While most of the anecdotes on this site are from UD students, it was a no-brainer to approach “Balloon Bands” for their memories from the stage. And hey, some of these guys did attend Delaware, as well!
What follows are contributions from seven of our favorite Balloon Bands, who played there regularly anytime from the early '90s until the Balloon’s late 2005 demise. I asked all of them to comment on the experience of playing the Balloon, its closing, and how they felt about YOU guys. You won’t be disappointed…enjoy.
Kristen and The Noise on stage at the Balloon, courtesy of Dana P, UD '04The band formed in September of 2001. I had previously been in a band for years -- Tin Pan Alley -- represented by Midnight Sun Company. I took a little over a year off when I had my daughter. Then, when I was ready to get back into the swing of things, I had a conversation with my manager, Rick Green, and we got to work to find a new band. He had mentioned that there were some people who expressed interest in playing with me, should I ever want to form another band. After speaking to the guys, we realized the interest was still there.
The original line-up consisted of Chris “Baby Spinach” O'Neill (guitar / vocals), Tony “Tbagg” Magistro (lead guitar / vocals), Bob “The MVP” Luciani (bass / vocals), Tony “TD” Davis (keyboard), and a number of drummers for the first year or so, until we were finally lucky enough to find Chris ‘Bones’ McClure.
Our first gig on campus was in the Fall of 2001 at the Stone Balloon. Fortunately, because of a good rapport with the staff, owners, and management of the Balloon (I had played there many times while I was in Tin Pan Alley), we were able to quickly get some dates to play the legendary venue. We played many Mug Night Thursdays, Homecoming events, and graduation events. We also played fraternity and sorority parties in addition to all-age events on campus.
Okay, the Balloon…where do I begin?! It was VERY HOT! Mug Nights at the Balloon were so successful that each and every week it was packed! There were many, many, people and this made for a very hot room, which was good because everyone was a sweaty mess, so it didn't matter. It also made it the best gig to play. Every time, without exception, the UD crowd were the best people you could ever imagine playing in front of. They brought their “A Game” time after time. I can remember countless times when everyone in the room was singing, dancing, moshing, jumping, and crowd surfing to every song throughout the night. Their voices resonated so loudly through the room that I couldn't hear myself singing…and I loved it! We loved it.
There were very few songs, if any, that didn't work at the Balloon. However, the ones that got the best reaction from the crowd included, “Bulls On Parade” and “Killing In the Name Of” (Rage Against the Machine), a Beastie Boys medley we did, “Let's Get Retarded” (Black Eyed Peas), “Like A Prayer” (Madonna), anything Pearl Jam, “Small Things” (Blink 182), “In the End” (Linkin Park), anything Green Day, and “Possum Kingdom” (Toadies).
Of course UD students make for an attractive crowd, however, my biggest distractions came from the few that got out of line. Those who pushed it a little too far. It didn't happen very often, but, on occasion, there were those who couldn't “play nice.” You know, the ones who are too rough with the ladies, or who push people aside and start fights to get in and stay in the front row, or the grabby ones who, after too many drinks, have no control of their hands and start touching everything within arm’s reach. They're my favorite...can you smell the sarcasm in the air? As I said, this wasn't a common thing. Mostly, it was as if we were playing for all our close friends which made for the best times and memories possible.
When I first heard that the Balloon might close, I didn't believe it. I couldn't imagine why something that has been such a staple of Delaware's music scene for so many years would be taken away from us. What would we do? What could we do to stop this from happening? We now know that there was nothing we could have done. The end of an incredible era had come, and we needed to accept this harsh fact. It was very hard to say goodbye for so many of us. I cried the day I watched the demolition of the Balloon on the news, as I'm sure many people did. However, so many memories remain, and always will, to comfort us. Life runs in cycles. We plant a seed, watch it bloom, then it dies...only to start the cycle all over again.
We played many shows at the Balloon as well as many other venues…before the never ending balancing act of juggling gigs and full-time jobs, as well as personal and family lives, put a great burden on the guys. Sadly, in the Fall of 2005, they decided to leave the band, with the exception of Bones, and we played our last gig together in February of 2006.
Once again we were on a mission to find some great guys. We searched and auditioned for a few months before we found our current lineup consisting of Eric Eden (guitar / vocals), Pete Ahern (bass / vocals), Mike Myers (guitar / keyboard / vocals), and of course Bones (drums)…oh, and me, Kristen Kwolek (vocals). Unfortunately, by the time the guys joined, the Balloon had already closed.
Which brings me to life post Balloon. I have to say that I was extremely concerned about maintaining our UD fan base. They were such a huge part of our success, and, although there will never be another Stone Balloon, I am so pleased to see that the Deer Park Tavern has continued to carry on the Mug Night tradition. Every Thursday, there is a part of the Balloon that still lives on in all of us. Fortunately, they invited us to play and continue to party with UD students. The location is different, but the energy is still the same. The people are still very welcoming, and we know we're among friends. It's a vibe that can't be replicated...except in Dewey Beach where UD students vacation!
The Stone Balloon will forever live on in the hearts of all of those who have ever worked, played, drank, sung, danced, moshed, and partied there. We are grateful to have such memories and we thank the staff and all of you for the opportunity to take part in such a legendary piece of Delaware's music and entertainment history.
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