JOPLIN, Mo. —
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my ticket to see Jeerk.
I had questions about the group’s gig. Are they a rock band? Are they a dance group? Are they Swedish comedians? Maybe a band of tap dancing Swedish comedians? I just didn’t know.
My knowledge of Sweden begins with Abba and Ann-Margaret. It ends in the Lutheran-centric St. Olaf, Minn., of Rose Nylund’s youth. That’s for fans of the Golden Girls out there.
After seeing Jeerk’s high-energy, visual music show, I’m still not sure about the Lutheran part. Jeerk is all the rest, however.
The group’s members are all in their early 30s. They are singers, musicians, dancers and comedians. They play original rock, tap in tennis shoes and make most of their own instruments from commonly available appliances and hardware.
Along the way, they share a few Nordic yucks. I suspect there’s not another band in Branson who makes music with portable toilets, power tools and an accordion. OK, maybe the accordion. Tempted yet?
The cast of Jeerk, a name created using the first letter of the founding members surnames, will sing and tap their way through July 29 at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.
When I meet talented entertainment folk, I ask what inspires them to pursue their craft and dream.
“We are inspired by everything,” said Nikke Karlsson, a founding member of the group. “We come from such different backgrounds. The dancing and the music, we just want to have fun. I think that’s how this show has come about.”
It shows. The group makes music using kitchen appliances, PVC pipe, hockey sticks and pads. They play guitars, drums and piano, too.
Karlsson, who handles lead vocals, said his musical inspiration is deep rooted.
“I grew up with British hard rock like Deep Purple and Ronny James Dio,” he said. “He was an amazing singer. Then you have Queen and Dream Theater and all kinds of pop, and jazz and Nat King Cole. There are so many.”
Thomas Bergstig has been with Jeerk since 2002. He was the band’s sixth member. Curently Nikke Karlsson, Thomas Bergstig, Kristian Lindin and Johan Regnell make up the cast.
Bergstig said the band’s athletic and visual expression of their music makes them unique. The longtime accompanist and musical director said his inspirations are varied.
“If you watch the old hoofers from the ‘30s and ‘40s, it’s amazing stuff,” he said. “We don’t tap like that, but that’s how you learn. Then you add your own modern style.”
Savion Glover, Bergstig said, is a personal inspiration. He continues to study tap.
“I’ve played (piano) since I was a kid,” he said. “That’s what I do mostly. Although I’ve been working quite hard on learning to tap dance. It is athletic. We do sweat a lot.”
When Bergstig was young, he was drawn to American rock ‘n’ roll.
“When I first started playing piano, I listened to a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis,” he said. “He was really cool and I wanted to play piano like that.”
The group has scheduled a U.S. university tour to promote their recent release. He said the Branson area is a great place for the always-traveling band to locate.
Jeerk’s most recent album, “Famous,” was released last May and is available on iTunes. It is the musical centerpiece of the group’s stage show.
Branson is where Jeerk got a good break. They were a featured act at Silver Dollar City a few years ago and played two seasons at the Hughes Brothers theater. Part of the band stays in the U.S. while some shuttle back and forth to Europe.
Karlsson thinks Jeerk has wide appeal.
“It’s more American than European,” Karlsson said. “We do a lot of different stuff. I’d be surprised if anyone left the show who wasn’t satisfied.”