Decade of rock: Rising Phoenix marks anniversary
BY MIKE WARREN
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – A 70s and 80s rock tribute band – with two members from Wood County and another from Waushara County – are celebrating their tenth anniversary. Rising Phoenix came together in 2013 and the band is celebrating ten years together with a concert at The Fallback in Kellner Feb. 4.
“This will be our first time at The Fallback,” says lead singer Matt Berndt. “We’re really excited. It’s a really big place. We’re bringing a summer-level production inside, so it’s going to be a really big show. Big light show, big stage, so it should be fun,” Berndt adds.
Berndt is from Oshkosh and bass player Josh Escher is from Appleton. The others come from central Wisconsin. Todd Ashbeck, lead/rhythm guitars and vocals, lives in Wisconsin Rapids, while drummer Jerry Anderson is from Marshfield and guitar player Craig Mitchell joins the group from Hancock.
“Todd, Jerry and Craig have been the three guys since the beginning,” Berndt says. “I joined a couple months later in that first year and Josh we added about two-and-a-half years ago. We’re five guys from different cities and have different backgrounds, but we all have a love for 80s rock, and we’ve all kind of had a hand in building this current lineup,” Berndt adds. “Everybody gets along, and everybody’s having fun on stage, and we’re really at our peak right now. It’s been fun and we’re gonna keep going.”
Rising Phoenix is coming into its own in what has become a somewhat crowded field of tribute bands, especially within the same genre of music. “There’s really been a revival in 80s rock music, and I feel like it’s never been stronger,” says Berndt. “And pop culture, with Stranger Things. That had a lot of 80s rock on it last season. It’s really transcended generations and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.”
Rising Phoenix covers hit songs by bands such as Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Rush, Whitesnake, KISS and many more.
“Every song we play is a hit song,” Berndt says. “And usually we play a little bit longer, too. A typical cover band show is three to four hours, where if you get the original band, they’re gonna go 90 minutes to two hours tops. And it’ll be a lot more money.”
As for learning all that music, Berndt says a lot hours are spent by band members practicing on their own. “I can practice while I’m driving to the show. I just play the song in my car and I can sing along,” Berndt says. “The other guys can’t really do that. Once or twice a year we get together and rehearse some new stuff. But, we’re playing so much that usually we don’t have time to practice, so we just run it on our own and just expect the other guys to learn their parts, and then go through it once or twice (during sound check or before the show) and we got it.”
Berndt says the band tries to take at least two weekends a month off during the peak outdoor festival season. But other than that, the guys stay busy. At last count, Rising Phoenix had booked 33 shows between Dec. 17, 2022 and Nov. 10 of this year.
“It’s getting to the point where we have to turn down some of these places because we’ve got so many people coming to us with so many awesome shows and we only have so many weekends to play, so it’s exciting. We’ve come a long way in ten years, from playing small town local bars to now expanding statewide and into the UP of Michigan.”
Rising Phoenix will visit central Wisconsin on a fairly regular basis this year. They will be at Rookies Sports Pub in Stevens Point on Friday, March 17, followed by a stop at Rachel’s Roadside Bar & Grill in Wittenberg on Saturday, April 8. The guys are back in the area Saturday, May 27, with a gig at Hoozels at the Lakes in Rome, followed by a show at Bullheads Bar & Grill just north of Stevens Point on Sunday, May 28. On Saturday, June 17, the band will play Dorchester Days. They will also be a part of the Fourth of July festivities in Pittsville, with a show on Monday, July 3 for the Pittsville Lion’s Club and Legion. The band stops at Tiki Beach at Lake Du Bay on Thursday, July 27 before heading to the Arrow Sports Club’s Parking Lot Party in Weston on Friday, July 28. They’ll be back in Rome during Labor Day weekend, with another stop at Hoozels at the Lakes on Friday, Sept. 1. The following night they’re at Mo’s Bar & Grill in Friendship.