For anyone who lived, worked, attended school, or just hung out in and around Carbondale from the la
For anyone who lived, worked, attended school, or just hung out in and around Carbondale from the late 1980s all the way through the first decade of the new millennium, there was no stronger fabric in the tapestry of Carbondale’s party soundtrack than the Jungle Dogs. While Carbondale has certainly seen more than its share of insanely popular bar bands, few reached iconic status and remain on the lips of people who remember the good times, good drinks, and good friends almost ten years after playing their last official concert.
Starting in 1988, the Jungle Dogs-- whose lineup changed throughout the years but eventually solidified with 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-- took to the stage almost every Friday and Saturday night in bars and beer gardens all over Carbondale, and eventually into venues throughout the tri-state region. Weekend after weekend, anyone who ever attended a Dogs show tuned out the worries of a busy and complicated world, hopped on the conga line, and sang and danced away their cares. The group’s signature number, “Cold Beer,” became not only a crowd favorite but an anthem for an entire generation of students who put SIU on the map as a major party school.
The band grew (and moved) apart due to the growing demands of raising families and nurturing diverse careers and made the decision to retire from regular performing. For the fans who had loyally flocked to Jungle Dogs shows for about fifteen years, the last official Dogs show at the 2002 Main Street Pig Out was a bittersweet experience.
Although the Jungle Dogs came out of retirement to play the 2003 Main Street Pig Out, it wasn’t until five years later the nine-member reggae, ska, urban pop, and salsa band started to regularly rekindle their one-of-a-kind magic in a historic reunion concert at Pinch Penny Pub. The event brought together not only their original fans, but in many cases, their original fans’ children.
In the years since, the annual Jungle Dogs reunion show has become one of the most anticipated events of Labor Day weekend in Carbondale. The group took last year off, but the Jungle Dogs’ annual Labor Day weekend shows resume Saturday, September 1 in the Pinch Penny beer garden. In case of rain, the show will move into the Copper Dragon Brewing Company.
“We’re totally getting excited about this,” Chapa tells Nightlife. “We always get really excited about playing together again. We always do a little get-together the night before. We do a little rehearsal/party here at my house, run through music, and hang out. That always gets us really excited about being together again.”
Chapa says he is sometimes surprised that a group that began with the sole purpose of providing some fun relief from the stress of exams, term papers, and campus life has etched a place in the soundtrack of their audiences’ lives.
“I run into people from time to time, and the Jungle Dogs will come up in conversation,” Chapa says. “When they find out that I’m a member, they always say, ‘Oh, that was such a big part of my college career. It was a big part of what was going on when I was in school, and it was so much fun.’ It really takes them back, just like it does with us. For me, personally, the reunions are always really interesting. It’s really a two-fold thing. For the audience, it’s about getting together again and playing music and reviving that old feeling of what is in the past. But for us, it’s a chance to get back together and catch up and talk and enjoy being together again. For us in the band, the bond that we have as members of the Jungle Dogs is a really intense one. I always tell people that it’s like we’re brothers. It’s almost like a fraternity.”
While the group’s members went their separate ways for a time, Chapa says there was little doubt in their minds that the band, which had become a cornerstone of the Carbondale bar scene, would be back at some point.
“We joked when we retired the band that we would be one of those bands who did reunions and just never goes away,” Chapa says. “Inevitably, that’s what happened. Fortunately, we have people who still want to see us and we have some very loyal fans in this area. The locals still love to come and hear us play.”
Indeed, the Jungle Dogs still find a large, loyal audience at the end of every long, hot summer in Southern Illinois. And as with any artist or band that achieves legendary status, the group not only enjoys the friendship and support of the fans who followed them from stage to stage since the 1980s. They also find that a whole new generation-- sometimes the grown children of their original fans-- is discovering and enjoying their infectious blend of good-time calypso, reggae, and island music. Chapa says that seeing a new generation of fans embracing and enjoying the group’s music is gratifying and makes the reunions very special.
“We always see a lot of familiar faces of old friends early in the show,” Chapa says. “But it’s always interesting, because about midnight we see a lot of college kids showing up. It becomes like a huge party with the early crowd, and the college kids joining for the last set. Sometimes we have fans who show up who were college kids back in the eighties or early nineties, and they come out with their kids who are now college-age. That’s how it is with my kids-- I have two kids that are college-age, and they’re big fans. We’re really lucky that Jungle Dogs has always had a very wide demographic. We weren’t just a college band that appealed only to college kids. We appealed to younger people and older people; I think that’s why we did so well at festival shows. I’ve seen people with their grandkids at our outdoor concerts.”
Chapa invites anyone who has never heard the Jungle Dogs or experienced the pure, unadulterated fun of a Jungle Dogs concert to come out to Pinch Penny and expect a rip-roaring musical good time, the same kind of good time that has brought audiences back for almost a quarter century.
“We’re a very fun band,” Chapa chuckles. “That’s always been the one big factor for us. We always have fun ourselves, and that translates to the crowd. We’ve always called ourselves a rock band, but we have a lot of influences with the reggae and calypso and ska. We really have that island sound, even our slower songs. It’s a very uplifting, positive kind of music and vibe. It will make you feel great. If they come, they’ll find the gamut of music is very wide. It’s definitely a fun time, and they’ll hear some great music. It’s going to be a great party.”
For more about the Jungle Dogs, visit <http://www.JungleDogs.com>.
who Jungle Dogs reunion
what reggae, ska, funk, party rock
where Pinch Penny Pub Beer Garden / Copper Dragon Brewing Company
when Saturday, September 1