The Large Flowerheads – Extraordinary Band On and Off Stage

If you’ve been attending any festivals in the area, or hanging out at the many free summer concerts in either the parks or the other communal gathering areas in the Lehigh Valley, you may have come across this very interesting band, The Large Flowerheads. The band is a local cover band with a focus on popular groove music of the 1960s. According to their website, the band is named after a carton of artificial flowers spotted in a warehouse rehearsal space. The Large Flowerheads consist of Maureen “Moe” Jerant on drums, Greg Geist on rhythm guitar and mandolin, Billy Trexler on lead guitar and electric sitar, and John Harkins on keyboards and bass guitar.  They play songs from The Box Tops, Buckinghams, Beatles, Neil Diamond, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Tommy James & The Shondells, Cream,  Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, The Human Beinz, Sonny & Cher, and The Hollies.

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They have a pretty dedicated crowd; one that often marks their gigs with a *very* colorful and interesting spectacle. Lots of the them don their tie-dye T-shirts or scarfs, and are ready to clear a space for a dance floor. This dedicated audience does not sit for long. Could it be just nostalgia?

Some comments about this band that they post on their website are worth sharing:

“The Large Flowerheads concert – FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!  Individually and collectively, a wonderful work of performance art! I loved it……thank you for an evening of truly fine entertainment.”
– James D. Craig

“A sincere thanx to you four….my now wife, then girlfriend and I use to see you guys…..when we were first dating, so it was a nice trip back in time.”
– Michael J. Roxberry

Compliments from the fans that make it onto their website don’t just appear from being spectacular musicians. There is an acute awareness of building an audience that this band has accomplish over the years. This is also evidenced on their “kudos page by the comments from area presenters. Pay particular attention to the second one:

Thanks…you guys had a GREAT crowd and a great show.”
– Patrick Brogan, director of Performing Arts, ArtsQuest/Musikfest

“I want you to know I think your team is great – you should provide seminars on how to run your band business properly.  Your prep, your communication, organization, humbleness – I’ve worked with so many musicians & I never have to worry about stuff when dealing with you guys.”
– Kim Kerstetter, Manager, Sugars Stage & Spirits

“Great show gang! …It was one of the BEST Classic Rock acts I’ve seen in years!  Being a classic rock musician myself, I just had to appreciate the cohesiveness and comraderie that this group exudes. Their musicianship and harmonies are flawless, it was like listening to the original artists.”
– Dennis Clift aka The Minstrel

The crowd just loved you guys! Soooo fun… that music is just super fun!
– Lisa Koza, Lisa Koza Productions

Moe Jerant has come to Lehigh University a few times for leading drum circles. She’s a regular artist for the First Year Prelusion program, ArtsAlive.  We get a thrill from our little session in front of the University President’s House. The first year students who participate get a huge release from pre-college nerves. I’ve also had the good fortune to work with Moe on a special project in 2009 with an artist in residence on campus and in South Bethlehem schools. She helped a group of Lehigh, Broughal and Holy Infancy students prepare for a performance with an ensemble from Northern Ireland, the Different Drums of Ireland.

Moe graciously spoke at the 2010 iDex: Art Entrepreneur session of the Baker Institute, and has been a guest speaker in other courses. What she often tells students about her work, “It [being a musician] is not all about you. If the audience isn’t having a good time, you’re not doing it right.”

All of the musicians in the band want their audience to have a great time – and they deliver. They are not only excellent musicians, but they are consummate professionals in booking gigs with presenters in the area. They know that it takes a certain amount of care to develop relationships with people who are making decisions on whether or not to hire you.

Last week, they were the featured performer for the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission weekly Sculpture Garden Concert. If you recall the weather; afternoon showers threatened outdoor events. The show had to be moved to the pre-set indoor location – City Hall Rotunda. If there is any promotional support to these free concerts, rain location information is not always shared. Not to put too fine a point on what happens to presenters in these kinds of situations, but there’s usually a little panic about getting the word out to people about the change.

The Large Flowerheads have put years into building a strong fan base, taking email addresses at every performance, and applying every other audience building technique known to 21 century communication practices. But again, here it’s not just about what you do, it’s how and why you do it.

The band arrived two hours before their scheduled performance time to allow for change of location, just in case. As they were re-setting up in the Rotunda, they were on their cell phones and mobile devices, updating their website and contacting their dedicated fans to spread the work about the changes. By 6pm, the Rotunda was already filled with people, and even spilled out into the hallway around it. Some lucky fans got to sit in the seats normally taken by City Council members at public meetings. Needless to say, the flies in the Rotunda haven’t had this much fun. Ever.

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Students who aspire to be musicians should take some notes from the business, showmanship and musicianship of The Large Flowerheads. Local readers and presenters probably have this band on their “must haves” for their festivals and public events. No doubt there are other musicians in the Lehigh Valley who also understand that success comes from all the work that goes behind the scenes as much as on the stage. It’s much more real than the overly produced miracles of overnight success stories on TV. Case in point, This is a picture I took as the band was vamping; waiting for “Sonny and Cher” to make their appearance on stage. All because I asked for a picture.

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The final goodwill for the night? Since I’m on the band’s email list, I saw in real time the communications mentioned in this post. As I was reviewing the short video I took of the concert, I saw an email come in at 9:30pm from the band:

TONIGHT!  We just got the call!
JULY 12, FRIDAY, 10pm – 1:30 am
Last Minute Show TONIGHT!
Molten Lounge at Sands Casino
Bethlehem PA
Groovy ’60s Dance Party!
This email says a couple of things, beyond the writer’s capacity for being on the grid 24/7. The band’s communication practice with the audience is above and beyond expectations. While I didn’t run to the Sands to catch the second show, I and all of their fans that were online at that time on a Friday night were reviewing pictures we took at the Rotunda show. This band really knows their audience.
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