Blue Lightning strikes 15 years

Blue Lightning, the Rogue Valley's only all women rock and roll dance band, will be performing at the Historic Ashland Armory tonight, May 19, in celebration of the band's 15th anniversary. Tonight's performance will include guest appearances by former members of the band, and will feature Blue Lightning's eclectic mix of high-energy, danceable cover tunes, and creative arrangements filled with lush vocal harmonies.

Blue Lightning began in 1992 as "Stacey Elliott and Blue Lightning." Elliott left the band in 1993 due to health reasons, and while the configuration of the band has changed over the years, the dedication to its music has remained constant.

Current members are Trish Cook on vocals; Rhonda Loftis on drums; Sue Lundquist on keyboard, guitar, and percussion; Lisa Spencer on vocals and electric bass; Karen Wennlund on guitar, congas, and cornet; and Lorna Wolvin on vocals and guitar.

Trish Cook""a singer and musician most of her life, and part of Blue Lightning since the beginning""reflects, "I moved to Ashland 25 years ago and did a variety of local gigs until I met Stacey Elliott in the early 90's and we started hanging out and singing her original country rock songs. I introduced her to Sue (Lundquist) and we started Blue Lightning."

Lundquist adds, "I knew a bass player and invited her to play with us. So we had a guitar, two harmonies, bass, and piano, but we needed a drummer. Rhonda (Loftis) had just moved to the valley and was playing with Karen (Wennlund) in a band and we went to listen and immediately afterwards invited her to join our band. Karen joined not long after."

In 1996, after the departure of two bass players, Lundquist approached Lisa Spencer. Spencer recalls, "I'd played bass in a couple different bands over the years ... until I started having babies. Sue approached me when my youngest was two months old, and I hadn't played in ten years. Two months later, she asked again. I asked myself, 'How many times am I going to be invited to play in a rock and roll band?'"

In 2000, Wennlund took a six-year leave of absence from the band. Lorna Wolvin""who had grown up with music, and performed in a band with her brother""first saw Blue Lightning perform in 1994. "When I heard that Karen would be leaving, I decided to try out for the band. I'd never played lead guitar before, but if it meant being in the band I was ready to learn," says Wolvin. She later adds, "Being in this band is one of my favorite things in life."

Lundquist emphasizes that the real story here is that the band has lasted for 15 years, "We have continued to play together &

rehearsing every Thursday night &

throughout all the losses, upheavals, joys and growth that 15 years of living can bring. It's about the music, but it's also about supporting each other and our dreams."

Wennlund adds, "Being in a band was one of my earliest dreams. To have the vehicle to move forward with the dream, and to perform, is amazing. When we're on, we get this thing going ... it's incredible."

Loftis agrees, "The connection we have, onstage and off, is tangible. Palpable."

Regarding tonight's performance, Lundquist says, "What we're trying to do is thank the community, celebrate our health, and celebrate 15 years of being a women's band in a small town!"

The Historic Ashland Armory is located on the corner of Oak and B Streets. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; music and dancing starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 to $25 on a sliding scale, and includes a complimentary appetizer buffet. A no host bar will also be available. All ages and persuasions are welcome, and half of the proceeds benefit the Abdill/Ellis Lambda Community Center.

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