A classic rock band with Southern Illinois roots will join up with an unlikely group of performers in its return later this month to the city that gave it its start 45 years ago.
Head East will team up with the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, Jan. 29, at SIU's Shryock Auditorium in Carbondale for Rockin' the Symphony, a special concert that will be broadcast in March for a PBS fundraiser.
The unique blend of rock and symphonic sound is expected to appeal to those with eclectic musical tastes and will allow symphony and classic rock lovers to cross genres and appreciate another musical form.
"If you're open to music and open to different genres, I do think you're going to get the best of both worlds," said John Campbell, concert producer.
Campbell compared the blend of orchestra and rock music to trail mix, saying, "You never thought the peanuts would go with M&Ms, but they just go."
Roger Boyd, Head East keyboardist and founding member, said few rock bands are afforded the opportunity to perform with a symphony orchestra.
Coming from an instrumental background, Boyd couldn't turn Campbell down when approached about teaming up with SISO.
"I've read music for years," Boyd said. "I started lessons in the fourth grade, played in the University of Illinois marching band, concert band and symphony band. So, especially for me to be able to play with a symphony is really happening."
Head East and SISO have been practicing separately for months, but have only two days to rehearse together before hitting the Shryock stage.
The concert will feature some Head East concert staples like "Never Been Any Reason," and several selections from the band's new "Raise a Little Hell" album.
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Boyd said he has played "Never Been Any Reason" up to 8,000 times since it was released in 1974, but he never grows tired of the hit song.
"That song is like hitting the winning walk-off home run in a World Series game or catching the touchdown pass to win the AFC or NFC championship game," Boyd said.
The concert will also highlight Head East songs that lend themselves well to a symphony orchestra but which are usually left out of a traditional Head East concert, including the rhythmic instrumental number "Morning," which was used by "Good Morning America," CBS Sports and ABC's Wide World of Sports.
"We're expecting the sound to be really lush," Boyd said.
Ed Benyas, SISO conductor, led his orchestra with a Beatles tribute band several years ago and said conducting a concert with a rock band is "easier," with the rhythm section keeping things moving.
"I think it adds a new dimension to the sound of the band," Benyas said. "It is still basically a rock concert rather than a symphony concert, but especially the strings of the orchestra provides a suave smoothness to the sound."
Rockin' the Symphony will also be a reunion concert for the band, with four of the original five Head East members -- John Schlitt, Steve Houston, Boyd and his brother Larry -- returning to the stage together in the second half of the concert.
Except for Schlitt, all of the original members are Southern Illinois natives.
The band first performed together in August 1969 at the Golden Gauntlet in Carbondale, and Boyd said the excitement level for the band's reunion in the 40th anniversary of its breakthrough album, "Flat as a Pancake" "is pretty much off the charts."
"To return to the place where we started, 40 years after 'Flat,' to do something like this, everybody's just got goosebumps," Boyd said.