American band spending less time on the road and more time on stage
But musicians make time for another Sioux Falls show at Pavilion
audiences have embraced South Dakota's Native American band Brulé
so well that all 18 cast members and their families moved there.
grandchildren are enrolled in the schools here," founder Paul
LaRoche says by phone last week from the RFD TV Theater, where he
performs in Branson.
are loaded up pretty heavily next year, too, so after this next
show in Sioux Falls, we probably won't be back to South Dakota for
a long time," he says.
band plays Saturday at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science,
presenting the full stage show it uses in Branson: Brule and AIRO
- American Indian Rock Opera.
says the show is done with respect to his culture, using feathers,
paint and traditional sounds without exploiting native traditions.
The show is the story of LaRoche's reunion with the reservation
and how he tries to bridge cultures.
a theme of reconciliation," he says.
at birth off the Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation, LaRoche discovered
his heritage in 1993 after the death of both of his adoptive parents.
He was reunited with a brother, sister, aunts, uncles, nieces and
discovery of his true heritage prompted powerful feelings he expresses
through his music, the story told by the band he founded, Brulé.
daughter, Nicole LaRoche, still plays flute in the show as she has
for 17 years. And his son, Shane LaRoche, still plays guitars and
other instruments but also servers as cameraman for recorded shows
the band produces and then broadcasts on the RFD TV international
who come to see the live show at the RFD TV Theater in Branson often
are surprised that it's not a country music theme, says a theater
spokeswoman Kendra Puckett.
audience takes a chance, see it, then tell me how glad they are
that they saw it," Puckett says. "It is a great show."
says the production has a feel that falls "somewhere between
Vegas and Broadway," but geared toward a more down-home market.
doing 150 shows in Branson so far helped us get the bugs out and
refined the story line, tightening up the show," LaRoche says.
"Success has happened so slowly that we've had a chance to
appreciate it, and it kept us from getting too big of a head."
55-year-old band founder says his group's popularity has grown slowly
throughout the years. But a new fan base quickly has grown since
the Branson shows began, a success story that's great for business
but takes away from the performers' personal time.
loved our times in the Black Hills - we used to spend our whole
summers there, but we didn't this year," LaRoche says. "It
felt funny, but you have to be willing to step out of the comfort
zone in this business."
daughter plays the metal, orchestral-style flute, while male musicians
in the show play native wooden flutes, as dictated by native tradition.
The band is focused on other innovations, including using electronic
programming with keyboards, drums and dancers in costume.
carefully merged contemporary instrumentation with traditional sounds
of the drum and flute," LaRoche says. "We're still under
the watchful eye of many a Native American community. What we do
is on a fine line that we push but don't break. If we break it,
we lose all the support of the culture."
Brulé's records never were sold by major record companies,
LaRoche estimates that he's sold about two million CDs at shows
during the past 17 years.
downfall of the major-label recoding industry has been a boon to
the record industry has almost completely imploded, being an independent
artist is a blessing," he says. RFD TV, the second largest
independent cable TV network, lets him shoot a show in its Branson
theater and then broadcast it on the RFD TV network.
a huge opportunity, reaching up to 400 million homes internationally,"
LaRoche says. "They're doing for us what a major label record
company might have done in the old days."
its popularity rises, Brulé still holds tightly to the fans
it gained during the past two decades.
career on the road less traveled has been good to us, building a
foundation of fans as the years go by," LaRoche says.
person doesn't get rich doing this, but the rewards come in other
ways," he says. "Total up all the folks who have stuck
with us, and it has been enough to pull us along from year to year."