Blue Lightning

Blue Lightning has played many genres over its 20 years — country, rock, funk — but two things have remained the same: It's always been a women's band, and its focus has remained on pleasing the audience.

"No matter what the song choice is, the No. 1 thing we ask is, 'Is it something the audience wants to hear?' " says Dianne Strong, lead vocalist and keyboard player. "If you get too self-indulgent, that's a killer. Nobody wants to come and hear your favorite song; they want to hear their favorite song."

Blue Lightning will celebrate its anniversary with a concert benefitting Dunn House, a women's shelter, at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland. Tickets are $20 at the door.

Founders Rhonda Loftis on drums and Sue Lundquist on percussion have incorporated 16 different members over the years, a relatively low turnover for a local band that's been together for so long.

"We had a horn section at one point," Lundquist says. "We had cornet, saxophone and trombone, and we also had kind of a country flavor for a while when we had Crystal Reeves on fiddle."

Now the formation includes Strong, Loftis, Lundquist, Lorna Wolvin on guitar and vocals and Kris Castleman on bass. Occasionally they've allowed male musicians to sit in, but the core of the group has been decidedly female with a focus on the beat.

"Everything has the Blue Lightning spin on it," Strong says. "Percussion is crucial. If it doesn't have a groove it's not going to make it."

Blue Lightning loves getting audience members out of their seats and cutting a rug. When it played the Table Rock City Stage at the Britt Festivals last year before the k.d. lang performance, the crowd started a mosh pit during the group's rendition of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."

"It was a real 'pinch me' moment," Castleman says.

Another highlight for Blue Lightning was playing on the bricks at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"We played the Green Show twice last summer," Lundquist says. "That was just great, to be so close to the audience and to be outside and part of the theater."

Blue Lightning is available for hire, specializing in birthday parties, weddings and private events. "We just started playing at the wineries and they're fun," Loftis says.

For the Tidings Cafe, the women performed KT Tunstall's "The Black Horse and The Cherry Tree" in Lundquist's studio, where she teaches percussion. To see the video, visit

For their anniversary concert, the Blue Lightning women will welcome back four former members who won't be revealed until the show.

"We have a great following and a great audience," Loftis says. "We're very thankful for that, we feel very blessed."

Next for Blue Lightning is recording a few of its tunes in between gigs. Members say they hope to continue to add to their legacy of entertaining new and younger audiences.

"On the 20th anniversary we want to celebrate with the community and thank them for all the support for all these years," Lundquist says.

Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at

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