Bemidji is rich in natural resources, especially when it comes to musicians and rock groups.
One of the best known and faithfully followed is Ghost, the opener for tonight's concert at the Sanford Center. Hairball, a tribute band, is the headliner but for Bemidji folks, it's Ghost that will bring in the groupies.
"It's the passion we have for the music," said Thomas Jude, who got the band together in 2010. "I played with our lead singer, Jim Ambuehl, back in the 1980's, and we wrote some tunes together. All the guys in the band sing and we do a variety of styles from Johnny Cash to Nirvana to REO Speedwagon to Kings of Leon. It's an honor to be on the same bill as Hairball."
Jude has penned 350 songs with different band members and has three CDs to his credit. He has played many times at Moondance Jam, the classic rock festival held in Walker each July, and opened for Marshall Tucker. For as far back as he can remember Jude, who grew up in Cass Lake where his parents owned a grocery store, played the guitar. He remembers the "air guitar" he played as a 5-year-old and the lessons he took in theory, but he is primarily a self-taught musician who can read music and pen a song.
"It's been in my blood for a long, long time," said Jude. "For me the passion (in performing) is the whole picture: music, marketing, the whole thing. There's a certain savvy, street smarts, you plan and then life happens."
Michael Liberty, drummer for Ghost, agrees that passion, however that is defined, is the one element that takes a musician from the ordinary to the exceptional.
"Passion is the feeling I get when I play the music behind the drum set," said Liberty. "If I don't get to play my drums I get crabby, it's almost like a withdrawal, I don't drink or do drugs so this is what defines me.
"Playing drums and performing is an outlet, a passion and I absolutely love to do it. I am self taught on the drums, my brother taught me a lot, but you actually have to have a feel for the songs. I can play dry with someone and I just need to hear a couple of notes and I know what I have to do. That's something that you have or you don't."
Both men agreed that you can't teach a feel for the music, it's that indescribable something. And then there is the fun they have up on stage and how they want to share that fun with the people who come to see them. It's hard to explain how or why everything comes together.
"It's that magical moment when we have so much fun up there (on the stage). We rip each other and have so much energy that the audience feels it," said Liberty. "If they're having a good time, they won't forget that band and we're having a good time too."
"We don't do it by the book, we do it the Ghost way," said Jude. "We are not out to copy anyone, we're out to make our own music. Jim Ambuehl is one of the best singers in the state, he can break mirrors."
The group is comprised of Ambuehl on vocals, Jude on guitar and vocals, Liberty on drums and vocals, Dez Kdader on bass and vocals and Elliot Whitney working the sound and lights.
The band is preparing to release a CD with original songs this summer. Ghost records their music at Turtle Town Records with Gary Burger. They are the most booked band in Bemidji and used to be regulars at Hard Times Saloon, which recently re-opened as a club with a new owner. They also play at the American Legion in Bemidji, Northern Lights Casino, Funkley and in Red Lake Falls.
Tonight's show features Strange Daze and Ghost as the openers for Hairball. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. start and tickets at the door will be $20 each. Advance tickets are $15 each and on sale now at the box office, Sanford Event Center, 1111 Event Circle NE, Bemidji.