MANCHESTER, NH – When the Boogie Wonderband lands at the Palace Theatre for an all-out disco dance party on Feb. 25, you should know that the woman plucking the funky bass, aka band leader Boogie Cindy, has a solitary mission.
Making sure disco never dies again.
“I discovered disco music when I was a little kid. I loved to dance to ‘Dancing Queen,’ and all of that, but I never had the chance to go to a discotheque. And then, disco and funk was buried under the music of the ‘80s and ‘90s. But I knew I had to find a way to make this music come alive again,” she says, during a long-distance phone interview from her homeland, just over the Canadian border.
Boogie Cindy went on to become a badass bass player with an entrepreneurial spirit. So she gathered up nine fresh and funky band mates, and together, they took their show on the road.
“It wasn’t easy to find the right people and instrumentation – everyone said the band was too large, and that it needs to be contained. But to do it right we need percussion, horns, many singers, because it’s all harmonized. We ended up with 10 members – and it could have been more, but it’s already hard to fit all of us in the van,” says Boogie Cindy, whose dulcet tones are heavy with French-Canadian flair.
“Our first show we played at a club and the people went nuts. They took the disco ball from the ceiling and were passing it around as a god – it was the most disturbing thing and yet, at the same time, we realized people really wanted to hear this music,” she says. “We played 150 shows our first year. We didn’t sleep much.”
The band recently celebrated 20 years of funky music-making together, during which time they’ve played more than 3,000 shows worldwide – often sharing the stage with a total A-list of funk and disco royalty including Kool & The Gang, Village People, Rick James, War, CHIC, KC & the Sunshine Band, Gloria Gaynor, Maxine Nightingale, The Trammps, Paul Shaffer, The Pointer Sister, Styx, Foreigner and more.
“Yes, this is how it started and now, we’ve been playing around the world together ever since. People really wanted to hear that music, and I tell you, it’s because disco is so positive,” says Boogie Cindy. “It’s about letting loose, getting down – there’s no deep message – but it’s about having fun, it’s an experience. We don’t just play the music; we entertain the crowd,” she says, explaining the elaborate outfits and wigs that make them authentically funky and totally retro-fresh.
Boogie Wonderband has about 70 songs on their set list, which means each show is tailored to the energy of the crowd. In other words, there’s not a lot of jive-talkin’ going on when they hit the stage.
“We try to perform as a DJ and just transition from song to song, which really works for our audience,” says Boogie Cindy. “The music speaks for itself. We don’t have to talk about the importance of getting down between songs.”
Every audience responds differently to the set lists, and Boogie Wonderband has learned that the international language of disco has its particulars, depending on where they are playing.
“Since we play all over the world, we’ve learned what different audiences prefer. For example, in South America they want to hear the love songs; in Ecuador they want to hear Donna Summer and Thelma Houston. It’s so cool to see the audience singing “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” to each other as they look into each others’ eyes. In New York City, they want to hear all the funk – Ohio Players, Earth Wind and Fire, and honestly, since we’re a live band, we try to stay away from the slow stuff. We want to see the audience dancing.”
Audience participation has become an integral part of their shows. In fact, Boogie Cindy recalls the only other show they played in New Hampshire several years ago – a private gig for The Holderness School.
“At the end of the show all the students came up on stage and were dancing with us. They were all younger people, and had seen our video, so a lot of them dressed up as band members and came up on stage and partied with us for the last song,” says Boogie Cindy.
Two decades is a long time to be getting down with the get down and jamming with the boogie fever. Even though there has been some turnover of band members, at least half the current band are original members.
“We’d like not to see people leave, but it’s life. And although it’s been rare, every time we make a change, it’s a positive change. The core of the band is so strong and as we go on, we get to know more about what we need and want to make the band even better,” she says.
The band is especially excited to take advantage of the Palace Theatre’s unique stage and state-of-the art sound and lighting, which will provide a perfect backdrop for the disco madness that will ensue.
“In a theater like the Palace, we can set up all our decor and lighting concert-style – way different from when we play at Mohegan Sun, for example,” where the band just rung in the New Year along with the gambling disco faithful.
As for their Palace Theatre premiere, Boogie Cindy promises to turn back the hands of time on Feb. 25 to circa 1976, as the band will create a Studio 54 vibe.
With no end in sight, Boogie Cindy vows the Boogie Wonderband intends to boogie oogie oogie ‘til they just can’t boogie no more.
“I’ve loved this music my whole life. Something about it has always moved me. Verdine White [bassist] from Earth, Wind and Fire is my inspiration. He’s such a showman. Everything I do, I ask myself, ‘What would Verdine do?’ We can’t wait to be there, and we want everyone at the Palace to be ready to party with us – dress up if you like – and just to have a good time.”
⇒ On the Web: Boogie Wonderband
⇒ On Twitter @BoogieWonderBnd
Tickets for the Feb. 25 Boogie Wonderband show are $35.50 and $25.50. Click here to reserve your seat, or call the box office 603-668-5588. The Palace Theatre is located at 80 Hanover St., Manchester, NH.