Jungle Dogs Reunion 2014: A Wild Carbondale Party Tradition Continues

Jungle Dogs Reunion 2014: A Wild Carbondale Party Tradition Continues
Jungle Dogs

Jungle Dogs

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Jungle Dogs

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Jungle Dogs

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Jungle Dogs

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Venues & Businesses
Copper Dragon, The
Pinch Penny Liquors

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Who: Jungle Dogs
What: party rock, funk, reggae, ska
When: 2014-08-30
Labor Day weekend is upon Southern Illinois once again, that time when people from across the region
Jeff Hale


Labor Day weekend is upon Southern Illinois once again, that time when people from across the region make time for that one last blowout bash of the summer. For music fans in Carbondale, this means it is time once again for the annual Jungle Dogs reunion, which gets underway Saturday, August 30 in the Pinch Penny Pub beer garden. The rain location is in the Copper Dragon.

A Carbondale tradition since 2009, the Jungle Dogs reunion carries on a legacy that began in 1987, when a group of musicians, many of whom studied at the SIU School of Music, came together to create a trademark blend of infectious reggae, funk, ska, and urban pop. The Jungle Dogs— saxophone player Klaus “Rock the House” Bank, bass player Eddie Chapa, trombone player Larry Daly, trumpet and keyboard player Keith Huffman, drummer John Hunter, percussionist Matt Linsin, trombone and keyboard player Jim Owens, guitarist Dan Schingel, and trumpet player and frontman D. Ward— packed in crowds on stages across the Midwest until 2004, when changing job and family commitments compelled Carbondale’s favorite party band to retire. After that, the fun and good times that the band inspired during their reign as the region’s foremost live band were only a memory, to the bleak dismay of fans who followed the Dogs from stage to stage for sixteen years.

Five years later, with a desire to feel that on-stage camaraderie and the special magic of a live audience, the band came together once again on Labor Day weekend at Pinch. What happened on that mystical night in 2009 began a new tradition. For five years the Jungle Dogs reunion has attracted fans of all ages from all over the country, from those who first grooved to the band’s Caribbean-influenced sounds as college students to their children and even grandchildren who had only been exposed to the group’s signature sound via CD and aged cassettes and videos. Now, as Labor Day weekend approaches once again, the Jungle Dogs are preparing to relive old memories and help their loyal audiences create new ones.

Jungle Dogs bassist and original member Eddie Chapa tells Nightlife that the event is as much a reunion for the band as it is a chance for the group to connect and reconnect with old and new fans alike.

“It’s that time of year once again,” Chapa says. “We always start planning this thing eight or nine months ahead of time, and it seems like it’s going to be forever. Then, before you know it, the summer’s getting ready to be over and it’s right around the corner. We’re gearing up for our big preparty rehearsal the night before; that will be on Friday. That’s always a great time for us.”

After more than a quarter century of sold-out live shows and five years of reunion shows that continue to draw fans from multiple generations, one might wonder if the ongoing success of the Jungle Dogs ever amazes the men who have been making it happen in Carbondale since the late 1980s. Chapa confesses that it does.

“It always kind of surprises me,” he laughs, “especially with every year that passes by. Time marches on, you know, but people come up to me still. They always say they’re looking forward to the show, and they always make sure to ask me what time we’re starting. They always want to know if we’re starting early like we do every year. We always start early, because a lot of our older fans and close friends come early. People have already been buying T-shirts so they can wear them to the show; I’ve delivered some of them. It’s funny how it works. It’s almost like two shows built into one. Early on, it’s the older faces that we’ve seen for years and years. Then, later, the students start showing up, and it’s like a second wave. A lot of time the students will say, ‘Who are those old guys up on stage? Boy, they sure are a lot of fun.’ Then, they start partying right along with us.”

Though the Jungle Dogs reunion show has become a Labor Day tradition in Carbondale, another tradition, just as precious to the band members, is the annual preshow rehearsal, which Eddie Chapa always refers to as a party. Every year, on the night preceding the concert, the Jungle Dogs hold their own private reunion, which includes dinner, music, memories, and plenty of “Cold Beer.” One can almost hear the smile on Chapa’s face as he talks about the rekindling of that special Jungle Dogs brotherhood.

“I’ve said this before, but this is a reunion in a real sense,” Chapa says. “It’s a reunion for us as well. That’s the good stuff, because we get a chance to sit around and talk and hang out. A lot of times during a show, you’re up on stage and you’re playing and you’re busy. The night before is more personal. We share a meal together, we visit, we run through some tunes, and it’s equally as important to us. It makes for a whole reunion weekend.”

While the Jungle Dogs have been around Carbondale longer than many of their fans have been alive, the music and the memories created at each live show make for experiences that never seem to get old. The reunion show is particularly special to the Jungle Dogs themselves, who have never lost that passion for performing. Chapa credits that passion to the group members’ love for each other and the support of fans.

“We always look forward to this so much, mostly because it’s just the one show,” Chapa says. “It might be different if there were several shows built in throughout the year. It’s never really gotten old. Plus, I think a lot of it has to do with the dynamic of the band. It’s just so diverse, with all the different personalities. It’s like a big fraternity, not like these bands where it’s just three or four pieces. There’s nine of us at these reunions. It’s such a special event with such build up and anticipation for it. What do they call it when the planets align and it’s just one moment? It’s just fantastic every time, because we get to play all this great music and have all this fun. There’s just so many fun things. When you’re playing that music together, once you’re in that moment and you’re on stage, it’s almost an out-of-body experience. You raise the level, and you always appreciate that moment and the musical high. You see people smiling and dancing, and it’s just such an enjoyable moment.”

With twenty-six years having passed, Chapa makes no firm commitments about the notion of a brand new Jungle Dogs record, but tells Nightlife that the idea has been proposed and it’s an idea that is appealing— maybe for the band’s thirtieth reunion.

“Gosh, that is just crazy to think of three decades of Jungle Dogs,” Chapa says. “It always boggles my mind to think of how much time has lapsed. We have thought of new recordings. It seems like D. Ward is always instrumental in those conversations; it comes up every so often. He’s mentioned it to me a couple of times, and talked about new musical ideas. I would love nothing more than to be able to go back into the studio, even if it’s just to record one song. Anymore, in this day and age, with the single and the ninety-nine-cent download, people have kind of gotten away from the notion of a whole CD. But I would love to be able to record some new music. We’ve talked about it, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Chapa says that fans should not let any oppressive, late-summer heat dissuade them from coming out and enjoying another night of music, memories, and high spirits.

“We will definitely be on the stage at nine o’clock sharp,” he laughs. “We place a lot of importance on starting early. If you want to come and see a live band that likes to have fun and plays great music that is pretty diverse, come on out. The common denominator is fun— it’s all fun. It’s uplifting, positive music, with a festival-type band in a summer setting. Whether you’re seeing us for the first time or the hundredth time, it’s always enjoyable for everybody across the board. That’s the thing that makes Jungle Dogs so great. It’s just pure fun.”

For more about the Jungle Dogs, visit <http://www.JungleDogs.com>.

who: Jungle Dogs

what: party rock, funk, reggae, ska

where: Pinch Penny Pub Beer Garden / Copper Dragon Brewing Company

when: Saturday, August 30