Wonderboogie out to get audience on feet

A funny thing happened when James Kessler and his bandmates began learning disco songs for Wonderboogie, their ’70s tribute band.

They realized that, despite the nearly universal derision aimed at the dance-happy music genre, some disco tunes were actually pretty good songs.

Granted, Wonderboogie has no problem with doing a take on disco that is, Kessler says, “a little bit campy. But once we started to go through the songs and learned everything from Earth, Wind & Fire to the Commodores to the Bee Gees, it’s actually pretty in-depth music.”

So, he admits, “we kind of grew to love it a little more than we thought we were going to.”

Actually, Wonderboogie’s repertoire spans the breadth of the ’70s, all the way to “rock of the late ’70s leading into the ’80s — Styx, Journey, that kind of era,” Kessler says.

Wonderboogie’s lineup is Kessler (stage name: Cleotis J. Jackson) on guitar and vocals, Dean Bradley (Jiffy Poppageorgio) on lead vocals, Michael Ray (Pepperjack Johnson) on bass and vocals and Darryl Johnson (Don Juan Johnson) on drums and vocal.

Wonderboogie has been playing Harrah’s Carnaval Court since 2000, Kessler says. And, while they also play corporate gigs, weddings and other venues around town (including Green Valley Ranch’s Ovation lounge on the third Thursday of every month), Kessler says the outdoor plaza at Harrah’s is perfect for their show.

“We’re very audience interactive,” he says. “We get people involved in the show and we teach them dance moves throughout the show — the electric slide, the cha cha slide, even newer dances that are out right now.

“We wanted to have a show that appeals to a wide-ranging audience, and in Carnaval Court … we get kids in strollers all the way up to people in their 80s and 90s, and they’re up there dancing and having fun and going crazy.

“And the funny comment we get a lot — and it’s usually from guys — is, ‘I just wanted to tell you, I can’t stand disco, but I love your show,’ ” Kessler says. “And that’s what we want to do.”

Wonderboogie (found online at www.WonderboogieVegas.com) plays Carnaval Court at Harrah’s from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 1 to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

— By JOHN PRZYBYS

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