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Sound of Simon coming to Holmes Theatre

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Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel may not be playing in the area anytime soon -- a July 11 concert at the Fargodome was cancelled, and has not been rescheduled -- but fans can still get their Simon & Garfunkel fix this week at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

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The Midwest's premier S&G tribute band, The Sound of Simon, will perform at the Detroit Lakes venue this Thursday, July 29 at 8 p.m.

Eric Roberts and Eric Trelstad have been performing together as Sound of Simon for close to 20 years; about a year ago, they added three more musicians to form a five-piece band.

"We got together back when were in college at Hamline University in St. Paul," said Roberts in a recent telephone interview.

Originally, the duo played primarily in the dorms and at smaller college functions -- focusing on Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and other favorites.

Then Roberts went abroad to study in Spain for a year, and at the suggestion of a friend, he brought his guitar along for the journey.

"I ended up becoming a busker," he said -- i.e., a street musician. "I'd go out into the street, open my guitar case and play, and people threw money in it.

"I quickly found out that Simon & Garfunkel material were the most requested songs, and generated the most revenue," he continued. "So I learned as many of their songs as I possibly could."

When he came back to the U.S., Roberts reunited with Trelstad, and they began focusing almost exclusively on S&G material, "because the harmonies are so great, and they're so popular."

"We started playing at house parties and coffee shops," he continued.

Then, in 1989, they entered the Minnesota State Fair amateur talent competition, and earned runner up honors.

After Roberts graduated from Hamline, he shelved the partnership with Trelstad temporarily, and formed a new rock band known as The Billies.

"We played together for seven or eight years, toured the country, and put out three albums," Roberts said.

Though the group's record sales numbered in the "10s of thousands," Roberts joked, "we had a lot of fun doing it."

"After The Billies broke up, Eric (Trelstad) and I started getting day jobs and having kids, which wasn't very conducive to (having) a touring band," Roberts said. "But we still loved music, and thought about when we used to do this (S&G) stuff, and said, 'Let's see if we can do it again.'"

So they started performing in a lot of park concert series, fairs, coffee shops and a few regular concerts "here and there."

As their kids started getting older, the duo decided they wanted to start touring again.

"We said, 'Let's put together a band -- we can do some interesting things with this (S&G) material," Roberts said.

Many of S&G's recordings include a full band, and some were even recorded with a live orchestra. By including additional musicians, Roberts and Trelstad could get closer to recreating the sound on S&G's original recordings, he explained.

A pair of former Billies bandmates, bass player Andy Christensen and drummer Rob Thompson -- a Detroit Lakes native -- became members of Sound of Simon as well.

They were joined by Swedish guitarist Patrik Tanner -- a producer on one of The Billies' albums, who joined the group when it went on tour to promote the record.

"Patrik is a professional musician, studio engineer and producer," Roberts said, noting that he has worked with musicians such as Martin Zellar and Tina & the B Sides.

Roberts, meanwhile, works as a professional booking agent, representing about 40 different acts including Zellar, the Gear Daddies, Tim Mahoney and local favorite GB Leighton.

"We've all got 'real' jobs," Roberts added, noting that one of them is an IT professional with IBM, and another manages the endowment fund at Carlton College.

"We have no interest in quitting our 'day' jobs," he said, adding that with 10 kids between the five of them, the group prefers to maintain a limited touring schedule.

"Right now we're averaging about one show a month," he said. "Twelve to 15 shows a year is pretty typical."

The group has yet to record an album together, in part because obtaining the recording rights to Simon and Garfunkel's songs can be problematic, and in part because "it would be difficult to pull off" recreating the group's live sound in the studio, Roberts said.

"The main focus for us at this point is to have a lot of fun," he said. "We don't take ourselves to seriously, but at the same time we're very professional and take pride in what we do."

The group likes to bring its audiences in on the fun as well, Roberts said.

"There are a couple of songs where we like to get the audiences involved," he said, adding that audience participation is encouraged, but not required.

Tickets for Thursday's show are available at the Holmes Theatre Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., by phone at 218-847-SHOW (7469), or online at www.dlccc.org.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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