The Verdict Is In—Definitely!

Colorado Springs is lucky to have an active local music scene, ranging from classical to country with every music genre in between. My favorite local band, The Verdict, plays classic rock from the ‘80s, the kind of music that when the band starts to play a song, you exclaim, “Great! Let’s dance. We can sing along, too!”

I attended a rehearsal to get a closer, more personal perception of the band and to interview its members. I also wanted to hear them play. Hey, I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to do that. I’ll begin with a semi-official biography. The Verdict formed in 1989 with original members Mike Louis, Ken Bailey, and Darcy Martineau. This wasn’t the first time the three had played together, sort of. Mike and Darcy had played in the band Apollo, which was renamed as Reaction from 1981 to 1985. Then, Mike and Ken played together in The Persuaders, starting in 1986, and Ken played with Darcy briefly in a band called Technique in 1987. After The Persuaders and Technique disbanded, it seemed natural to bring the three musicians together. The energy and dynamic were apparent from the start, and the group was playing out within two months of rehearsals. Along the way, The Verdict picked up keyboardist Doug Hall, who played with the band for a little over a decade.

The Verdict’s following steadily grew as the now experienced group played many of the most popular venues in Colorado Springs. The band was a favorite attraction at the Springs Spree and Territory Days street fairs for more than a decade, playing mostly classic rock and newer rock with many hits from the ’70s thrown in. The band was also known for their project songs such as Kansas’ “Carry On” and classic Pink Floyd songs from “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall.” Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” was always a crowd favorite. Many times, an evening with The Verdict was more like a concert than a dance or party band show.

The Verdict was also honored to play private events like Ft. Carson’s 3rd ACR Dine In before their deployment to Afghanistan in the mid 2000s. The International Youth Hockey League engaged the band to play for their opening ceremonies at the World Arena in 2003, complete with a synchronization laser light show and pyrotechnics. The Verdict also played many home game tailgate parties outside of Falcon Stadium during Air Force Academy football seasons.

By 2005, Doug Hall had moved on, and The Verdict was again a three-piece band. They had guest musicians play with them at various shows until 2008, when they decided that eighteen plus years was enough. They disbanded in late 2012, but only for a little while. Missing the crisp requirements of disciplined preparation and the thrill of live performance, the Verdict decided to get back together and started rehearsing. Keyboardist Michael Selby filled the empty slot to make the band a four piece again. Michael brought a fresh dynamic that the group had lacked before. Scott Paugh also joined the band around this time, adding to that dynamic. Now re-emerged as a five-piece band with two new members and a new song list, The Verdict is set to make its mark again.

Now comes the fun part—the interview. Calling this an interview is not particularly accurate. It was actually an informal, unstructured, lively conversation that was relaxed and freewheeling from the beginning. Just what I was hoping for.

I immediately realized that The Verdict is much more than a band. All those involved form a special kind of family that has developed out of their long history, compatible belief systems, similar experiences in music, and shared philosophy about music and what it means to be a band. And they can finish each other’s sentences, which is really funny. The members are all local boys. Several grew up together as kids in the same neighborhood. Darcy Martineau and Scott Paugh attended Coronado High School. Mike Selby attended Palmer. Mike Louis and Ken Bailey attended Wasson. Homegrown Colorado Springs talent at its best.

Scott and Darcy met when they were twelve, riding their bicycles. They were members of their middle school band. Both are classically trained, Darcy on acoustic bass and Scott on trumpet. During the early years of their musical careers, they played in various symphonies together, to include the State Honor Orchestra and the Pueblo Symphony. When they met Mike Louis, the three built a bond and started playing together. Then they startedexperimenting with “electric stage band” music, like the theme songs from MASH and Barney Miller. Another favorite was Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” In the mid-seventies, Mike, Darcy, and Scott played at events like wedding receptions, Bar Mitzvahs, and high school parties. They even played ‘50s music at sock hops. Sock hops. What a wonderful expression for a really good time. Eventually, the inevitable happened and they grew up and got jobs, making it difficult for them to get together to practice or play at events. Luckily for everyone, they managed to prevail out of sheer tenacity. Now for the interview:

Cheryl: How did you come up with The Verdict as the name for your band?

The Verdict: We were in the kitchen playing “Pictionary,” you know, with those cards. And we just thought, “Yeah, The Jury.” That name was already taken by a band in town. So, from there, we came up with The Verdict. Made sense. That was it, and that name was available.

Cheryl: As a group, what were your musical influences?

The Verdict: Progressive Rock, Styx, and Kansas.

Cheryl: Some of the songs you play, such as “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, and “The Breakup Song” by the Greg Kihn Band, well, yours are better, much better than the originals. How does that happen?

The Verdict: We practice and play lots of versions of songs, bringing different musical talents together in different ways to find the sound we like best. So we’re doing our own versions of songs, not the original versions. Some turn out, like you say, better than the original. Great for us; great for you.

Cheryl: Why do you play mostly ’80s songs?

The Verdict: Because that’s our favorite decade and kind of music. That’s what we listened to as young adults. Also, people in the crowd, in the audience, request songs from the ’80s the most. They know and like those songs, and they’re great to dance to. And they’re also fun to play.

Cheryl: Uh, would you consider playing Oingo Boingo? Please?

The Verdict: (Smiles all around.) No.

Cheryl: Okay, then. I just had to ask. Moving on, some alleged music critics say that rock music will eventually die out and all music will be electronic. . . .

The Verdict: No way. Real music will never die.

Cheryl: What about drugs?

The Verdict: No. Bands just cannot be professional if they’re doing drugs. Musicians cannot be on top of their game with doing drugs. Just don’t.

Cheryl: Did you ever want to go national, to become famous?

The Verdict: Probably. Yes. Maybe. Most bands want that. But if it hasn’t happened by the time you’re 30, it’s not going to. If you love what you do, playing music, then it doesn’t matter. We didn’t quit our day jobs, and we kept playing because we love it.

Cheryl: How does the band operate? How do you make it work? How do you resolve disagreements?

The Verdict: We’ve known each other for 30 years. All the drama is over with. There are no prima donnas. It’s easy for us to come to an agreement. One important thing is that we don’t saturate ourselves with each other. We have our families and day jobs. We don’t do everything together. We’re an ensemble and play as one, so practice is very important. We rehearse once a week for several hours—every week. Practicing is really important if we’re going to stay tight as a band. We try different songs, different lineups of songs, mixing it up. We pay attention to the sound, different sounds. Also, we know we’re doing more than playing music. We’re entertaining people. Often, we’re selling alcohol if we’re playing at a club. So Mike Louis works on his between-song banter. The crowd gets caught up in that, and they dance and drink. And we also have fun entertaining.

Cheryl: Yeah, he is pretty funny. He is really good at bantering.

The Verdict: One more thing. We really do believe that there must be “Honor Among Musicians.” We live it.

Cheryl: What are your goals for the future?

The Verdict: We want to get more exposure and build our name and reputation. We want to play at more corporate functions, wedding receptions, you know, private shows. There’s more money in private shows. We get exposure by playing at the clubs, because people go to clubs looking for bands to play at private functions. There’s no future for us in the clubs. Maybe when we were younger. But playing in clubs is where you cut your teeth, get tight, learn your craft.

Cheryl: What advice do you have for young musicians today and up-and-coming bands?

The Verdict: That’s easy. Practice! Be professional. Have an ethics of behavior and stick to it. Get egos under control. Self-promote. One way to do that is through social media. Also, visit clubs and find open gigs. Often, the clubs that pay the least are the most hungry to get bands to play. So you can get lots of exposure and build your name and reputation. Yeah. Practice regularly and get the band tight.

At this point, the guys started practicing, and I got to watch a great band hone its skills. Music is the universal language, and The Verdict speaks it perfectly.