Reviews:
When you're playing mostly charity gigs there aren't a lot of reporters hanging around doing reviews. Lucky for us some of our show hosts have been nice enough to write down what happened for posteriors sake. Here's a few to check out....


Smashing Banjos Featured in the Press Democrat
Date: March 2013

Link to story.....


Smashing Banjos at Center Point
Date:  10/24/12
Host:  Amy Turner
 
Essence Story by Amy Turner:

Another great night of music and a nice break for the men at Center Point all male rehab facility in San Rafael, CA.  The Smashing Banjos did a quick set up while welcoming questions and conversation from the residents.  The competition for the evening was the first game of the World Series…San Francisco Giants vs. Detroit Tigers.  Even with the game happening, the residents were very respectful and joined in with clapping, singing along, chair dancing and lifting the occasional lit lighter.  Although the band’s name mentions banjos, there wasn’t a single banjo in the house but great performances were given by Mark, Jason, and Mike on guitar, ukulele, mandolin and bass.  The band interacted easily with the men asking how many of them were musicians, and talked about their jobs working on musical instruments.  Mark, the lead singer, even showed his flaming guitar tattoo.  
 
The Smashing Banjos played a great compilation of cover tunes by various artists such as Ryan Adams, Gladys Knight, Led Zeppelin, Little Feat, and Michael Jackson and obliged requests for songs by Jack Johnson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Before the performance was over one of the residents, Jason, asked if he could sing a song with the band and performed “Simple Kind of Man”.  The other residents cheered him on and the evening ended to a round of applause.  It was evident that spirits had been lifted as the guys smiled and enthusiastically thanked and complimented the band as they exited the room. Several residents also told me they were looking forward to the next show Bread & Roses will be providing in November.
 
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Story credit: www.breadandroses.org


Smashing Banjos at Canyon Manor
Date: March 14, 2012
Host: Barb Withers
  
Essence Story by Barb Withers:

Mark, who played guitar and ukulele, and the rest of the Smashing Banjos, began to softly play some music, or as Mark called it, "We're gonna play some walk-in music for those coming in - welcome!"  His line reminded me of Carole King's "Welcome to My Living Room" shows and the residents settled in their seats ready for the show. I introduced Mark, Jason, and Mike and described their music as "folky pop" as Mark told me and added that the Smashing Banjos said, "If you don't like one song, maybe you'll like the next one!"  The audience laughed and the Smashing Banjos kicked off the show with a great version of The Who's "Pinball Wizard."
 
The Smashing Banjos definitely play a very diverse songbook: Ryan Adams' "Two," Johnny Cash's "Hear That Train Rolling," The Beatles' "Come Together," followed by Jason picking a sweet rollicking tune on his mandolin to a great train song, "Brakeman's Blues."  This is a band that can't be pigeonholed into one genre. They don't play any banjos, but they effortless transition from playing with guitars, to mandolins, to ukuleles, singing folk, pop, rock, country, and a little bit of reggae.
 
Mark announced to the group that he would be doing a little bit of yodeling on the next song, but jokingly asked the audience not to yodel back. Picking up his ukulele, he then launched into Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken" inserting some yodels now and then, which prompted laughter and smiles from the audience. The band followed this up with Bob Marley's "Thank You Lord," and a little known nugget from Jim Croce, "Rapid Roy."  Mark asked if anyone in the audience was a NASCAR fan as the Croce song was a NASCAR song. His question drew some applause and smiles.  Mark then introduced the next song saying "This is a two chord song 'cause we're just a little lazy" before launching into the southern tune of "Hey Now."  The band wove in a nice pop number, Tom Petty's "Free Falling," then Mike on bass launched into the familiar riffs of Michael Jackson's "I Want You Back," with Mark joining in with a falsetto.  Many in the audience "danced" in their seats unable to keep still to the heavy beat.  The band ended their show with Bad Company's "The Boys Are Back in Town" showing that for these Petaluma boys, their show was a smashing success and the residents at Canyon Manor left the room with smiles and a bounce in their walk.


Smashing Banjos at Sonoma Juvenile Hall
Date:  3/12/11
Co-Host:  Bob Butler 
Co-Host: Marian Hubler
 
Review by Bob Butler:

The teens at Sonoma County Juvenile Hall got a break for what could have been a slow, boring Saturday, thanks to the fun spirited trio "Smashing Banjos" (rest assured, no banjos were smashed).  Weaving an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk, rock and country (plus a dash of Motown) Mark (guitar/lead vocals), Jason (mandolin) and Mike ("ukulele" bass and harmonica) gave generously of their upbeat spirit and music talent.  
 
Starting with a dreamy "Summertime" as music to enter-the-room-and-get-seated by, the audience of young men and women were quickly awakened by a lively bluegrass-tinged "Pinball Wizard."  Other creative arrangements of rock classics "Come Together," "Heart Full Of Soul, "With A Little Help From My Friends", had some youngsters scratching their heads while others smiled knowingly and tapped their feet.  A collection of more genuine bluegrass tunes and country ballads introduced some kids to this genre for the first time.  
 
The musicianship was first rate, as lively mandolin licks interwove with guitar runs and creative bass lines, supporting Mark's strong singing.  The band invited and answered questions, describing their instruments and song choices, and accepted the challenge to play some Led Zeppelin - responding immediately with a lively "Ramble On" which closed their set.  
 
Despite the hard veneer exhibited by of some of the teens, facility staff later shared overhearing comments of "pretty cool" as the audience filed out after the show.  By sharing their positive spirit, love of music, professionalism and dedication to volunteerism, Smashing Banjos embodied the mission of Bread and Roses (and not a single Banjo was harmed in the process)!   


Smashing Banjos at Laguna Honda
Date: January 23, 2010
Host: Sally Peter 

Review by Sally Peter:

Smashing Banjos was smashing! The three men were so personable and musically talented. Their music was lively and varied. Their introduction patter before each song was often humorous and did much to engage the audience. Some members of the audience sang along with the pieces they knew or kept time with their hands and feet. The sound level of the music was just right. There were some requests for Johnny Cash, in particular, which the group answered with one of his songs. 

It was a wonderful afternoon. The show was well received. The band played on for an hour and probably could have gone longer, had time permitted. Everybody had a good time, the musicians included! 


Smashing Banjos at Sonoma County Juvenile Hall                        
Date: March 13, 2010            
Host: Lucia Whitney                        
 
Review by Lucia Whitney:            
 
Vanessa Fuchs, the Director, asked if we could have two shows and Mark the leader of Smashing Banjos agreed. We were told that the second group were in strict security, therefore they could not be with the other detentions.  The band played for 40 minutes each show, non-stop.
 
And wow! What a band! The three musicians, Mark, Sean and Jason are over the top professionals and excellent in every way. The arrangements, the harmony, the acoustic sounds, pitch perfect and to top all of this they were great showmen. First of all I was expecting banjos as the name says, however the other banjos  had emergencies and Mark called upon his other band friends, and each arrived with acoustic guitars - so we had "Smashing Guitars".
 
The show began with lots of zest, high energy, fantastic and wholly entertaining as Mark belted out old and familiar rock songs, both from the 80's and including The Beatle's and a Michael Jackson number.  His voice is powerful, raspy and dramatic. It was a great combination! Mark casually spoke to his audience telling stories in his conversational style. Sean and Jason also added to the show, not only with their incredible guitars, but their cool, happy attitudes and their easy banter with Mark throughout the show.  
 
At the end of the first show, the youth all marched out and the other high security group of young men came in.  The two groups were a great contrast to one another. 
 
The first group had been exceptionally quiet. No one moved, there were no smiles or expressions and they either gazed at the floor or stared straight ahead. The girls seemed a little more relaxed, but still no response.  There was no applause from them even though the attendants clapped.  
 
By contrast, the heavy-duty boys that came in for the second show and began feeling the beat the moment they sat down. Toes were tapping, some mouthing the words and, lo and behold, there was a request.  Then the hands went up and there were questions about the music.  One fellow asked for a solo on the bass guitar, another wanted to know what the small box attached to the guitar was used for. Mark happily explained everything.  The second show went on for another forty-five minutes, again shaking the rafters, but this time with a happier audience.
 
The performers, being professionals, were not surprised by audience participation as they are used to everything and anything in the course of a show.  I was the only one surprised, but next time I'll know, anything can happen. 


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