Staying at the apex of the mid-Atlantic region’s competitive blues and roots music scene for a career that spans three decades isn’t easy. But that’s what the Bad Influence Band has done — even while extending their reputation across the country thanks to wildly entertaining, high-energy performances, extensive airplay and three well-received albums.
Whether performing at a festival, on a stage at Kennedy Center or on Memphis’ hallowed Beale Street, the four-piece group featuring guitarist Michael Tash, harmonica ace and singer Roger Edsall, bassist-vocalist Bob Mallardi and drummer David Thaler are unabashed crowd pleasers thanks to their expert ensemble playing, strong melodies, addictive grooves, sly original songwriting and sheer intensity.
Even audiences unfamiliar with blues and the other styles of roots music that inform the group’s wide repertoire are smitten with the Bad Influence Band’s joyful performances.
“The most important thing is that everybody has fun — the audience and us,” explains bandleader Tash. “Whether we’re playing an original song or a classic, we’re going to put our hearts and souls into it in a way that people can hear, see and practically touch.”
The Bad Influence Band’s audiences have continued to grow in recent years. Their 2011 album Under the Influence introduced the group to a host of new listeners when it made the top five on the “Picks To Click” chart on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s two-million listener channel “B.B. King’s Bluesville.” And the same disc — stacked with originals and a few wisely chosen chestnuts that displayed the group’s uncanny ability to make vintage tunes sound new — was a finalist in the Blues Foundation’s 2012 International Blues Challenge competition for Best Self-Produced CD. Under the Influence was also nominated in the Best Blues Recording category for a 2012 WAMMIE (Washington Area Music Association) award.
The albums Under the Influence along with 2001’s WAMMIE award winning Tastes Like Chicken and the 1998 homage to their musical roots Where We Been trace this popular outfit’s evolution.
The Bad Influence Band’s ignition came in the late 1980s, when Tash was taken under wing by legendary DC-area blues guitarist Steve Jacobs, who began schooling him in the genre’s roots. In 1988, after some years in the rock ‘n’ roll trenches, Tash founded the Bad Influence Band and over the next decade their popularity around the Nation’s Capital area steamrolled. By the time Where We Been was recorded, the group was a six-piece with a reputation for great live shows and a vast repertoire of classic and modern blues.
Various personnel changes and refinements in direction and sound led to the current four-piece line-up of Tash, Edsall, Mallardi and Thaler, which cemented in 1993. It quickly became evident they had a strong group chemistry as songwriters, in addition to their formidable musicianship. All four together refine the sketches for tunes that individual members create. The results include rollicking rollercoaster rides like “Don’t Forget Your Night Clothes,” which pins its midnight romance charm to Edsall’s backbone harmonica riff. Tastes Like Chicken also boasts the tongue-in-cheek parable for the lovesick “The Clown,” which glides over a perfectly chiseled shuffle. Both songs feature Edsall’s smooth red-clay singing, while “Man Child” kicks off Under the Influence with a lightning strike of pure chug ‘n’ roar blues, powered by Mallardi’s whiskey and dust voice. The latter album’s also home to Tash’s tour-de-force guitar performance on the Albert King classic “As the Years Go Passing By.” His playing is an incendiary blend of stinging vibrato, fat-toned single note melodies, dramatic power-strummed chords and graceful fills and asides that punctuate the song’s soul-deep lyrics.
Of course, each band member has a distinguished reputation in his own right. Tash is one of the East Coast’s most respected blues guitarists and songwriters, and has been inducted into the Northern Virginia Blues Hall of Fame. He endorses Epiphone guitars, GHS strings, Quilter Amps, Peavey Electronics, Levy’s Leathers, Spectraflex cables and PedalSnake cable systems, and has been nominated for a WAMMIE for Best Blues Instrumentalist.
Edsall shares a similar reputation as a harmonica player and has performed with Jimmy Thackery, Kenny Neal, Kim Wilson and other greats. He endorses Hohner Harmonicas and Peavey Electronics and has been nominated for a WAMMIE for Best Blues Vocalist.
Mallardi began his career as a bass prodigy under the spell of Stax Records, bringing his own original fusion of blues and R&B styles to the band. He endorses GHS strings and Hartke Amplifiers.
The classically trained Thaler played timpani with various Orchestras before picking up the kit and becoming a die-hard blues fan and switching styles, racking up more than 45 years of performing experience. He endorses Sonor Drums, Beato Bags and Roc-n-Soc thrones.
The Bad Influence Band has appeared on hundreds of club and festival stages, including the House of Blues in Las Vegas and the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. Their winning songs, musical dynamism and strong presence has led to opening slots on bills with a coterie of stars: Heart, Shemekia Copeland, Candye Kane, Roomful of Blues, Albert Cummings and Albert Castiglia, among others.
“We’re looking forward to expanding our touring range and having even more fun playing and recording our music,” says Tash. “We’ve made it our mission to take the blues wherever we can – across the U.S. and to the world — and to entertain audiences and educate fans about just how deep, real, varied and exciting this style of music can be.”