If you’ve been in Skagit County long enough, you’ve most likely heard of the local band Fanny Alger. They are the longest running band here in the valley, established in 1997.
There are lots of words to describe Fanny Alger, but the two most prominent words that come to my mind are ENERGETIC and FUN. (Picture jumping up and doing splits in the air while playing the guitar). If Fanny Alger had a mission statement it would read something like “in constant pursuit of fun by amusing ourselves with our childlike mentalities …. and we’d be happy to relieve you of 10% of your gross income”. Everything these musicians do is for the amusement of each other. Fortunately, they share their quirkiness with the rest of us.
The first time you attend a “Fanny Alger Revival” (not show or performance …. it’s a revival), you may be a little confused, but you will definitely be entertained. Their revivals can consist of things such as beer witching, financial advice, snakes (rubber), faith healing and mind reading. If you’re lucky, you might also see a Yeti out grooving on the dance floor.
Fanny Alger is a primarily a Rock Band with a non-political fun punk edge. Song titles such as “Pocket Dog”, “Lead Singer Disorder”, “Pity Party” “Cheryl Tiegs Is Hot” and “Martian Girlfriend” may give you some insight to what might be in store for you.
Originally the band started off with friends Shane Gildnes and Quinn K Thompson … and a drum machine. Soon after, Matt Lessley, former band mate of Shane’s from “Blue Green” and who was also in another big Skagit band, “Fortune 500”, teamed up with Fanny Alger. (On a side note, Matt Lessley now produces/mixes LP’s for local musicians such as Jack Mattingly & Whiskey Fever, Gin Gypsy and Bare Feet, just to name a few).
In 1998, Fanny Alger dropped their first LP, “Emergency Response Team”. Only 100 of these CD’s were printed, so they’re pretty rare. To make it even more of a keepsake, in 10 out of the 100 CD’s Fanny Alger wrote a personal message inside the J-card within the plastic CD storage case. If you have one of these special 10 CD’s then you have a historic Skagit County commodity.
After the first album was completed, Pete Nelson, formerly in the band “Blue Green” with Shane and Matt, joined the band as a drummer. At the time, Pete Nelson was considered to be the best drummer in Skagit County. Some local musicians feel that Pete still holds that title. Their second album, “Great Big Huge Company Inc Ltd Unlimited”, which was released in 2003 and the third album, “Lake Sixteen”, which was released in 2005, had the same band lineup …. Shane Gildnes, Quinn K Thompson, Matt Lessley and Pete Nelson. Between the third and fourth albums, both Matt Lessley and Pete Nelson left the band and in came Jerry Lee Steamer, Jonathan Catt and Blind Lemon Pledge (Henry Szankiewicz). The fourth album, “Fanny Alger Does Memphis” was released in 2009. Between the fourth and fifth album, drummer Jonathan Catt left and in came Splat Ratchett (Tim Fischer). The last Fanny album, “Yellow Monster” was released in 2011. The lineup today still remains as it did on “Yellow Monster”, Shane Gildnes, lead singer, guitar and front man, Quinn K Thompson, singer and bass guitarist, Jerry Lee Steamer on keyboards, Blind Lemon Pledge, guitarist and Splat Rachett on drums.
Fanny Alger also has “all stars” which are musicians/singers who come in to play once in awhile. Some of the Fanny Alger all stars include Staci Pulver, Greg Kirkpatrick, Kent Heiner, Ricky Snaxx and Knut Bell. Sometimes I play a game called “six degrees of Fanny Alger”. Sound familiar? Just like the game “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, nearly every current Skagit County musician can be traced back to Fanny Alger in six degrees or less.
Fanny Alger remains the same band it was in 1997, with the exception of a few lineup changes. They have never been interested in fame per say. They emphasize the word “playing” when they get together, because to them it’s not work …. just a bunch of friends playing and amusing themselves and hopefully bringing a smile to the audiences. I asked Shane Gildnes what he would like people to know about Fanny Alger. He told me that he wants people to know that they’re real …. just like Bigfoot …. just because you haven’t seen Fanny Alger doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And also …. “Fanny Alger wants your money and they love you”!
Fanny Alger will be playing at The Old Edison Inn this Saturday, February 15th, beginning at 8pm. If you have never seen them play …. you need to come to this show!! Disclaimer ….. it will be loud, crowded and, most of all, fun! If you want a seat you’ll need to show up early. It will end up being a standing room only event.