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Wildermore Finds New Appreciation For British Rock Legend

Aaron Wissmiller, Matthew Gueldenhaar, Dave Gueldenhaar, and Zak Hoffman perform.
“Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball …”

The opening line from "Pinball Wizard" isn't the primary reason Bloomington-Normal cover band Wildermore decided to cover songs by The Who for the Silver Ball fundraiser “after party” Dec. 9 at Diggers in Bloomington. But it is a nice tie-in.

The theme of this year's Silver Ball at The Castle Theatre is The British Invasion. Bloomington’s Jack Dupp & the Empty Bottles will feature songs from The Beatles catalog, while the Steepwater Band tackles The Rolling Stones earlier in the night.

“So the logical next band is The Who,” said bassist Aaron Wissmiller, who added that band members have been fans of the legendary English quartet for years, though there is a line of demarcation between The Who and The Beatles and Stones.

“They were too rambunctious to be real popular like The Beatles,” said drummer Zak Hoffman, laughing along with his bandmates. “They were causing too much trouble in hotels and things like that.”

Credit Jon Norton / WGLT
Zak Hoffman, Aaron Wissmiller, and Dave Gueldenhaar in the GLT Studios playing songs by The Who.

All three British bands altered pop and rock music. The Beatles even changed hairstyles, the way young people talked, even how artists present themselves in film. The Stones? They brought swagger to their blues-based rock.

“The Who brought rock,” said Wissmiller. “That’s what I’ve appreciated more than anything doing this, is how much rock music came from The Who. More than these other two bands. It’s the fundamentals of all the kind of heavier rock that took place from the '70s on.”

Is there a straight line to draw from The Who to bands that followed them, or even bands today?

“I think you can draw a funnel,” said Wissmiller to the laughter of everyone. “Seriously, there are a lot of bands that have stolen licks directly from The Who, or their song format. Or just their rock and roll spirit. I feel they were kind of first at that.”

“And their live on-stage raucous persona,” added Hoffman. “Out of control, smashing stuff.”

“The first thing that comes to mind,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Dave Gueldenhaar. “Mars Volta swinging that microphone just like Roger Daltrey used to do.”

Getting up to speed on The Who music library has been revelatory for the three in-studio Wildermore members. (Keyboard player Matthew Gueldenhaar was unable to attend the interview.)

Zak Hoffman found a new appreciation for late Keith Moon.

“I knew Keith Moon was a crazy, crazy guy on the drums, but I’m kind of impressed these days with what he did. Yeah, he was crazy, but he could focus that into some awesome energy that just drove this band,” said Hoffman.

Dave Gueldenhaar refers to Pete Townshend as a genius for the way he constructed songs.

“A lot of these songs share a similar music theory, but they don’t sound alike at all,” said Gueldenhaar. “He has these really awesome mellow parts in the song, just very progressive. There (were) a lot of other things going on when he was writing this … he’s very inspiring as a songwriter.”

You can hear that inspiration Dec. 9 at Diggers in Bloomington following the Silver Ball fundraiser at The Castle Theatre. Doors at The Castle open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7 p.m.

The Silver Ball is a fundraiser for McLean County Toys for Tots. In addition to proceeds benefiting the charity, fans may also bring a new, unwrapped toy to the The Castle Theatre that night.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.

Jon Norton is the audio director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.