The Woomblies return to the place it all started

When the Woomblies take the stage in downtown Franklin this weekend, it’s going to be a homecoming more than 20 years in the making.

The four-piece band has built a huge following throughout central Indiana, all established on a blend of blues, rock and soul. But when the group first came together, it was playing small gigs on the stage at The Willard.

Two decades later, those performances have proven to be the foundation for the band’s success.

“We love playing Franklin, because that’s where we started,” said Paul Holdman, guitarist and vocalist for the band. “We used to have such a good time, and built up a small following. Now when we play, we still have people who come out to see us who were there in Franklin at the beginning.”

The Woomblies bring their eclectic blend of high-energy rock to Johnson County on Friday, as the centerstage performer of the annual Daily Journal Street Party. In addition to music, people can enjoy barbecue, frozen treats and pizza from local food trucks, then grab an adult beverage at a beer and wine garden to enjoy during the show.

Band members hope they can set the tone for a party that no one will forget.

“The music we play, and the sound that we have, we take that seriously. But, we want to really have a good time on stage, and we want the people who are there to be involved in the fun,” Holdman said.

The Woomblies came together around 2000, as members of different groups performing in the area started working as one. Holdman and fellow musician Phil Pierle had been doing some shows at the Willard in Franklin, exploring their passion for soul and R&B music, and wanted to invite some friends out to join them at different gigs.

With drummer Jamey Reid and bassist Brant Milholland, the group was complete. Their first show as the Woomblies came right in downtown Franklin.

“When we got together, we really didn’t have any kind of plan, other than to see what our strengths were,” Holdman said. “We didn’t even really rehearse. We just all showed up at the Willard one night.”

Quickly, the project grew. The band realized that their diverse approach to musical styles meant they could transition from Wilson Pickett to Johnny Cash to Prince easily.

That was something that not many other bands on the scene were doing.

“There was an eclectic creativity,” Holdman said. “I’d played in blues bands, soul and playing singer-songwriters over the years, where it was kind of a focused theme. People were going to see this kind of music. But with the Woomblies, it was more into all kinds of different things.”

The band has expanded its scope significantly over the past two decades. They’ve added dozens of songs to their repertoire, performing all over the region and expanding into another project, the Woomblies Rock Orchestra, with a larger base of musicians.

They’ve released an album of original songs, one that still gets traction at the concerts.

But the core four members still do shows together, just like they did in the beginning.

“When we all get together, we just have a really easygoing relationship. We’re like brothers,” Holdman said. “To me, it’s remarkable that we’ve stayed together as long as we have.”

For concertgoers who haven’t been to a Woomblies performance, people can expect a good mix of cover songs, pulled from the best bands in rock history as well as some hidden gems. The band likes to sprinkle in original tunes as well, Holdman said.

The key is going to be the energy they bring to stage, and the way the band truly fits together seamlessly.

“We’re all serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We really like to have fun with each other, and we try to make that show on stage,” Holdman said. “We want to let the people feel like they’re part of the fun.”

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Daily Journal Street Party

What: A community celebration featuring music, food and a beer garden.

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: East Court and Monroe streets, downtown Franklin

Music: The Woomblies, 7 to 10 p.m.

Food trucks:

  • Brozinni Pizzeria
  • Johnson’s BBQ Shack
  • Aw’sum Snoballs
  • Jones Kettle Corn
  • Ritter’s

Cost: Free to attend