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Shifting Into 7th Gear
December 17, 2008 - Jim Price
One of the questions I am constantly asked when I’m out and about is who I think the hot band is on the Altoona area music scene at any given time. My answer to this query often changes from day to day, depending on whose great show I most recently saw.
But over the past few months, one local band name that has silently and consistently evolved into one of the hot tickets on the Altoona music scene is: 7th Gear. And they have largely built their local popularity without playing a whole lot on weekends; but instead, on Wednesday nights at the 4D’s Lounge.
7th Gear first surfaced in 2005 with an initial line-up featuring singer and guitarist Brendon Burns, bassist and singer Kelly Montgomery and drummer Eric Wertz. 7th Gear went on hiatus after Wertz left the group in late 2006. In late 2007, Burns and Montgomery joined forces with Lewistown native, singer and songwriter Rhyne McCormick and drummer and singer Randy Servello, who had recently returned home to the Altoona area. The new project was called Shots McGee. This band started playing regularly on Wednesday nights in the upstairs bar at the 4D’s Lounge, and built a local and regional following stretching to State College and Harrisburg. When McCormick moved his own base of operations to Harrisburg, the remaining three members of Shots McGee continued to play the Wednesday 4D’s shows as 7th Gear, with McCormick joining them to reconvene Shots McGee for shows in and near his Harrisburg home base.
Several factors have contributed to 7th Gear’s rising popularity. All three members of this band are very talented as singers and instrumentalists. All three can carry a tune. Randy Servello has been in the U.S. Army band program for over 20 years, and brings a background that includes jazz. Kelly Montgomery honed his bass chops in several previous bands including Still Holdin.’ And young newcomer Brendon Burns brings a good singing voice, exemplary guitar skills and abundant energy and enthusiasm to 7th Gear. Their format as a trio allows all three members to play off one another and improvise as they go along, resulting in impromptu jam sessions and songs that take off into heated, extended jam endings.
7th Gear brings a varied repertoire of song material to the stage each week, spanning 60’s and 70’s classics to current hits. On a given night, listeners can hear songs from current favorites like Kid Rock, Buckcherry, Jet and Maroon 5; classics from Steve Miller Band, Stevie Wonder, Doobie Brothers, Neil Young and Aerosmith; the occasional curio such as Phish’s “First Tube” or Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” and even several original songs. They’re not too heavy or too soft, delivering a wide-appealing variety of straightforward rock and roll.
And 7th Gear makes it all fun. The group brings an upbeat vibe and plentiful enthusiasm to the live stage, and there are constant smiles on the members’ faces as they’re playing. There are often crazy antics, with fancy footwork, aerial jumps, audience participation, crowd singalongs and more. They have fun, and it rubs off on the audience, with folks up, dancing and singing along early on.
With steady crowds during their Wednesday 4D’s shows, 7th Gear’s popularity in the Altoona area should continue to rise. And the group is looking to record and issue their first CD during the coming year.
If you’re bored on a Wednesday night, head to the upstairs 4D’s, discover what 7th Gear is about, and join the growing legion of local “Gearheads” who like what this band has to offer.
Brendon Burns of 7th Gear, during a May performance at the 4D's Lounge.