Olive Trees at Rudyard Kipling

By David Lilly

Fronted by a scoop of eye candy known as Karen Spanbauer, singing under her cowboy hat, the Olive Trees took over the concert hall at the Rud on February 21, 2003. Providing the melody and rhythm for her voice to ride on was a trio including Jerry Hackworth plucking bass, Tony "I'm seeing spots" Schnell on drums and Mrs. Spanbauer's favorite nationally ranked bicyclist and physician-husband, Dr. Stephen Spanbauer, on electric guitar.

While the general sound quality in that room was slightly under the weather, the band's music is strong and was easy on the ears. Karen's voice was delightful; she sings with a very appealing quality that sounds like a wise and insightful country bumpkin. She wandered around the room a couple of times while singing; wading through the audience with a cordless mic, which I thought was a very cool enhancement to the somewhat low-key show. Not that there's anything wrong with low-key.

With a repertoire of nearly 100 songs (including 60-plus originals) to play "in person for YOU," not knowing exactly what you'll hear is part of the fun of attending an Olive Trees show. They played old songs like the as-yet unrecorded "Atop the Bell," "12:34" and "Mood Twilight," Water Division tunes including "Olive Love," "Living Sun," "Symbolism" and an ode to the beautiful, tree-lined "Eastern Parkway." Not a unit to rest on its laurels, the band also played new material such as "She Went Crazy," "Left Behind" and a tune called "Maybelline," not to be confused with Chuck Berry's song.

I could be wrong (ask my wife), but I sensed the band was a bit self-conscious due to an operating videotape machine. Whatever you take from that or think you can tell from song titles, these folks rock and are worth your time and money to see. I hope Tony makes a habit of waving his drumsticks between songs like he's directing traffic on a tarmac, as I got a kick out of that. My, er, prescription for the audience: attend an Olive Trees gig; they're local, they mean it and doggone it, people like you and them. If you don't have a copy of Water Division, rather than hide in embarrassment, buy one at a gig! No prescription necessary for that. You can't chop them down, so keep up with the band at