The self-proclaimed 'Dinosaur Reunion'

It's just after 4 p.m. on Saturday in the gray Community Building on Winburn Way and almost a dozen gray-haired men are setting up for a concert, which will take place hours from now. The doors open at 8:30 p.m., but no one in the room completely agrees on that.

"We've transcended time," one of the musicians yelled across the room. "We don't know hours or ages. We just play when we play."

The large, open room with the high ceiling and dark wood floors erupts into a mixture of laughter and indistinguishable cross-chatter. Meanwhile, Dave Pinsky sits on the stage in a metal folding chair as others set up amps and instruments around him.

"This is how it is, this is how it began," Pinsky said. "It's a timeline from then to the end."

This is the self-proclaimed "Dinosaur Reunion," a collection of singers, songwriters and players who made up seven different bands in Ashland between 1972 and 1979.

In 1971, Pinsky was performing in the Unicorn Magic Show at the Varsity Theater. This is where he met Ron, Greg, Paul, Tom and the other Dave. Pinsky begins to recall how he met each one but then quickly digresses. "Who knows how you meet someone else?" he asked the room.

Ron Benoit begins to tell him how. He remembers they met through his roommate, the one who messed up his arm in the bar fight.

"He was crazy. Whatever happened to that guy?" Pinsky asked.

Benoit shrugged and replied, "I don't know."

It goes on like this throughout the afternoon. In '72, they started to play together as a band. They were rock and roll, jazz, blues and a little bit of big band mixed together. Drums, guitars, percussion, keyboards, trumpets and the occasional flute all came out in one band or another.

"The place we used to hang out at, where the best blues was at?" Pinsky yelled across the room again. "You know, The Mark before it was called The Mark."

"It was The Bullseye," someone yelled back.

Everyone yells in unison, "Yeah!"

"No, it was The Mark before it was The Bullseye," another voice yelled.

"It doesn't matter," Pinsky said. "It was some of the best blues there."

The group slowly brings in more and more instruments from vehicles parked outside. Pinsky still lives in town, but most have traveled from across the country to be a part of this reunion. From California to Washington to Hawaii, they have come to join the reunion and play songs no one has played, or heard, in 35 years.

Dave Salisbury is here from Townsville, Australia. He is now a lecturer of music at James Cook University. In 1971 at Southern Oregon State College, he was 18 years old playing guitar, saxophone, flute and anything else. Salisbury traveled the farthest for the reunion, but he was also the idea's catalyst.

"My wife said to me that I should have a reunion with all my mates," Salisbury said. "So I called everyone up last year and told them to mark their calendar for July."

Salisbury almost can't believe that everyone in the room with him now came together from a phone call.

"We haven't performed together since 35 years ago," Salisbury said. "But it's all working out. I think all of us have found that these songs were so much a part of our lives that we can't forget them. It's almost intuitive, it's almost organic, it's almost a part of our musical beings."

Salisbury admits that 35 years is a long time, but he just doesn't believe that anything has changed that much.

"The sizes and shapes have changed and the hair is gray now," Salisbury said, "but I look up and see Ron doing his thing and Hank is doing Hank things and Dave is still laid back. It's phenomenal, we haven't missed a beat."

That beat is as much personal as it is musical to the men in the room. The musicians laugh and argue and hug and sing. They sing songs with friends they haven't sang with in decades.

"I have to keep pinching myself," Salisbury said. "It's emotional at times. It isn't quite the same, but it's still the same people."

Tonight the group will play through their seven bands chronologically. Each will play the music written so many years ago. Only one of their songs is a cover, the rest were first written and performed in Ashland.

"This is Ashland music," Salisbury said. "Created in Ashland for Ashlanders. You couldn't get more Ashland if you tried."

Outside the building a passer-by is walking down Winburn Way toward the Plaza. He turned toward the noise from within and asked one of the men carrying an instrument, "So, you guys play regularly?"

"Not really," the man with the guitar case said. "But we play tonight."

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