about The Band is they were crazy. They were a little sloppy sometimes. It’s not like we’re trying to get every last note exact or just so. Sure, you want to honor the material because you love the music. But not to the point of copying the records.”

Sandlin seconded that notion.

“I’m not so much interested in the mimic aspect of covering music,” Sandlin said. “It’s more about the musicians interpreting the music by this group. I think that’s much more interesting. All of us love this music, and each of us will bring that to the performance.”

The show will be in two sets. Sandlin handpicked the music from “a really long playlist I had to cut down” to plan a concert of familiar songs, Bob Dylan collaborations and music from Levon Helm’s solo material.

“The whole night will play out as a story for us,” Ferraro said. “The show’s put together carefully.”

Sandlin said Bar Band won’t play a few songs that fans might expect to hear. But he’s itching to trot out a few other numbers for an audience.

“I’d have to say I’m looking forward to ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,’ and I’m really excited about doing ‘We Can Talk,’” Sandlin said. “Some of them are really hard and they’re a real pain …”

“Yeah,” Ferraro said. “Those are the songs that are going to explode on the stage.”

— Lucinda Breeding