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Blind Dog Hopkins happy to rock the blues

By KRISTYN ADAMS - Special to TimeOut

May 15, 2014


WAUKESHA - Could the blues be performed by a happier band? Since 2010, Blind Dog Hopkins has combined musicianship and a fun attitude to rock venues in southeastern Wisconsin.

Bob Spatz is a vocalist and guitarist of more than 40 years who performed in Chicago venues before relocating to Wisconsin in 2007. Spatz recollected the first Blind Dog Hopkins gig.

“Our first real gig was at an event called the Ride to End Dog Fighting held at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson to support an organization that rescues pit bulls. This was June 12, 2010. I think they liked our name,” Spatz said. “Initially, we were playing straight covers. We’ve since added a lot of original material. Both (Dave Kaiser) and I write the material and then the band as a whole molds it into the final product.”

Lead vocalist Aaron Berndt is a lawyer from Milwaukee and the band’s front man who enjoys making any crowd the “sixth member” of the group. Bass player Bob Theys is a jazz enthusiast and multi-instrumentalist who has been part of the Milwaukee scene for years.

Their talents and Jim Oldham’s percussion expertise are a foundation for Kaiser, lead guitarist and vocalist of 30 years.

“It’s funny; we’re not a straight-up blues band by any means,” Spatz said. “The constant is our eclectic mix of styles. They add their touch to cover tunes such as melding the Stone’s tune ‘You Can’t Always Get WhatYou Want’ into Lou Reed’s ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side.’” But Spatz favors originals.

“I love doing our originals; there’s a certain feeling you get when you’re up on stage and realize that you’re playing something nobody else in the world is doing,” Spatz said.

Some covers give Oldham a chance to shine.

“Originals are rewarding, but I love playing “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers,” Kaiser said. “There is a point when the band stops and you can hear the crowd singing along with (Aaron Berndt) ‘O Lord, I feel like I’m dying.’ The band comes back in and we really kick it in the pants.”

Typically associated with Chicago, the blues is well cared for in southeastern Wisconsin. The Grafton Blues Association is a common thread with all Blind Dog Hopkins members. From the late 1920s to 1932, the Grafton site for Paramount recording turned out blues recordings of Chicago musicians. Paramount recordings are celebrated as historical gems by the Grafton Blues Association.

“(The Grafton Blues Association) works very hard to support the blues, and have helped Blind Dog Hopkins and the other member bands gain exposure while offering great lineups to the people who attend their events,” Spatz said. Kaiser echoed the sentiment.

The association mission includes sponsorship of community events with blues musicians, performers, entertainers, educators and historians to foster an appreciation of American popular music and the blues.

According to its website, the band will perform at the Brat Stop in Kenosha at 8 p.m. May 31 and at 7:30 p.m. June 20 at the House of Heileman’s on Big Cedar Lake in West Bend.