Schedule for the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous:
8 a.m. Carvers work on their sculptures.
8 a.m. Carvers work on their sculptures.
Mid-morning. A silent auction begins.
Noon. Art, craft and food vendors are available throughout City Park.
1 to 2 p.m. Quick-carve contest. Sculptures to be auctioned afterwards.
3 p.m. Live music begins.
4 p.m. Wood-carving judging begins
5 p.m. Silent auction winners determined, carver awards ceremony takes place.
5:30 p.m. Blue Oyster Cult performs a free public concert.
— All events take place at Craig City Park
It’s not an unusual scene to find the entire lineup of Blue Oyster Cult buried in books, video games and electronics when they’re not traveling the world playing psychedelic rock music.
Lead singer Eric Bloom is an avid science fiction fan and writes for a video game magazine in his spare time.
“We’ve always been interested in UFOs, extra terrestrials, science fiction and all that literary stuff,” Bloom said.
The strange sci-fi and fantasy themes often show through in songs, like Bloom’s “Take Me Away” from 1983.
“I turn my hopes up to the sky/I’d like to know before I die/Memories will slowly fade/I lift my eyes and say/Come on take me away,” so the lyrics go.
Bloom said he is still waiting for proof there is extraterrestrial life, and that much of the band’s music comes from “that place.”
“If they have my address, if they want to come to my backyard, I’ll be ready to go for a ride,” Bloom said.
But while he’s waiting, Blue Oyster Cult, a rock band hailing from the 1970s, will take the town of Craig for it’s own ride, playing a free show at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Craig City Park at the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Dave Pike, Whittle the Wood event coordinator, recalled when the band’s hit album “Agents of Fortune” was released in 1976.
Pike said he wore the album out as a teenager.
“I’ve been trying to get them for a couple years now,” Pike said of booking Blue Oyster Cult for Saturday’s show. “They’ve got some national recognition and I think that’s really important, especially when you’re trying to draw more people to your event.”
He said he expects fans from Denver and Grand Junction to travel to the show.
“They’ve got some really familiar songs and they’re still putting on really good shows,” Pike said. “They’ve had some really good reviews from some folks that I know that put on similar events, and they were real crowd pleasers.”
Blue Oyster Cult, named after a poem written by manager Sandy Pearlman, now comprises Bloom on vocals, guitar and cowbell; Buck Dharma on lead guitar; Rudy Sarzo on bass; Richie Castellano on keyboards and guitar; and Jules Radino on percussion.
Dharma and Bloom have been together since 1967, when they played in the same band in Upstate New York.
But after 40 years on the road and 20 albums, Bloom said the band works hard to keep their live shows fresh and entertaining.
He writes a new set list for each show, never playing the same songs in the same order two nights in a row.
The band also adjusts to the crowd, the setting and the atmosphere at each of its shows.
For example, when Blue Oyster Cult takes the stage Saturday afternoon, they will play a set list geared toward an outdoor town festival vibe.
“An outdoor show will call for different kinds of songs than an indoor arena or nighttime show,” Bloom said. “You can’t bring down the lights and play a moody piece. We’ll try to keep it upbeat and rocking out.”
But, he said he has to keep the band on their toes, too. After thousands of live performances, the band has to stay fresh and motivated to play at their best.
“It’s too boring to us to play the same show,” he said. “So, it’s all very selfish. The audience is always different. That keeps it fresh for us.”
He said he sees all kinds of people at shows, but doesn’t know what to expect when the band travels to Craig for, what he said, is the first time.
“These kinds of shows — at town festivals — you get everything,” he said. “You get families, you get those who have never heard of you. You’ll get a couple of kids with blue and green hair. You have no idea what you’re going to get.”
He said that often many attendees have heard the band’s 1976 hit “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” and the 1981 hit “Burnin’ for You,” and nothing else.
“Reaper” was named the number one rock single of 1976 by Rolling Stone and Creem magazines, and reached No. 12 on the American charts.
When the song was first released, Bloom said the band wasn’t sure they had a hit on their hands.
Still, he has no answer to why the song is now internationally recognized.
“If you knew the formula to how to make a hit, you’d make one every week,” he said. “You do what you do and cross your fingers someone’s going to like it.”
As for the “Reaper,” “It just caught fire,” Bloom said.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Blue Oyster Cult put out a studio album, but Bloom said there’s no rush to take a break from the road.
As for playing the cornerstone set culminating four days of the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, Bloom said he’s excited for the chance to see a different kind of art.
“I’m actually looking forward to the wood carving and I’m not making a joke,” he said. “We’ve had Miss T-shirt contests before our shows before, and other different things. This will be something fresh and different.”