Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: The Desert Rose Band

presspass2Roughly two years ago, Chris Hillman walked into a rehearsal hall that doubled as a time machine. There before him he saw a collection of faces he hadn’t seen in the same together in some 14 years. After a few hellos and hey-how-are-yas?, the guys picked up their instruments and fell into a rendition of John Hiatt’s “She Don’t Love Nobody,” one of the group’s biggest hits when they were still performing. It was easy. Seamless. Perfect. And just like that, for the first time since 1994, The Desert Rose Band was back together again.

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The Desert Rose Band (Photo: Courtesy Connie Hillman)

 

Roughly two years ago, Chris Hillman walked into a rehearsal hall that doubled as a time machine. There before him he saw a collection of faces he hadn’t seen in the same together in some 14 years. After a few hellos and hey-how-are-yas?, the guys picked up their instruments and fell into a rendition of John Hiatt’s “She Don’t Love Nobody,” one of the group’s biggest hits when they were still performing. It was easy. Seamless. Perfect. And just like that, for the first time since 1994, The Desert Rose Band was back together again.

And it didn’t stop there. After their first reunion tour back in 2008, Hillman and his bandmates Herb Pederson, Jay Dee Maness, John Jorgenson, Bill Bryson and Steve Duncan are saddling up for another go-round. This time they’ll be swinging in to town for a pair of shows at The Birchmere in Alexandria, a venue where the DRB’s photo adorns one of the walls.

“Last time I played the Birchmere was last October with Herb, and I saw the photo,” Hillman says. “So I said, we’ve got to play here. And this was the first venue we confirmed for this tour.”

As Hillman talks you can hear the enthusiasm for the revival tour and for this band. A veteran of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Hillman explains that his fondness for the Desert Rose Band is unique. The chemistry the men share, even after parting ways in 1994 is extraordinary.

“This band works so well,” Hillman says. “We really have a great time playing together. And if we’re having a good time, then everyone else is.”

Since linking up again in 2008, the vibe has been free and easy. Performances have been effortless and entertaining for both the band and the audience. Part of that, Hillman says, is the absence of the pressure the band felt back when they were first together. Back then, they needed to appease a plethora of personalities from record labels to radio DJs as they tried to further their collective career.

Now that’s all behind them. There are no illusions that these reunions will like to a full-on, long-term project. Hillman emphasized several times that he and the others in the DRB are fully content with their own solo and side projects. It’s that reality, Hillman believes, that keeps the stress and the pressure at bay. The current planned tour is a short one and when it’s over, that’s it and that’s all.

“I’m convinced, and I told the guys, if we do more than seven shows we’re going start arguing,” Hillman jokes. “It’s really just for the love of the music. We’re revisiting a great time in our lives and there are no hidden agendas about it.”

With that straightforward approach, the band has been able to concentrate on the audience and their music, which Hillman believes has been better than ever.

“I think we play better now,” he says. “John in particular floored me. He was phenomenal back then. I didn’t think he could get any better. And that’s true with everybody in the band.”

Beyond this tour, Hillman says the band may release some live footage from their reunion shows, or perhaps a live album. Besides that? Perhaps there’s another brief tour out there. But the band will attend to that decision at a later date. Right now, Hillman and Co. are merely enjoying the moment. And fans of the Desert Rose Band are content to enjoy it with them.

• The Desert Rose Band performs at the Birchmere August 6 and 7. Tickets are $39.50. For more on the Desert Rose Band, visit www.chrishillman.com/desertroseband.


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