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Crazy Jane reunites for Live on the Levee

Chip Ellis
Mark Davis, Karen Allen Richardson and Andy Park (with John Kessler on Skype) will reunite as Crazy Jane at Friday's Live on the Levee concert. The band was a staple on the local music scene in the '90s but broke up in 2000. Another reunited '90s band, Mother Nang, opens the show.
Courtesy photo The original Crazy Jane lineup was (from left) drummer Mark Davis, guitarist Andy Park, bassist Dan Jordan and singer Karen Allen.

WANT TO GO?

Crazy Jane with Mother Nang

A Live on the Levee concert

WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Friday

COST: Free

INFO: 304-348-8014 x 105 or www.liveontheleveecharleston.com CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At Friday night's Live on the Levee, Crazy Jane returns with its first show in more than a decade.

It's hard to believe that it's been 12 years since Crazy Jane was around. In a way, the Charleston rock band never really left. Its core members, including guitarist Andy Park, percussionist Mark Davis and singer Karen Allen Richardson, have been local music scene regulars for years.

Gathered around a table at Taylor Books, looking not too much worse for the wear after a dozen years, Park said, "I guess it doesn't really seem that odd for us to be together again."

Still, the trio had to admit it was kind of cool that they were finally doing it.

Not everyone will remember, but in the early 1990s, Charleston's music scene was in the middle of a boom. "Mountain Stage" was on the rise after R.E.M.'s performance on the show, and locally, several promising bands had emerged, including Mother Nang, Strawfyssh and Crazy Jane.

In 1992, then-"Mountain Stage" music director John Kessler, who will perform with the band, produced a record showcasing these bands and Parkersburg singer/songwriter Todd Burge. It was called "New Music Feast: Volume One." 

"These were some of the first bands I ever produced," he said, speaking via Skype. "Each one of them had a unique sound. And they were so young; Mark, he must have been like 18 or 19. I remember rehearsals in his parents' basement."

The recording was well received, but within a year, Mother Nang and Strawfyssh disbanded. Crazy Jane managed to keep going for another seven years.

"We were together for 10 years," Richardson said. "We'd been on the road, played lots of shows. I'd married the bass player [Chris Allen]." Richardson laughed, then added, "I was looking for something in my life. That wasn't it. It was just time to move on."

Still, before calling it quits in 2000, the band had a pretty good run. It recorded two records, toured extensively and made two appearances on "Mountain Stage."

After it was over, everyone went their separate ways -- sort of. Charleston isn't a big music scene.

Davis and Park formed the Voodoo Katz, a popular, percussion-driven world beat group that's a local mainstay. Davis is also a solo artist, a member of vocal trio Bare Bones and performs with the Bark-o-Loungers.

Park, meanwhile, plays solo gigs, recorded a CD of original material two years ago and formed The Country Katz. He's also served as president of Local 136 of the musician union and is now playing with a fiddle band called Fiddler's Galore.

"I love playing the fiddle right now," Park said.

Richardson took a little time off, then got back to music. Among other things, she wrote songs and joined the band Whistlepunk, which developed a modest local following before dissolving.

After that, she and guitarist Sean Richardson (formerly of Strawfyssh) formed the indie rock duo Tofujitsu.

"And I'm a drummer now," she added.

She also married Richardson.

Getting Crazy Jane back together may have seemed inevitable, but the band credits it as being largely the brainchild of Mother Nang's Spencer Elliott. Elliott and company reformed Mother Nang in 2009.

"Spencer really had this vision of putting together a show with Mother Nang and Crazy Jane," Richardson said.

Over the phone, Elliott backs away from taking too much credit.

He said, "I know I lobbied my tail off to get us a slot [on Live on the Levee] -- and I knew it would make sense for us to pair up."

Mother Nang and Crazy Jane, he said, came up together. Mother Nang began a little earlier, but Elliot remembered meeting Park and Richardson before Crazy Jane, when the two of them would come to Charleston from Point Pleasant.

"The music was just bonkers," he said. "Really great stuff."

Elliott talked the reunion up with Richardson and Park, who'd discussed putting something together with Crazy Jane a few times before. Park brought the subject up with Davis, who agreed, and the three of them decided to bring in Kessler to play bass.

Kessler left Charleston in 1998 and lives in Seattle, where he works for NPR station KPLU as a music host and show producer. Before he left the area, though, he played bass for Crazy Jane for several months.

"I still play in a couple of bands." He laughed. "You wouldn't have heard of them."

Bringing Kessler back, the group members said, made a lot of sense. 

"We had like five bass players in 10 years," Richardson said. "All of them had an effect on our sound. They were all really fantastic, but not all of them are playing right now."

Kessler knew the material, and, as the band's producer, saw Crazy Jane through some of their different phases.

Getting back together to play Live on the Levee seemed like a good excuse for a reunion, though none of them are looking too far beyond that.

Davis said, "A lot of people, I think, want this [concert] to happen, but we're just going to have a good time."

"We're just focusing on the show," Richardson agreed.

"But I think it's a good opportunity to connect with old fans and meet some new people," Park added.

Still, nobody is ruling anything out. Even though they've been broken up for more than a decade, the band still has fans worldwide. Their music is still played on streaming sites online, particularly in France.

Park said he still gets royalty checks from time to time. In fact, he just got one.

"I got a check for 83 cents."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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