Music To Think By
"When we went out to clubs, that 'baby' stuff was all we'd hear, when we could even understand the lyrics,'' says Foyne (pronounced fawn) Mahaffey, 36. She and her partner, fellow teacher Conni Blomberg, 37, and two other band members make up the group. "We were tired of going to places where the music was disgustingly loud, where you had to dress in Dior and smell just right,'' Mahaffey adds. "We knew people over 25 needed a place to go to talk, laugh, and reflect with one another. So we started the kind of group that we'd want to go listen to, and we wrote songs about things that mattered.''
"Live and Let Live,'' a song about drug testing, is standard fare: All you folks in transportation/Take your urine sample to the testing station/To see if you're free/Or if there's something in there/The rest of the world should see.
"We want people to think,'' says Blomberg. She does vocals and commands the keyboards, while Mahaffey handles vocals as well as the flute, percussion, and the "fronting''-- joking with the audience and explaining the cause, headline, or human condition behind the next song's sharpedged lyrics. Celebrity liars, desperate mothers, crime victims, and others are all fodder for the pair, who consider themselves songwriters first, singers second. To them, applause is nice-- but not as gratifying as seeing several members of the audience break into debate over the song they've just heard.
When the group first started at the cabaret-style club, it "played to a lot of tablecloths,'' Mahaffey says. Now, even though publicity for the band is mostly just word of mouth, "people are coming out who haven't been to a club in 10 or 15 years. A lot of moms are getting babysitters.''
Blomberg, also a backup musician in recording studios and a radio-jingle singer, believes the eclectic audience is a sign of the quartet's success. "You don't ever feel over- or underdressed, too young or too old, or of the wrong color or occupation,'' she notes.
The two particularly enjoy seeing teachers in the audience. Off-stage, Mahaffey serves as cur- riculum coordinator at Milwaukee's 38th Street School Open Education; Blomberg teaches 4th and 5th graders at Ronald E. McNair Elementary School. "On a really good night,'' Mahaffey says, "we'll have several tables of teachers out there. That's wonderful--they can relate to what we're singing about, and everyone's in the same groove.''
There are still occasional nights when low attendance makes the performance feel like a dress rehearsal. But the energy never lags throughout the group's set of rhythm and blues, country, classical, rock 'n' roll, and "white-lady rap,'' as Mahaffey terms it. "Somehow, it always feels like 'Cheers,' where everybody knows your name,'' she says. "It's like a bunch of friends getting together every Sunday night.''