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rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 09/27/2004
Prime Time Revised
by Stephanie Vaughan
A couple years ago, if you caught a bar gig by Prime Time, you'd hear much the same music the band would offer for weddings and reunions. "Shout" was on every gig's set list. Ballads came two or three to a set. New additions to the song list were few and far
between. Even with a few classic rock tunes thrown in, the hard edge was overshadowed by a kinder, gentler Prime Time.

Those days are over.

With the addition of Steve Fierz on keys/fiddle/rhythm guitar and Bill Englund on drums, Prime Time turned a corner toward tighter, more polished performances, an
evolving song list, and a stronger emphasis on classic rock. Even the Rockford Area Music Industry Awards noticed this, switching Prime Time's nomination from
the Pop/Retro category to the Classic Rock category.

Englund, an experienced musician with an overseas music tour on his resume, enjoys playing funk and jazz - songs with a "good groove," he says. But he's well-versed in many styles, including classic rock and roll.

"The drummers I grew up listening to were mainly studio guys, like Steve Gadd. I came to appreciate different styles of music, as he was on everybody's album, it seemed. He could fit in anywhere, and that became my goal."

Fierz brings an authentic rock keyboard style to the band.

"I try to go after big sound using the piano," Fierz says. "Right now I am trying to infuse a gospel-blues style into my playing, which a lot of the old-time keyboard players used. Given this, I try to be versatile. In playing covers well, you have to be versed in many styles of music, not just one."

And the band definitely is expanding its style. These days, band members try to practice several times a month, each time learning new songs -- both new releases and classic tunes -- to keep the song list fresh. With a core of 30- and 40-something veterans of the local music scene, the band is easily picking up the type of classic rock and harder-edge tunes that bar crowds tend to prefer. And the fans are responding positively.

"I have been hearing positive comments of all kinds as I pass out schedules during breaks or after shows," says bassist Kerry Schaible. "It makes me feel good when I hear that it looks like we are having a great time on stage. Then I know that the audience is enjoying themselves as well. All I ask when someone takes a schedule is that they promise to come to another show."

But Prime Time isn't all about classic rock. If you love fun '80s tunes and disco favorites, you're still in luck. Schaible always gets laughs with his big afro wig ("Hey, Kerry, ELO called. They want their hair back!"), and vocalist Amy Nickel soars on such faves as "I Will Survive," "Last Dance," and "Le Freak." And the band's country foot-stompers have been greatly enhanced by Fierz's hot fiddling skills. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the perfect showcase for his virtuosity, always gets an enthusiastic response.

Part of this fan enthusiasm also comes from the newfound energy the band radiates on stage.

"I think the personnel and song changes have improved Prime Time immensely. We're more excited about the songs we're playing, which adds energy to the shows," Nickel says. "It's been obvious by our audiences' response that they like the addition of more classic rock tunes. We've had overwhelming response and very enthusiastic audiences at bars that we previously wouldn't have played or wouldn't have succeeded at because we just weren't suited for them."

Prime Time will still deliver the songs you look forward to at a wedding or reunion, like "The Hokey Pokey" or "Roll Out the Barrel." But for the bar gigs, the harder edge is showing through, highlighting the strength and skills of these highly talented musicians. They're all enjoying it, and they're glad to see the crowds are, too.

"It's nice to hear the band get tighter as time goes on, and to hear crowd feedback that is appreciative of the professionalism we try to exude," Englund says.

If you haven't seen Prime Time recently, check them out. They're still the Prime Time you know and love, but they're revised -- and ready to rock.

"New musicians bring new approaches," says guitarist Tim Schulz, "so someone who hasn't seen us since 2002 will see a profoundly different band now than they did then."

For more information on the band, visit www.geocities.com/primetimeliveband
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