Musicians of the High Country each have their own gifts and talents, but one local rock ‘n’ roll cover band can play more than 300 songs upon request. Marsha Lafaille-Slade, the band’s manager and booking agent, says it also makes them a hot commodity for venues during the summer, such as the Bayou Steakhouse and Grill in Banner Elk where they performed on July 16.
“The Collective,” a band that formed from friendly jam sessions more than 20 years ago, radiates charisma and talent both on and off the stage. The bands’ members come from all walks of life and various generations of music. The group knows songs from the 1950s to 2015, and rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, hymns and country are just some of the genres that they sample from. Band members include Dave Calvert on guitar and lead male vocals, Jennette Calvert on lead female vocals, Patrick McConkey on harmonica, percussion and vocals, David Cox on drums and Randy Buchanan on bass guitar. Occasionally, Dennis Murphy will join the band on vocals and saxophone and Tyler Hodges will join in on lead guitar.
In addition to their impressive repertoire, “The Collective” has a stage presence that draws its audience in — and keeps bringing them back. Whether it’s taking requests from the crowd or mingling between sets, what’s appealing is how much the members of the band obviously want to be doing what they’re doing: making music.
The band’s time together has done more than build their set list. It’s produced a loyal local following and an unbreakable bond among its members.
“We do things together and separately,” said Dave Calvert, lead vocalist. Calvert added that during the winter months, when the band is playing fewer gigs, they still get together at least once a week at one of their houses. In February, the band travels to Myrtle Beach to perform for new audiences, and they make a point to celebrate everyone’s birthday.
“We’re family,” said Pat McConkey, and the sentiment was echoed by the other band members. They’re together through the good times and the hard ones.
It’s the heart that can be seen on stage that helps “The Collective” put on a good show. The chemistry is palpable and the members’ good moods are contagious.
“What all of this has kind of taught me is that it’s never too late to start something new,” said McConkey, now in his mid-60s. “I didn’t start playing harmonica until five years ago. I was just doing some vocals, and I felt like I needed to do something else to be more involved with the group.”
Another member of “The Collective” family, Jennette Calvert, is embarking on something new of her own. At the end of the month, she’s traveling to Atlanta to be a part of the auditions for "The Voice," a singing competition show that airs weekly on NBC.
Jennette, who didn’t share her application news with the band until her contract came in, says that this is something that she decided to do just to see how far she could go.
“I’m just doing this for the fun of it. Everyone going into this has their own gifts — everyone there can sing. I’m not nervous or scared yet,” said Calvert. “I just want to get to the next level, where contestants get to pick their teams. Reba McEntire is a special mentor this season, and she’s my idol!”
Calvert flies out for her audition on July 26 with her best friend and support system, Tammie, while the rest of the band, including her husband, Dave, who is also in “The Collective,” will cheer her on from the High Country.
“Jen has a heart of gold. She deserves this,” said drummer Dave Cox.
If Jennette’s voice prompts the judges to turn in their chairs, Jennette will be spending eight months (from September to May) in California. Calvert is focused on this part of the journey first, though, and says she’ll worry about the rest as it comes.
“I want to be real. I want them to hear me,” Calvert said. “Maybe this will even put Avery County back on the map. And if not, hey, at least I still get to go try.”
She’ll be spending a week in Atlanta before finding out if she’ll be moving on to the next round.
While her auditions won’t air on NBC until February, it’s crunch time for Jennette and the band. “The Collective” is playing multiple shows a week at various venues throughout the summer, and their full schedule can be found on their website at thecollective1.com.